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Charlottesville panel awaits council guidance on affordable housing measures

Charlottesville panel awaits council guidance on affordable housing measures

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A Charlottesville housing committee is awaiting guidance from the City Council before moving forward with revisions to several policies and regulations that were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Housing Advisory Committee discussed a proposed affordable housing program and policy changes during its meeting Wednesday.

In February, the council held a work session to discuss the proposals and later sent them to the Planning Commission for review while requesting input from the committee.

The action came with a 100-day timeline, per city code, but that countdown came to a halt with the onset of the pandemic in mid-March.

The proposal includes creating zoning incentives for affordable housing and better administering and replenishing the Affordable Housing Fund.

City staff has recommended that the Affordable Housing Fund be transformed into a revolving loan program to guarantee continuous funding.

Another recommendation is to allow accessory dwelling units anywhere throughout the city by-right. Property owners would be allowed to have as many as three accessory units as long as at least one remains affordable as a rental for at least 20 years.

The proposal would remove the requirement that an owner live on the property with an accessory dwelling unit; make loans available; reduce setback requirements; and eliminate additional parking requirements.

Staff also recommended amending the zoning ordinance to incentivize so-called middle-housing, such as duplexes and townhouses that are a stepping stone between apartments and single-family homes.

Among the recommendations is an affordable dwelling unit program that would oversee the proposed regulations.

The proposal also called for eliminating the 22-member Housing Advisory Committee to create a smaller panel that advises the housing coordinator on administering the affordable housing program and establishing regulations, such as rental and sales prices for projects that received city funding. That portion of the proposal could be revised.

The committee is waiting for guidance from the council to determine if it should proceed with its review of the proposal or if it will be wrapped into the city’s Comprehensive Plan update.

The plan, which is a guide for local land-use decisions, was last updated in 2013, and the zoning code hasn’t been substantially revised since 2003. It doesn’t have any centralized policy to address housing needs; the zoning ordinance doesn’t provide appropriate incentives for affordable units; and projects are approved at varying lengths of times of affordability.

The city started updating the plan in 2017, but work came to a halt. The city awarded a $926,000 contract to Rhodeside and Harwell Inc. to finish the update, which the consultant expects will take at least a year. Rewriting the zoning ordinance would take another year.

John Sales, the city’s housing coordinator, said that staff expects to know the council’s plans by next week.

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City hall reporter

Nolan Stout is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact him at (434) 978-7274, nstout@dailyprogress.com, or @nstoutDP on Twitter and Facebook.

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