This chapter collects the major community engagement themes from over a dozen regional and local housing studies completed across Virginia in the past several years. This information will help policymakers understand the types of housing challenges Virginians across the Commonwealth are experiencing.
This meta-analysis of community engagement includes housing studies completed between 2013 and 2021 for more than twenty regions and localities across Virginia. The aim of this analysis is:
- Determine whether each housing study contained a community engagement component,
- Identify the specific methods used and the key findings in studies that did incorporate community engagement, and
- Aggregate and summarize the main themes that emerge across the studies’ community engagement findings.
Of the housing studies reviewed, most appeared to incorporate community engagement in some form. The extent of community engagement ranged from broad community feedback through public surveys to targeted input through interviews or focus groups with selected stakeholders.
Some study reports and other materials mention the use of community engagement methods, yet do not include an explicit presentation or discussion of the findings from such input.
The themes identified and discussed here draw specifically with varying levels of detail from community input, when available, in the following regions and localities (with report date and external link to published study):
- Alexandria (December 2013)
- Arlington (September 2015)
- Northern Shenandoah Valley (October 2018)
- Fairfax County (2018)
- City of Falls Church (August 2019)
- Farmville/Prince Edward County (September 2019)
- Richmond Region (January 2020)
- Bath County (March 2020)
- Richlands (April 2020)
- City of Martinsville (July 2020)
- Fredericksburg Region/George Washington Region (October 2020)
- Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Region (December 2020)
- James City County (2020)
- Prince William County (2020)
- Harrisonburg (February 2021)
- Goochland County (April 2021)
- New River Valley Region (April 2021)
- Loudoun County (June 2021)
Many of the study areas are home to aging populations, and a common theme that emerged was the lack of housing options that enable seniors to age-in-place or age-in-community. For the former, this means policies and programs that support the renovation and adaptation of residents’ current homes to make their homes more accessible as they age.
Community input also raised the broader need for senior housing options to enable aging-in-community, particularly in more rural parts of Virginia, as older adults seek to downsize to homes in more centrally located areas that are walkable and amenity-rich.
In most of the community-engaged studies, residents and stakeholders voiced a need for affordable homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers, particularly young people and single-parent households who work in the area, and prospective employees. This theme overlaps with housing options for seniors, as aging Virginians compete with first-time homebuyers for smaller for-sale homes. The particular price points considered affordable vary by region.
For instance, the median annual salary for the Farmville/Prince Edward County region’s “most common job types” is $35,647, which would require a price point of about $135,000 for affordable homeownership. Survey respondents in Goochland County reported unmet demand for affordable homeownership opportunities under $300,000 and under $200,000. Bath County’s stakeholder input revealed a lack of “[f]or-sale homes at price points ‘in the middle’ (between approximately $100,000 and $200,000).”
Community input across all study areas identified shortages in rental housing affordable to a range of income levels. Many studies only cite supply gaps in subsidized affordable housing and workforce housing as key challenges, while others report a strong need for new market-rate rental housing
Community input in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, the Farmville/Prince Edward County region, and the New River Valley Region all indicated rental supply issues related to those areas’ college student populations. The Northern Shenandoah Valley report noted a dearth of housing options to meet student demand, while the two other regions’ studies raised concerns about an insufficient supply of housing for nonstudents, largely due to students’ “domination of the rental market.”
This theme necessarily reflects and interconnects with the preceding themes and does not require extensive discussion. However, community input in a number of studies revealed an explicit desire for more diverse—and denser—housing options to meet the needs of a range of current and future residents.
These issues are grouped together, as they all affect housing cost burdens and quality. A number of studies raised the challenge of aging and substandard housing stock and the inability of homeowners to afford maintenance, repairs, and rehabilitation. Additionally, lack of access to quality, reliable broadband service emerged from community input as a prominent issue in Goochland County and the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Region.