Print

EHI urges Town of Herndon's Planning Commission to meet requirements of

Virginia law and follow expert guidance regarding its housing planning

 

The Town of Herndon, in suburban Fairfax County (Northern Virginia), soon will have a Metrorail (rapid transit) station. The Town is planning for a heavy build-up of commercial development and jobs near that station, and it already has a serious housing shortage -- as does Northern Virginia as a whole. EHI has been urging the Town to balance its planned job growth with housing growth and consider other measures to deal with its housing shortage. (For more on the Town's Metrorail planning, CLICK HERE.)

 

In November 2012, the Town's Planning Commission began public meetings as part of its Five-Year Review of the Town’s current Comprehensive Plan (CP), which was adopted in 2008. EHI submitted written comments on November 29, urging the Planning Commission to revise the section of the CP on housing affordability, in order to meet Virginia planning requirements and current planning needs. In Virginia, each local government’s Comprehensive Plan --

 

shall include: the designation of areas and implementation of measures for the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of affordable housing,  which is sufficient to meet the current and future needs of residents of all levels of income in the locality while considering the current and future needs of the planning district within which the locality is situated.

 

Va. Code § 15.2.2223 (emphasis added). Herndon’s current CP does not designate areas, implement measures, or otherwise discuss whether or not it has affordable housing sufficient to meet the current and future needs of residents of all levels of income.   

 

GMU report on housing the future workforce 

 

EHI is urging Herndon's Planning Commission to avoid contributing to the overall problems identified by George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis in its comprehensive report on housing the area’s future workforce (Oct. 25, 2011). That report's basic conclusions are that:

  1. Local jurisdictions are planning for an insufficient amount of housing to accommodate future workers.
  2. More housing is needed closer to jobs, in existing and growing regional employment centers.
  3. There is a need for more multi-family housing and smaller, more affordable owner and renter homes in the region. 
  4. A lack of a sufficient supply of housing contributes to worsening traffic and quality of life and threatens our region’s economic vitality. 

(For further information about that report, CLICK HERE.)

Designating areas for needed housing

There is much that the Town can do. For example, the Town should designate and set aside areas for future construction of sufficient multi-family and other housing units to achieve jobs/housing balance in its community. The American Planning Association advises that the generally recommended target standard for a community is one appropriate housing unit for every 1.5 jobs. However, the Town had a jobs/housing ratio of about 3.28:1 in 2008 and it plans to add up to 13,425 new workers in the 38-acre core area adjacent to the Town’s future Metrorail station, with housing for only about 20 percent as many workers there. 

The Town could plan for a good deal of housing in the 145-acre area just beyond that 38-acre core. Residential and other development originally was envisioned for that 145 acres, as part of the Metrorail-area planning. However, the Town Council's approved plan (February 2012) covers only the 38-acre core, and there still is a zoning prohibition on residential development in the remaining 145 acres (as we understand it). 

 

Implementing measures to promote housing affordability 

 

The Town could consider numerous other measures as well, to aid at least some of its low- and moderate-income residents and workers. ADU (Affordable Dwelling Unit) programs are a commonly-used approach. For example, the Reston, Tysons Corner, and Route 28/CIT areas of Fairfax County (where other future Metrorail stations are planned), are subject to the County’s ADU (Affordable Dwelling Unit) program. That program requires that a substantial percentage of the units in large, new multi-family buildings be affordable to low- or moderate-income people. Loudoun County also has an ADU program, as do Arlington and the City of Falls Church. 

 

However, the Town of Herndon does not have an ADU program, and the current CP does not consider the possibility of adopting such a program. Other means of creating and preserving affordable units include: 

We urge Herndon's Planning Commission to recommend, and its Town Council to adopt, all measures necessary to meet the Town’s needs for affordable housing during its five-year review of its CP.