“Bombshell” Report Dropped on Loudoun’s Housing Advisory Board

“Bombshell” Report Dropped on Loudoun’s Housing Advisory Board

The Loudoun County’s Housing Advisory Board (HAB) spent the entirety of its Jan. 11 meeting trying to understand a housing needs assessment that points to a potentially massive shortfall in the county’s future housing supply. The existence of the report was revealed by The Tribune on Jan. 3.

Originally scheduled to be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for consideration at its Jan. 18 meeting, HAB pushed the date to February to allow its members to better understand the report’s magnitude and implications.

“This might be bit of a bombshell in terms of the direction they’re going, and I think they thought this was going to go,” said HAB member Brian Fauls.

HAB members will now pose further questions to the report’s authors, George Mason University and Lisa Sturtevant & Associates, and may meet with them in person again.

As disclosed by The Tribune, the report says Loudoun will need 18,000-plus total housing units more than has been forecasted by Loudoun officials in order to meet demand through 2040.  Demand is based in part on sustaining Loudoun’s heretofore robust economic growth.

Of bigger concern to the HAB is the type of housing units called for. While the report says there will be a projected surplus in the coming years of 12,170 multifamily units like condominiums and apartments, there will be a shortfall in single family detached and attached homes. That would mean the county is actually facing a shortfall of more than 30,000 of these homes.  The report forecasts that these home types will remain the most sought after by those seeking to move to Loudoun.

The report comes as the county is creating a new comprehensive plan, the master guidance document that directs Loudoun’s planning future, for the first time in 15 years. Since the last plan was approved by the board in 2001, Loudoun has continued to have one of the fastest growing populations of any jurisdication in the nation. To meet growth demands, Loudoun is developing most of its eastern and southern areas, but has consistently ruled out further development in the west, including areas north and west of Leesburg and west of Route 15.

As county leaders have begun work on the new plan, they have opposed zoning changes in these largely rural area, and have focused heavily on the implications of Metro.

Supervisors in general have expressed optimism that the coming Metro Silver line extension and high-density residential development surrounding two new stations in Loudoun will reduce housing gaps, but this optimism is inconsistent with housing forecasts.  The GMU report says that reliance on a significant increase in the number and share of multi-family housing may be at odds with both housing and economic demands.

“The issue is what is driving your economic growth. If it’s a married couple with two kids, either the business won’t locate here or people will commute from other areas. We’re not going to be able to force a lifestyle change on them.”  John Andrews

The housing needs assessment comes to its conclusions based on a projection that Loudoun will produce 107,000 new jobs by 2040, mostly in white-collar, high-tech industries. Those jobs in turn attract upper-income earners who buy single family homes and are expected to for the foreseeable future.

The report warns that there could be far-reaching detriments to job growth and the local economy as a whole if the county doesn’t meet housing (type) demand. Companies seeing a lack of available housing, could also be discouraged to move to Loudoun.

“The issue is what is driving your economic growth. If it’s a married couple with two kids, either the business won’t locate here or people will commute from other areas. We’re not going to be able to force a lifestyle change on them.” said John Andrews, the out-going HAB chair.