Leesburg Council Raises In-Town Affordable Housing Cap

Under an agreement signed in 2009, the Loudoun County government has been responsible to manage the inventory of affordable dwelling units provided by developers.

That responsibility hasn’t kept the county’s housing office very busy, but that’s about to change.

Since the Town of Leesburg changed its zoning ordinance just over a decade ago to require most large-scale developers—those seeking approval of 25 or more homes—to set aside some of them as price-controlled affordable housing, only one project has contributed to the program. The rezoning for the PMW Farms neighborhood, approved in 2007, provided 30 homes to the county-administered ADU program.

That was the last time the ordinance requirement came into play on any Leesburg development project. That’s because the town’s agreement with the county government to manage the affordable housing units included a restriction that only 40 town ADUs could be part of the program. A zoning administrator’s determination ruled that, with 30 units in the program, unless a developer was providing fewer than 10 ADUs, none could be accepted. None have been.

And of the original 30 designated affordable homes at PMW Farms, only 24 were sold to qualified buyers in the county’s program. After failing to find buyers within 90 days, six were sold at market rates, with part of the proceeds going to the county’s Housing Trust Fund.       That happened during the recession when there were fewer qualified buyers on the ADU waiting list.

ADU program demand is more robust today and concerns about the shortage of affordable or workforce housing are getting more attention from town and county leaders.

Last night, the Town Council amended the agreement with the county to increase the 40-unit cap to 120. That means that, while large new developments like Crescent Parke and Meadowbrook, which are under construction, won’t include ADUs, the next big projects likely will be required to comply.

Program Manager Brian Reagan told the council Monday that the county has about 2,200 homes—including the 24 in Leesburg—in the ADU program. They were sold to buyers earning an average of $47,927 per year, far below the HUD designated median income for the region of $110,000 for a family of four.

While endorsing the effort to increase the availability of affordable homes in town, several council members said they want to consider other programs, including measures that could help more town staff members afford to live inside the corporate limits.

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