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Virginia Lawmakers Pass Legislation To Kick-Off Statewide Affordable Housing Study

Suburban-style house
The Highland Grove development replaced public housing units with a mix of market-rate and Section 8 housing. Critics say it was a net loss in homes for individuals at the lowest income levels. (Photo: Louise Ricks/VPM)

Affordable housing is getting harder to find in Virginia, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition's analysis of 2017 Census data. The state has more than 230,000 extremely low-income households — meaning they make 30% or less of the area median income, or about $25,000 for a family of four. 

But lawmakers at the General Assembly are trying to get ahead of the affordable housing shortage.

The House passed Del. Kathleen Murphy’s bill (D-Fairfax) on Tuesday, which would task the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Housing and Development Authority with getting a group together to determine the state’s housing needs, and ways to meet them.

Members of the group will include developers, financial and real-estate experts and at least one person that lives in affordable housing. They’d study the quality and availability of existing affordable housing, estimate the state’s future needs and come up with ways to incentivize developers. Strategies could be modeled after policy proposals like:

  • A Virginia rent subsidy program to work in conjunction with the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program,
  • Utility rate reduction for qualified affordable housing, 
  • And tax incentives

The group would also have to review and make recommendations to improve housing programs and policies currently in place. 

If the legislation is passed in the Senate and signed by Governor Ralph Northam, the report will be due by the first day of the 2021 legislative session.