Updated: Jun 29, 2020
I believe housing is a human right, and everyone deserves a decent, affordable place to call home. Council needs to act now to stabilize our housing needs.
In Winchester, housing prices are skyrocketing and families are being pushed out of the neighborhoods where they’ve lived for years. Homelessness is at record levels and evictions tax our local law enforcement offices. It’s becoming harder and harder for young people to find a place to rent, much less own.
“...the city needs more housing and innovative solutions. Housing should be on the forefront of the local agenda...”
Rather than seeing the housing crisis as an issue of lack of supply, or gentrification, local leaders should recognize the complex reality of this issue and begin to act. We simply do not have enough homes for the people who want to live in our community and building more housing is necessary to address the imbalance of supply, but will not solve for displacement and eviction. In short, Winchester cannot simply build its way out of the problem.
In 2018, regional municipalities commissioned a study on housing need in our area from researchers at VCU. The major takeaways for Winchester were:
The need for new homeownership as well as rental units continues to rise. This may be satisfied through rehabilitation or new construction. ■ For Winchester in particular, the rental need is much more acute (over 45% of residents are renters). ■ Housing demand in Winchester is driven by renters, seniors and households earning less than 120 per- cent of area median income (Meaning the biggest need is for Affordable and Workforce housing).
Much of this housing demand will come from an aging population. Housing quality and quantity for rural seniors will require urgent attention.
Without policy-adjustments, the housing market will underserve middle and working-class households at lower income levels. As housing costs continue to increase but incomes do not keep pace, a growing share of working-age households will find themselves cost and severely cost burdened in housing.
The number of residents experiencing homelessness will continue to rise without serious intervention. Additional funding and services will be needed to reduce homelessness in the Winchester area.
To keep up with population growth and address the scale of the need Winchester already has, the city needs more housing and innovative solutions. Housing should be on the forefront of the local agenda including the exploration of tools implemented by other communities like:
Increased density around our transit hubs
Assigning a staff person to oversee housing policy and equitable housing development
Create a housing trust fund
Creating a blighted property tax
Create an affordable housing loan fund
Increased access to tiny houses and Accessory Dwelling Units
My experience in this area
Employed with Habitat for Humanity
Experience working with state level housing organizations
Construction and rental management experience
Homeowner in Ward 3
VA Housing Affordability Statistics, 2019