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Business leaders say affordable housing at a ‘crisis’ point in Loudoun County

Apartments under construction in Loudoun County. Times-Mirror/Alexander Todd Erkiletian
Home builders, representatives from local education and preservation groups, and some of the county’s top business leaders came together Monday night to figure out solutions to fix one of the most pressing issues facing the county: A lack of affordable and workforce housing in Loudoun.

Monday marked the current Board of Supervisors’ first-ever Housing Summit described as a “beginning” to a discussion likely to continue through the remainder of the board's two years in office.

From county employees to high-tech employees, teachers to restaurant staff, business leaders from nearly all sectors of Loudoun’s economy said one of the key challenges facing their workforce is finding a place to live in Loudoun.

Households that earn less than 80 percent of the area median income -- $88,240 for a family of four, or $61,800 for a single person -- are considered “low-income households” by the the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In Loudoun, 20 percent of the county’s 385,945 population -- or 78,000 individuals and more than 48 percent of Loudoun’s workforce -- do not earn 40 percent area median income.

“The Loudoun business community is struggling to attract and retain workers due in large part to the lack of attainable affordable [housing] options in the county,” said Sharon Virts, a member of Loudoun’s Economic Development Advisory Commission (EDAC) and founder of FCi Federal. “This coupled with the region’s transportation issues is having a significant impact on our business community. EDAC believes the county must take deliberate action to address the housing crisis we are facing.”

Virts said EDAC spoke to business leaders from data center companies, IT companies, government contracting businesses, retail and hospitality businesses, real estate companies and others before presenting its findings at the board’s Housing Summit.

Twenty other industry representatives, offered supervisors an array of solutions to address what many called a “crisis.”

David Palanzi, president of the Loudoun Education Association, suggested the county look into giving tax credits to developers to finance affordable housing rates for teachers.

Jim Edmondson, a principal from real estate development firm E&G Group, said he had ideas for growing the county’s housing trust fund without using tax money.

Kim Hart, the former executive director of an affordable housing nonprofit Windy Hill Foundation, called on county leaders to offer more incentives to create more workforce housing.

They all agreed that a political will was needed to address the problem.

Of the nearly 5,000 residents who have been served by some of Loudoun’s core affordable housing programs like the Housing Choice Voucher Program, and Affordable Rental and Purchase Programs, 885 people still remain on a waiting list.

Additionally, although about 56 percent of Loudoun’s workforce lives in the county, 44 percent of workers are forced to commute into Loudoun on a daily basis -- most of them working in lower-wage industries like construction, transportation and utilities, manufacturing and leisure and hospitality.

Supervisors made strides on a number of new initiatives to address the county’s housing issue. They directed staff to draft a resolution with the intent to amend the county’s zoning ordinance to establish revisions and new amendments to incentivize affordable housing. They also asked staff to develop a public land inventory. And they asked staff to create of a formal revolving loan program for the Loudoun County Housing Trust Fund.

But they clashed on perspective when the question became where the county would put more affordable and workforce housing and what types of incentives and investments they would be willing to spare.

“Some of the questions we need to answer is where will these new units be located,” said Ricky Barker, the county’s director of Planning and Zoning. “And then what type and what form this new housing will be needed to support housing for our community and then after that, how do we change our regulations to make them more receptive to this type of new development?”

Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) was among the most vocal throughout the night. He urged the board to figure out where they would actually put the homes before taking any policy positions, and cautioned supervisors to not just be “all talk and no action” on the issue of affordable and workforce housing.

“Instead of talking about, we’re going to throw money, we’re going to start subsidizing and incentivizing affordable dwelling units when we don't even have a place for affordable dwelling units right now, we don't have a board who’s willing to say, ‘We’re going to put affordable dwelling units anywhere’ … we should not allocate one more dollar to be spent on this until we actually say this is a corridor that we are going to allow additional development, additional residential units, additional affordable units,” Meyer said.

The question of where to put more affordable and workforce housing comes as the county’s Comprehensive Plan Stakeholders group has recommended the county could put additional homes in Loudoun’s low-density transition policy area.

But the the idea has drawn push back from local residents and supervisors.

Other supervisors said they were against putting up any “soft costs” toward the problem that would deplete the county’s $27 million housing trust fund.

“I'm very uncomfortable with us going down a different road and soft cost and all this other stuff when, in reality, if we truly gave bonus density and gave incentives we could let the private sector do what they need to do, but we also have to give them a place to do it in,” said Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian).

But Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) argued that some type of upfront investment would be needed to create a diverse housing stock.

“Public-private partnerships mean just that, public-private partnerships, you can’t call them public-private if you expect the private sector to do everything,” Randall said. “And if we are not willing to … invest some money at some point into getting a diverse stock of housing, we’re not going to get a diverse stock of housing.”

Supervisors acknowledged they would not find all the answers to the county’s glaring problem in one night, but said they planned on following up on the guidance advanced at the Housing Summit at future board meetings and would continue to find solutions to the issue through the remainder of their term.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @SydneyKashiwagi.


The biggest crisis that Loudoun County faces is the lack of roads crisis.

The market sets the cost of housing, and they seem to be able to sell them by the thousands so there’s no question they are affordable to the majority of the population in this area.

Good Samaritan and Rose Ellen are correct. It is the restriction of the supply of land that causes the high prices due to scarcity. Stanford economists have written about how fewer zoning laws create lower cost housing and MORE mixing by socioeconomic class. See Houston as an example. Loudoun is not short on land unlike Fairfax. It is simply because of zoning restrictions that cause prices to be so high.

Loudoun is used by a few wealthy DC elite as their farming playground where they are protected against even having to pay taxes on those gentlemen farms,

To expect service workers to live in another county and commute in is fantasy.

Let me bust another myth that building more affordable homes causes increased traffic congestion.

Above article states “44 percent of workers are forced to commute into Loudoun on a daily basis” which means these people are ALREADY on our roads during the morning/evening peak commute hours !!. If they could live in the county in affordable housing near their work places the commutes will
be shorter helping to ease traffic congestion.  Number of vehicles on the road and the length of time on it determines congestion severity. Those commuting from W.Va to Reston and beyond sit on on Rt.7 far longer compared to those living in Sterling/Reston and commuting to work. They can even use back roads to get to work easing congestion on main arteries. Its a no brainer. We do not need to spend millions in new roads, we just need to be wiser on traffic management. Actually affordable housing is a solution for our traffic problems.

Politicians, like Randy Minchew, are funded by developers.  If you hate developers, do you hate the politicians (land use lawyers) doing their dirty work?

@dirk, I knew that question was coming and let me set the record straight. I am a well paid technology professional, not connected to any developer nor am I in need of affordable housing. However someone has to stand up and speak the truth to counter the bogus arguments of greedy people whole sole aim is to create an artificial scarcity of homes with the nefarious intent to increase their home values with no
consideration for their fellow humans’ suffering.

BOS should not cow down to these opponents of affordable housing with their sham arguments. Our county chosen the path of economic development, it is a moral obligation of the board to ensure the workers have an affordable place to live and raise families.

Good Samaritan, which developer do you work for?

@cgh3, how many of those 2280 houses are affordable? Generally accepted principle by most financial experts and lenders is a house should not cost more than 2.5 times the buyers’s annual income.

“48 percent of Loudoun’s workforce—do not earn 40 percent area median income ($105k).”

Those 48% earn about 65-70k which means they cannot afford a house more than $175K. tell me how many of those 2280 are around that price range?

There are approx a dozen mixed use developments planned around the Silver Line stations and tens of thousands of new housing units in the pipeline.

Eastern Loudoun is going to look like Falls Church in 10-20 years.

But yet its still not enough for these people.

No, cgh3, not all Loudoun citizens hate developers.  They are like any producer of goods and services—trying to fulfill a demand.  We all live in housing developed by someone. 

There is no way our politicians could make a dent into providing “affordable” housing.  The demand is too high and the amount of land legally permitted to build on is too low. 

The only solution is to reduce what drives demand for Loudoun housing:  jobs and good schools.  Of course, who wants to do away with either.

Loudoun decided years ago to restrict about 2/3 of its land from homebuilding.  Lot sizes of 20 to 40 acres on this preserved land cannot create “affordable” housing.  Land use ends up for the wealthy to enjoy.

Even high-density housing is not cheap when land is scarce and environmental rules many.  Condo HOA fees are not cheap, either.

So let’s stop pretending that Loudoun can create “affordable” housing, except for a few fortunate residents who will make everyone else deceive themselves into feeling that they have actually solved the problem.

Do you developers understand that Loudoun citizens hate you?

There are currently 2,280 houses now for sale, plus plenty of apartments. There are only 184 homeless people in the county, per a 2016 article. So what’s the problem? I’ve also heard that tens of thousands of lots can be developed under current zoning. So the answer to the developers - If more houses are needed, then build them on lots that are ready to go. Or should we (accurately) assume that you have just figured out another trick to make some money, even if it ruins the county?

Those who oppose more housing have vested interest in keeping the supply choked to keep their home prices high. How are they different from the developers who are in the business to make money yet the former don’t realize their hypocrisy. The builders to their credit build something to make money but the opponents want to profit from scarcity. The argument that those that can’t afford can move to W.Va applies
equally to the opponents of dense development, PLEASE MOVE to W.Va if you want to live in 5 acre lots. This is a free country, no one can dictate where you want to live and you can’t dictate where others want to.

I have been a Loudoun resident for 15 years and do see the hardship faced by families due to high housing costs. It is imperative to build more housing. There are ways to make it affordable without giving any subsidies or special
provisions to teachers, police or so called “Public Servants”.  Open up huge tracts for housing, economies of scale will work. Permit 500 + units on these lots (condos, apartments and townhouses) instead of the current practice of 10 here and 20 there. To maximize land usage for housing don’t force mixed use, we have enough retail and office space in the county.
Have the builders bid against each other for these large scale developments, it will bring down the cost of houses significantly.

I know there will be people screaming about increased traffic but that is a fig
leaf of an argument because people will find a way to get to where they need to, we’ve been doing that all these years and those that can’t take the traffic please move to W.Va.

Bottom line, a few greedy home owners in their selfishness to increase their property values should not be allowed to hold to ransom the tens of thousands of struggling families from affording a roof over their head.

Yeah, sucking up to one of the big Amazon ‘requirements’ for making this their new HQ2.
While you are sucking up to that enterprise, what about those of us who live here already and the school and road traffic issues you will be dumping in our laps, not to mention higher taxes to us to make up for those ‘incentives’ you like to offer up like Halloween candy to undo all the improvements that have made life and traffic a bit better in the recent years. Just ridiculously sad to have this setback rammed down our throats with considering this ‘deal’ from Amazon.

A total load of crap by the real estate industry. There are currently 2,280 houses now for sale, plus plenty of apartments. I’ve heard that tens of thousands of lots can be developed. So the answer to the developers - If more houses are needed, then build them on lots that are ready to go. Or should we (accurately) assume that you are greedy sleazeballs who’ve figured out another trick to make some money, even if it ruins the county?

I want to live in La Jolla but the affordable housing there is slim, can I get a loan?

Housing prices are affordable, else the builders couldn’t sell them.

If your income cannot afford homes in Loudoun, then you should search elsewhere, like West Virginia.

debbie, my thoughts are:

1. Why should the taxpayers be subsidizing anyone’s housing?  Except for those that are truly homeless, we shouldn’t be.
2. I lived in Fairfax near a IZ developments.  The problem was that the teachers became house flippers.  They’d buy a condo at a low price, were required to hold it for something like 2 years, and then sold it at market rates and made a bundle.  IZ development became a money transfer to public servants (read: scam)
3. Developers always to the bait and switch.  They say there will be 40 affordable dwellings, then the market “changes” and they can only afford 30, then 20 and then you have a token affordable dwelling amongst 600k condos.  As others stated, IZ is the carrot developers toss to get the high margin condos they want to build.

Workforce housing is just a bad, bad, bad idea on so many levels.

Also as stated, if you can’t attract employees then you need to RAISE YOUR WAGES.

This whole scheme is just government at its worst.

Let’s just make housing free and subsidize those that can’t afford.

Affordable housing is always sold to the public as housing for teachers, police and firefighters. That is never who lives there. Stop this nonsense. The County is already grossly overdeveloped. Just stop building already!

anyone have any thoughts on inclusionary zoning?  DC, Montgomery, Fairfax, and Arlington County have implemented this.  Basically, IZ requires developers of new projects or additions to allot a percentage of their housing units toward lower income for teachers, police, FEMS workers etc..  Just a fyi- the Montgomery County IZ/MPDU is considered a “National Best Practice.” Plenty of resources to read the details.  Just curious your thoughts

The more desirable an area, the more expensive it is to live there.  This is true in every single city in the US.  Its that whole supply and demand thing they tried to teach you in school.

Nobody is going to buy super-expensive land in LC and then build cheap (affordable) housing at a loss.  At least not without massive gov’t subsidies.  Its not the government’s job to fix this “problem”.

I don’t know. Maybe the builders could just build houses that are affordable? Sure, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, maple cabinets, hardwood and tile floors are nice. But that drives the costs up. And affordable houses don’t need to be 2500 and up square feet.  But that doesn’t mean they build them cheap so they are falling apart in a few years.
Common sense is a flower that doesn’t grow in everyone’s garden.

“The Loudoun business community is struggling to attract and retain workers due in large part to the lack of attainable affordable [housing] options in the county.”

What a bunch of $%#&!!!  They are struggling to attract and retain workers because the businesses want to pay $8-10 an hour!  Let the free markets work for once!

Can we all unite around this issue Loudoun?!  I have lived here for nine years of growth and now Ashburn roads are a parking lot in the evenings and all I see down Loudoun County parkway is MORE multi-family units and little work on relieving the massive congestion!  Please tell me BOS, how in the $#@% can we have a $100 million budget “shortfall” when you continue to approve developers to build higher density units at will?!

This has got to stop!  I feel many of us are at our breaking point with our local reps (D and R’s).

“workforce housing” is a great sound bite but which is it. high density residential which will drive up the student generation numbers (multi-bedroom vertical constructed housing) or studios for singles which there is a real shortage of and no effect on LCPS?
Bob O__ Esq.

The “crisis” here is we’ve already overbuilt to the point that the infrastructure, services and especially schools can’t keep up.  The canard here is that somehow, people who work in Loudoun need to live in Loudoun—they don’t.  I didn’t need to live in DC or Fairfax when I worked there.  And, you have to love the transparent hypocrisy of this—the same folks that were pushing for Metro (so workers can commute) are now saying we also need to subsidize lower income housing so the workers DON’T have to commute. 

Ya gotta hand it to the developers—they can take any situation and manipulate it to their advantage.  This is nothing more than the opening salvo in their push to build townhouses in the transition area…as if, BTW, the townhouses will be affordable.


I have lived in Loudoun since 1984…doesn’t make me a native but it certainly lets me appreciate my sense of deja vu.

In the 80’s it was “we must approve these new developments along Route 7” (what we today call Ashburn, GW’s real-estate slice masquerading as a University, the Countryside/Sterling build-out”) if we’re to ever have affordable housing for the poor teachers and law enforcement officers who work in Loudoun (flag not an issue, wrap yourselves in public servants). 

In the 90’s it was “develop south of Route 50 to insure affordable housing…”  and on and on.  Sometimes the narrative slows down (when the economy tanks or housing prices fall—which is affordable come to think of it)...but the push to “develop this next bit of Loudoun to give us some affordable housing” mantra is always around…like the Western bypass…like so many self-serving ideas.

Let’s be sure to primary or vote out any supervisor who supports this nonsense.

All we hear from the supervisors is that “growth” will mean more tax revenue.  Now we hear that they need to spend that tax money on more housing?

Just look at the cast of characters telling us that WE need to FUND more ‘affordable’ housing. 

Affordable housing is a scam, it doesn’t appreciably lower the cost of living in any area it has been tried it.  But what it does do is give developers a way to justify zoning changes so they can pack in more houses into smaller spaces (with the promise of some being set aside as ‘affordable’ - They want you to ignore the fact that it also makes them more money). It also subsidizes below-market wages that business want to pay their employees.

The solution to this problem is not to rezone and cram more housing into the area, but to RAISE WORKER’S WAGES.  Period.  And that’s exactly happens when employers can’t find people who will take a job at a given wage.  Supply and demand will fix this problem, but employers want YOU to pick up the tab instead of them. 

If all these organizations, business and builders are so interested in helping, how about they fully fund the subsidies out of their profits?  I bet you can hear the crickets now, can’t you?


Talk about a government overreach.  Now, the BoS wants to be in the development business under the guise of affordable housing.  AT 56%, Loudoun has a high percentage of people that work and live in the county.  That being true, then this bellyaching is a ruse.

Developers, of course, want to make more high margin profits off housing.  Teachers, etc. apparently want ANOTHER taxpayer handout.  Businesses want cheap labor so they can keep their own profits high.  Democrats want to pander to their voting bloc.  Once again, we see everyone with their hand out and the taxpayer on the hook for something they should not be paying for at all.

There are cheap places to live in Loudoun, so the average is meaningless.  If it is too high, then move to WV or Clarke County.  They aren’t that far.

We have a traffic crisis, not a housing crisis.

We are adding 1,000 people a month to Loudoun County.  We don’t need any more than that.

Why on earth is ‘political will’ needed to fix this – or politics at all.  With a $100 million budget issue in 2018 – it’s a crime for the county to think about public investment in affordable housing is a good idea.  Especially when 75% will commute our of Loudoun.  We should live in a free country where the market forces will fix the issue over time.

Further, I am shocked that the home builders would want to build more houses! 

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