Report finds future housing gap of 18,000 in Loudoun. But is the county ready for the growth?


By 2040 Loudoun County will be 17,860 homes shy of what it needs, and this comes at a time when people from across the income spectrum are expected to migrate to the county that will be home to seven percent of the region's jobs, according to a housing needs assessment draft from George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis and the housing needs analysis firm Lisa Sturtevant & Associates, LLC.

The draft report, commissioned by the previous Board of Supervisors, highlights a stark housing demand in a county projected to grow by 35 percent over the 25-year period it examines.

As Loudoun readies for that growth, some are skeptical of the numbers and worry the county's infrastructure may not be ready for the projected need.

"Where we really need to study is how do localities afford and pay for growth," Broad Run Supervisor Ron Meyer (R) said. "That is the real issue, and it's easy to say that there's housing demand and yes there's housing demand. The problem is, from a locality perspective - Loudoun County perspective - is that every new house you add, you add more costs than you bring in with each house."

According to the report, the county has the potential to add nearly 64,000 homes between now to 2040. However, it states that, under current plans, Loudoun only has the capacity for 46,500 homes by 2040. Under Loudoun's current comprehensive plan, the county says it has the potential to build up to 185,749 homes at its maximum density over the course of the plan's lifetime.

Using two different scenarios, with 131,440 housing units already counted by the county staff , Loudoun can add as many as 54,309 homes more under current zoning.

Meyer, whose district will become home to the new Silver Line Metro stations and house much of the county's growth, thinks the consultant report is trying to promote demand without considering the costs.

"I think this study is trying to push that we need more housing as fast as possible and all these things, and certainly from a demand perspective, sure, that makes sense, but we still have to pay for it in the county and figure out how to pay for it as a county. Frankly, the promoters of the report aren't doing much to help us out in that front," Meyer said.

The report also comes as county planners are developing the county's Silver Line Small Area Plan around the forthcoming Metro stations. Additionally, a 26-member stakeholder committee filled with developer interests is helping draft the county's new comprehensive plan, which will serve as a roadmap for where and when future developments will be built.

The county's Housing Advisory Board Chairman, John A. Andrews II, was expected to discuss the report with consultants during a Jan. 11 meeting.

Andrews thinks the housing gap could be wider than stated in the report.

"I don't necessarily trust the lower number, and I definitely don't trust the upper number, so i believe that the gap is wider than what is being presented," Andrews said.

The report also notes the highest demand will be for be multi-family and single-family homes.

Andrews thinks the largest gap in terms of building type will be single-family homes. He believe it will be a challenge to find those in eastern Loudoun in the future.

"To grow a diverse and strong economy, we're going to need more single-family attached, detached. We need to address the affordable housing issue, we need to address the special needs population " and the seniors," Andrews said. "We have to plan if we want to retain those highly skilled, high-network individuals in our community. We have to plan for more active adult communities."

The report paints a picture of a county dominated by those earning 150 percent or more of the area's median income. 80 percent of the households outlined in the study are slated to come to the county because of employment opportunities in Loudoun and the region.

Nearly 30 percent of new residents are expected to spend more than 30 percent of their household income on housing.

First-term Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) stressed the report was a long-term examination. She said the county would not be adding a high volume of residential units in the near-term.

"We need to have a wide range of houses that millennials and all levels of income might be interested in moving in," she said.

Supervisors are expected to formally receive and consider the report in February.

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