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Albemarle County weighs incentives for affordable housing

Albemarle County is considering tax rebates and other measures to entice developers to construct more affordable housing in the area.

While there is little disagreement that the county needs more affordable housing, lower-cost projects are often a hard sell to private developers looking to make a profit and neighbors who believe that affordable units will bring down the value of their own properties.

“We, the board, want affordable units,” county Supervisor Ned Gallaway said during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “We know it’s going to cost a lot of money. If we don’t incentivize to get there, it’s not going to get there on its own.”

The affordable housing dilemma is not new to the county, or the greater area. The city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia have been describing the matter as a “crisis” at least since the three entities first convened together on the matter in 2009 to address what the region could do to address the gap between the supply and demand.

The county has 7,721 affordable housing units, according to an assessment from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. That same assessment predicts the county would need 10,000 affordable units by 2040. That’s a 2,279-unit difference, equivalent to a 25.7% increase in the number of affordable units.

The median home price in Albemarle County is $472,000, according to the most recent report from the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors. That’s 25.6% higher than the statewide average of $365,000, according to a report from the Virginia Association of Realtors.

It’s also well out of the price range for many who make the county’s median household income of $90,568 as reported in the latest census figures. The annual household income needed to afford a $400,000 home is about $165,000, according to SoFi, a financial technology firm.

Among the ideas supervisors have floated are a property tax rebate that would cover the cost of water or sewer connection fees for a portion of units over 10 years. They also discussed whether the county should cover all of the water or sewer connection fees for projects where units were 100% affordable.

That fee is about $14,000 per unit for this fiscal year, according to county staff.

Still, it will be some time before the Board of Supervisors makes a decision on the incentives discussed Wednesday.

“This is just one of the incentives we’ll be talking about over a period of time,” said Supervisor Diantha McKeel.


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