The Albemarle County
Planning Commission held a meeting and a public hearing on Tuesday, October 28,
2003 at 6:00 p.m. at the County Office Building, Room # 241, 401 McIntire Road,
Charlottesville, Virginia. Members
Other Matters Not Listed on the Agenda from the Public
Mr. Rieley invited comment from the public on other matters not listed on the agenda. There being none, the meeting proceeded.
Review of Board of Supervisors Agenda from the Public
Mr. Cilimberg summarized the actions of the Board of Supervisors on
Presentation of Service Award
Mr. Cilimberg presented a plaque to Mr. Rieley as a service award for his five years of service with the Planning Commission. He thanked Mr. Rieley for his contributions and wished him the best of luck in continuing his service with the County.
Ridge Rural Preservation Development Preliminary Plat - Request to create a Rural Preservation
Development of 10 lots, 9 development lots ranging in size from 2 to 5.3 acres
and one preservation tract of 40.1 acres.
The plat has been revised to show the changes requested by the Planning
Commission at their December 17th hearing. (Tax Map 85, Parcels 29A,
29B, 29C, 29D, 29E, 29F, 29G, 51H, 51J, 51K) (
Mr. Rieley asked if any Commissioner would like to pull any item off the consent agenda for discussion. There being none, he asked for a motion on the consent agenda.
Mr. Thomas moved to approve the consent agenda as presented.
Mr. Loewenstein seconded the motion.
The motion carried by a vote of (5:0). (Edgerton – Absent)
Public Hearing Items:
CPA-03-03 Affordable Housing Policy – This is a
proposal to amend the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan to include an
Affordable Housing Policy as a new section of the Plan and to amend other
sections of the Plan to reflect this policy.
Mr. Benish summarized the staff report.
BACKGROUND: The Planning
Commission held a work session on
The initial Affordable Housing Policy,
as developed by the Affordable Housing Committee - The committee did hold some
focus group discussion opportunities at that point in time, but there has not
been one on this final draft. Staff held
the focus group discussion on
To summarize where they are to date, staff has recommended two changes to the language for this Policy in the Land Use Plan Text Amendments since the Commission saw it last. One is in effect, a relatively minor adjustment, but they did add to the Land Use Text an additional sentence to indicate some flexibility in the provision of the 15 percent minimum; but that number was already in the overall policy found on page 2. So that is not new language or any substantive difference from where the policy was before; but it was making the language in the Land Use Text Amendment consistent with what is in the overall policy. The second change was based on State Code requirements that call for affordable housing policies to address the location and geography for where affordable housing should be provided. Staff has provided an amended language to be added to the Policy, which they feel is consistent with our growth management policy.
The purpose of the public hearing is to
give them an opportunity to hear public comment, but staff will be happy to
answer any questions on the changes that they have suggested or comments from
the focus group discussion.
Mr. Rieley asked if there were any questions for Mr. Benish.
Mr. Thomas stated that on the 15 percent minimum on the rezoning, etc., how were they going to keep the price of the property down if you require minimum affordable housing. He asked if they were going to build up the density in those areas
Mr. Benish stated that there are units in the market that are actually being built that would meet the threshold that we call for to be defined as Affordable Housing. Sometimes the question would be to make sure that the units are available to the target market. That was an issue that was raised at the focus group by some of the developers who are actually building units that could be available for a certain price, but then the market demand and who is purchasing those properties might not be what the target population is. Part of our program may be getting the stream of eligible clients into the units that are already being built.
Mr. Finley asked if housing for the elderly was included in the affordable housing policy.
Mr. White stated that it was certainly included.
Mr. Finley asked if that would also be for a $175,000 house.
Mr. White stated that it would depend on whether it was ownership or rental. Obviously, when they are talking about affordable housing, the policy is for all segments of the population and it would be inclusive of rental opportunities as well as home ownership opportunities. The other component that relates to the elderly is the need for services, which is a big-ticket item. When you are talking about the housing side, particularly for assisted living type facilities, this policy does not address anything about services.
Mr. Finley asked if affordable housing was subsidized and if so by whom?
Mr. White stated that it could be subsidized. Rental may be subsidized with the Rental Assistance Section 8 Program, which is a federal subsidy that they get from HUD and utilize in the County. It could be subsidized through grants available to nonprofit organizations through the state or federal government where they can offer down payment or closing cost assistance. The reality is, when you look at the price of houses that are being built now, that there is some level of subsidy that is going to be needed to make any product affordable. When we are talking about $172,000 we are talking about a four person household and a $50,000 annual income. To drop down further for example, a schoolteacher with a $30,000 or $35,000 income in a single income family, could afford less than $140,000. Many variables are in affordability such as interest rates. We are in a good interest rate climate now, but it is increasing. The higher the interest rate then the lower, or the lesser the amount, of mortgage that people will be able to afford. We are dealing with one variable here and that is the supply. There are a number of other market variables that this policy may not touch, but this is a step to at least put in writing what they have been trying to develop over the last couple of years.
Mr. Finley asked in
Mr. White stated that 100 percent median income is around $63,000 or $64,000, which would be for a family of four.
Mr. Finley asked, to qualify for affordable housing, what is the typical salary range?
Mr. White stated that this Policy
states that it would be the policy of
Mr. Finley stated that there was a lot of people making it on less than that.
Mr. White stated that would include many people.
Mr. Thomas asked what the percentage was for the family of four who was making $40,000 per year.
Mr. White stated that if it were distributed equally, you would probably be talking about 25 to 30 percent of the population. What they see from looking at the census data is that there is an awful lot of people or a great number or a pretty good percentage of the population between the 0 and 30 percent category. We have a good number with the percentage above the 100 percent category, but when you start talking about whether it is equally distributed that 30 to 80 percent is where it is not quite as even.
Mr. Craddock asked him to refresh his memory where the 15 percent came from.
Mr. White stated that the 15 percent
was the standard that has been used around the nation for various affordable
housing programs. He stated that it was mentioned in the work session that the
most talked about one was
Mr. Rieley asked if there were other questions for staff.
Mr. Loewenstein stated that in the objective section they already talked in the Plan about creating and preserving safe, high quality and sustainable neighborhoods; and that was one of the things that has been added in our draft. In talking about the mixture of housing types and preservation of this policy there is a discussion in here about the preservation of all the existing affordable housing units in our neighborhood as a way of maintaining that balance. He noted that was sort of a question. When it says encourage the preservation of all existing affordable housing units and development of new housing in a manner consistent with the County’s growth management policy, etc. What specifically would that be if he were a developer that was looking at that? He stated that if he had a neighborhood that he wanted to redevelop taking the Affordable Housing Policy into account; and he looked at the strategy of the encouragement of all existing affordable housing units, what does that mean exactly? He was interested in part because if they were looking at buildings that were old enough then this abuts with the HP Plan and the Land Use Plan that are in the Comp Plan. He stated that he was trying to get a feel for what that means.
Mr. Benish stated, to answer that specific question, he thought that the language that speaks to the flexibility of interpreting the 15 percent would give us the ability to determine the amount of redevelopment and to maintain a certain percentage for retaining those existing dwelling units in some way.
Mr. Loewenstein stated that in any case they wanted to maintain the balance.
Mr. Benish stated that he thought that the intent here was more in a general approach to have an inventory of affordable housing. They don’t want to be encouraging the construction of new housing while they were allowing the elimination of others. The language that you are referring to here was trying to speak very globally.
Mr. Loewenstein stated that he knew that was not part of the amendment language.
Mr. Benish stated that AHIP had a program that rehabilitates homes in our rural areas, which he thought they were very supportive of because it retains that inventory and that was a very specific program that they would want to support. In terms of a new development, he thought that was where they would have to use flexibility and good judgement in the creativity of the development community. They needed to do the right thing and determine whether it was to retain some of it or redevelop it to something better, but overall to maintain the integrity of the mix. He stated that other policies help to kick that in, which are already in the Comp Plan, which will help address that.
Mr. Loewenstein said that the language does point out that it was the mix that they were trying to protect. He stated that in a neighborhood development or redevelopment, that there are other agencies such as AHIP that would be able, under its existing guidelines, to participate in redevelopment if it was involved.
Mr. Benish stated that the potential was there because he was not aware of anything that would preclude that necessarily.
Mr. Rieley stated that the Affordable Housing Policy itself says that the County Housing Committee approved it March 2003 and the format was revised in the summer and it was revised again this month. He presumed that all of those revisions were by the Housing Committee. He asked if that was correct.
Mr. Benish stated that the only revision that the Housing Committee staff has not been involved with is this latest regarding this geography and they have not had a chance to see that. The Housing Policy should encourage the preservation of all affordable housing units. The Housing staff has seen that, but the Housing Committee has not had a chance to see that. That was something that he was made aware of at the end of last month that was an upcoming change that was going to be necessary as part of this Affordable Housing Policy. He pointed out that they went ahead and tried to address it and get it to the Commission for their input, but they will make sure that the Housing Committee sees it as well.
Mr. Loewenstein stated that the last sentence in that particular document says that affordable housing may be provided in the designated rural areas consistent with rural area policy regulations. It seems that AHIP has done a lot of work in those areas. He stated that he just wanted to see what the crossover would be in this case. He noted that it would not go away, because he would be reluctant to see any abandonment of encouragement to preserve existing affordable housing in some areas outside of growth areas as well. There have been some notable successes along those lines and he knew that agencies like AHIP have participated in them.
Mr. Benish pointed out that the Habitat for Humanity has as well. In most of those cases, they have used by-right development potential to the extent that by-right development is available. It is irrelevant whether it is affordable housing to us. They are glad that there is affordable housing being provided.
Mr. Loewenstein pointed out that has occurred in his neighborhood and it was a good thing.
Mr. Rieley asked if there were other questions for staff. He stated that regarding the summary comments in the first one concerning rural preservation developments, as whether they would be subject to the 15 percent of affordable unit standard - the response was because RPD’s over 20 lots require a special use permit, but they can be evaluated relative to that recommendation. As a reminder, he stated, that runs out in July of next year. The ones that require special use permits absolutely run out because that law is no longer allowable because it is unconstitutional or illegal after July 2004. He stated that there should be a mechanism to encourage affordable housing. He asked if there were other questions about this. There being none, he opened the public hearing and asked if there was anybody else who would like to speak on affordable housing.
Ron Keeney, of Keeney and Company Architects, stated that he would like to remind them that all affordable housing is subsidized. Whether we as individuals in the audience pay taxes to the Federal Government who then turns and gives out grants, so Mr. White gets a grant from the Federal Government. We still subsidize it whether we gave it to the State Government or whether we push developers like this to do it. One way or the other it is all coming out of the individuals’ pockets of those that are around. So if you have 100 homes in a community and you ask for 3 percent subsidized housing, then the price of the 97 homes just went up a little bit. If you ask for 15 percent, then the other 85 house prices just went up a little bit. However, one way or the other it is all subsidized by the remainder of the community. So there is no magic pool out there that it comes from, but it is coming out of our pockets, and we all have just so much. To me the solution for subsidized housing is to figure out how to keep the costs of the development and the housing itself down, so that they could therefore afford to spend more, to give more to our fellow people that don’t have as much.
Mr. Thomas suggested that possibly the price of land could come down a little bit too.
Mr. Keeney stated that potentially it could.
Jeff Werner stated that he was speaking
as a private citizen right now. He stated that he lived in the city and made a
choice to live downtown. He pointed out
that he found a house for $142,000. He
pointed out that he and his wife do not drive a whole lot and in fact drive
very little. Some of that money saved goes into being able to live downtown and
have a quality of life. He stated that
Mr. Benish has a an excellent point and something that they need to think about
is to make sure that housing that is put in an affordable bracket gets to the
people who need it. A couple of weeks
ago he was talking to a realtor in town and he said that anything under
$200,000 in the city that he buys it up as investment property. Therefore,
these houses are there, but are these people getting them. There is a lot of
substandard houses in the County, so maybe in lieu of 7 new houses in a
subdivision, maybe someone needs 7 new furnaces in a substandard house or 7 new
water heaters. Maybe those things need to be matched up so that we don’t just
resolve it by building new houses. Sometimes people already have a house that
needs assistance. He stated that he was a little concerned that they have a
density bonus that has never been used before. As a builder for 12 years, he
gets a kick out of arguments from the development community about whether we
build sidewalks if the house is unaffordable. Well if you put in streets and
trees, the house is unaffordable. If you
do a grid street, the house is unaffordable.
You can’t do smart growth because that would make housing unaffordable. He pointed out that they have already proven
Bob Hauser, a builder in the area,
asked that the Commission be cautious in their actions. He stated that he was a
free market person and he championed the free market. Therefore, he was against
this type of legislation. His
perspective is from someone trying to build homes for 21 years in the
community, and certainly, he has built over 1,000 homes. He thought that he had
some real life experience to share with them. If they were here talking about
this 15 years ago, he would tell them that he would compete against a
gated-community, with a golf course and clubhouse, with 4,000 lots that are
selling for $4,000. That community was
John Stack, a resident of Earlysville,
stated that they have his sentiment about what they were talking about because
he happens to be on a task force that is studying affordable housing. They have
spent several weeks trying to identify the issues. He felt that affordable housing was beyond
the scope of the local government. He
stated that they were on a slippery slope because next time it might be 20
percent. He asked that they make sure
that they know how much it is going to cost the public before they implement
the policy and suggested that it be put in the Daily Progress. (See the attached statement from John Stack
Dave Phillips, CEO of the
Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors, stated that as John mentioned
they were studying affordable housing in great detail with a task force. There
were many people on the task force that included some people from the Piedmont
Housing Alliance on down to lenders. He stated that they thought that there was
more that could be done on affordable housing. He stated that
Josh Goldsmithe stated that he served on the Housing Committee and also was a local developer and a builder. He stated that he had been involved in this process and had been serving on the Housing Committee since August and he saw the Comp Plan Amendment sent forward. He stated that he attended the Focus Group meeting. He stated that this process was incomplete at this point. He would hope this goes to a work session, however, the application was incomplete because the Housing Group never saw the comments that came from the Focus Group. Although, he might not agree with this 15 percent moving forward he accepted the fact that it probably will. In order for it to be successful, he thought that many the details that the Focus Group brought up should be discussed. It would be very well to bring the Focus Group and some of the people that are going to be providing this housing back to the table to implement those details before this Comp Plan Amendment is moved forward.
Neil Williamson stated that he was with
the Free Enterprise Forum in
Mr. Rieley closed the public hearing to bring the matter back before the Commission. He stated that the Commission did not necessarily have to take any action tonight because they basically wanted to hear public comment tonight. He suggested that the Commission have a discussion on these matters and schedule another meeting to deal with this.
Mr. Cilimberg stated that the question was, if there was anything in particular that the Commission would like to see addressed before they take this up again. He pointed out that staff was looking for some guidance.
Mr. Rieley stated that they have heard many good comments tonight. He pointed out that he felt comfortable sending this ahead with a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. He asked if the Commission would like to forward this on to the Board for a possible hearing date on December 3rd.
Mr. Thomas stated that they needed to find a solution to this problem. He stated that he had a problem with the 15 percent.
Mr. Finley stated that he had problems because he felt that more jobs should be created so that people could afford to purchase their homes from their own income. He suggested that the County bring more jobs to the area.
Mr. White stated that the Housing Committee would meet on November 12th and this information can be provided to them. He pointed out that he could provide the Committee with whatever information that the Commission desired. He stated that if there was a work session with the Board they would have some of the members of the committee participate in it. He pointed out that there were some state regulations that had to be incorporated into the policy and that he would make sure the committee was aware of them.
Mr. Benish stated that staff would make sure that this information gets to the Housing Committee and that their comments will get to the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Loewenstein stated that if there was any question about the 15 percent that it would come up then, but he was not sure it is would. He stated that there was no reason why it couldn’t. He stated that he realized that the Housing Committee and the focus group have discussed the point.
Mr. Benish stated that staff would be forwarding whatever action the Planning Commission takes tonight to the Housing Committee so that they are aware of it. It might be useful if they have the minutes from this meeting.
Mr. Rieley asked that the Housing Committee have the record of the minutes so that Mr. Finley’s concerns and others would all make it before them.
Mr. Loewenstein pointed out that explicating how that was arrived at would be a helpful thing.
Mr. Benish stated that staff could certainly make an effort to do that.
Mr. Rieley asked with those caveats, would someone like to frame a motion?
Mr. Loewenstein moved for approval of CPA-03-03 with the proviso that the language in this draft will be looked at again by the Housing Committee and discussed hopefully in a work session by the Board of Supervisors. He asked for input from staff on how to word the motion.
Mr. Cilimberg suggested that the Commission would want to make sure that the Board receives input from the Housing Committee based on what the language is here, what comments were made in the Focus Group’s discussion and review of the Planning Commission’s minutes of this meeting. He stated that staff would more than likely schedule a work session with the Board after they have had a chance for the Housing Committee to see that information.
Mr. Loewenstein moved to recommend approval of CPA-03-03, Affordable Housing Policy under the conditions just expressed by Mr. Cilimberg.
Mr. Craddock seconded the motion.
Mr. Rieley stated that the minutes of this meeting will reflect all of the discussion among all of the
Commissioners and it will go to the Housing Committee.
The motion passed by a vote of (4:1). (Finley – No) (Edgerton – Absent)