Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Planning Commission ‘Spinning Wheels’ on Affordable Housing

Spotsylvania Planning Commission Chairman James Strother said during last week’s meeting that commissioners were "spinning their wheels" on trying to figure out how to supply affordable housing for the county. Commissioners have reviewed affordable housing ideas several times and never could they come to agreement. Last week was no different. 

"This is a first step to provide those increased options and opportunities. By no means do we expect this to be the cure all that solves everything," said county planner Andrew Hopewell during the Feb. 20 meeting.

Strother wanted to form a committee to study affordable housing. No one agreed on that.

Patrick Mulhern, a longrange planner, said the three important pieces of affordable housing he suggested commissioners pass to supervisors were:


1. Recommend the objective in the draft comprehensive plan for the "10-percent component" for every signifitant new residential rezoning. This component would require developers to set aside 10 percent of the homes for affordable units. What’s affordable? I will get to that in another post. 

2. Make changes to allow granny flats above garages or in basements for affordable apartments that are legal.

3. Recommend the "great house concept" which basically is building a large estate on, let’s say an acre, but the house is actually broken up into several affordable units. The house looks like a large estate, but it’s really an affordable housing unit. 

Supervisor Benjamin Pitts at the last county board meeting wanted staff to recommend ordinance changes that would set the stage for affordable housing. That meeting is scheudled for June 24.

Here is a video I did with Commissioner John Gustafson after the Feb. 20 meeting. It took me all day to figure out how to post this video up here, but I feel accomplished that it finally worked! Forgive the intro, as I am still learning how to use this program.





  • lgross

    okay.. so you get an attaboy for doing the video… :-)

    I watched the PC discussion on affordable housing and thought it was a good discussion though I did hear the comment/concern about attracting non-county folks to the affordable housing.

    I think the idea of Granny Flats is great – provided they are done according to fire and building codes and specific parking allocated. Family lots also…

    I also think the 10% seems arbitrary. Isn’t there a way to come up with .. a more relevant, accurate number?

  • gramps

    This may seriously become a non-issue for the PC if housing values continue their fall. The “market” may well solve the PC’s problem.

  • therestofthestory

    My house is akready 100k lower from the top and will go down another 80k from here…the MARKET is taking care of the problem….this is not Detroit or Moscow.

  • johnfgustafson

    Both of the comments about value drops helping with affordability are correct, but this is a economic cycle that won’t be here long. But even in this downturn, it is nearly impossible for people who really need affordable housing from qualifying for a loan or to meet the new down payment requirements. I am still a firm believer that relaxing overly stringent zoning will allow multiple affordable housing options, without the dollar expense being put on us taxpayers.

  • johnfgustafson

    Here is my second comment. I think Patrick Mulhern, Andrew Hopewell, and the rest of the Planning Dept did a very professional job with the affordable housing element of the Comp Plan. This is a very difficult and very controversial subject, and our Planners excelled in their research and presentation. I have my personal favorites of the broad range of implementation strategies, but I am very excited about the broad range of solutions presented by our professional Planners.

  • dantelvock

    Good one, John. Andrew and Patrick are good guys.

  • lgross

    Agree.. planners are professional… did a good job and the PC .. were engaged in the issues

    I’d like to see a more universally-understood meaning of affordable housing. Some folks think it means “more affordable” 3 br SFD homes while others think it is workforce housing.

    I’d also like to see it defined as housing that costs with 10% of the LOCAL median income AND I’d like to better understand why 10% is the number. Don’t we have a better way to develop a number that has more relevance?

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