Only about half of affordable for-sale homes constructed in Albemarle County have been purchased by income-qualifying homebuyers, according to the county.
Since the early 2000s, developers have agreed to build approximately 411 affordable for-sale units, but the total number of affordable units a developer will provide depends on the final number of units that are built in a project.
Of those for-sale units, 91 have been constructed and 45 units have been purchased by income-qualifying homebuyers — those with a household income less than or equal to 80% of area median income.
The county currently is working on an affordable housing policy update, and a stakeholder group and staff are recommending that the county replace its affordable housing proffer system with an affordable dwelling unit ordinance.
Stacy Pethia, the county’ principal planner for housing, on Wednesday will present the draft housing policy recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to get its feedback.
“Developers still need to receive something in return from the county, generally increased density on the site,” Pethia said. “They are provided with the opportunity to either build the units, or to pay a cash-in-lieu payment that would go into the housing fund.”
Albemarle’s current affordable housing policy was established in 2004 and was tweaked during the 2015 Comprehensive Plan update. The policy defines affordable housing and safe, decent housing, with housing costs that do not exceed 30% of gross household income, and sets the expectation that, at minimum, 15% of all units developed under a rezoning or special-use permit should be affordable for people at or below 80% of the area median income.
Area median income is currently $93,900 per household, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Laws around proffers have changed over the years, and in 2019, the law changed to allow localities to accept any onsite or offsite proffer that the owner and applicant deem reasonable and appropriate.
Proffers are one tool Albemarle has used to help generate affordable housing. The county also has given money toward projects like the redevelopment of Southwood Mobile Home Park.
Currently, developers notify Pethia when they have proffered units ready to be sold. That triggers a 90-day window or a 120-day window, depending on the proffer, when the developer searches for qualified buyers.
“The developers generally work with Piedmont Housing Alliance, since they do first-time homebuyer work and they generally have a list of people who are ready to purchase homes, to find income-qualifying buyers who can qualify for a mortgage and they’re ready to go,” Pethia said. “When that potential buyer is identified, they then send a notice to me with the homebuyer information, and I just verify that it meets the county’s qualifications, sign off on that and then the purchase can move forward.”
For proffered affordable rental units, developers send Pethia a notice saying the units are going to be available, then advertise them for income-qualifying households. Every year, the developer is required to send a list to the county with the unit number, the monthly rent and the household income of the tenant.
The new draft policy proposes that affordable housing would be for those with incomes no greater than 60% of AMI, adjusted for household size, for renters, and no greater than 80% AMI for homebuyers.
A new category of workforce housing would be for households with incomes between 60% and 120% AMI for renters and between 80% and 120% AMI for buyers.
“The workforce housing cost will be slightly higher than affordable housing but still less than market rate, so it sort of fills that gap where households that don’t income-qualify for affordable housing programs but can’t afford market rate units, whether for purchase or for rent, in the county would be able to access housing,” Pethia said.
Proposed priority actions for the first three years of the plan include to create a package of developer incentives for affordable and workforce housing; implement an affordable dwelling unit program ordinance; create an affordable housing trust fund; and create a housing advisory committee.