Editorial: Meeting the Need

When Loudoun supervisors approved the $2 billion Kincora development along Rt. 28 in 2010 they couldn’t have predicted that affordable workforce housing would be the first element of new community.

That’s what is happening now with the nonprofit Windy Hill Foundation’s latest project, Heronview. Construction of the 96-unit complex began last month and will help address one of the county’s most pressing needs. Three years ago, Windy Hill opened a similar, 98-apartment complex in Brambleton. While these projects stand as the two largest efforts in Loudoun to provide apartments affordable to teachers, public safety workers and those in the service industries, they serve a small fraction of the need. The county’s main strategy to increase the inventory of price-controlled housing—a formula that provides residential developers a density bump in exchange for the construction of Affordable Dwelling Units—hasn’t nearly kept pace.

The latest county government study cites the need for more than 11,000 affordable rental units. One need only to look at the number of “help wanted” signs displayed in business windows to gauge the economic development impact the housing shortage is having.

Affordable housing has never been an issue addressed with urgency or ease in Loudoun.

Innovative projects typically push the boundaries of standard regulations and require creativity among bureaucrats. That’s true of the next large workforce housing project in the pipeline—the first to follow a for-profit model that, if successful, will likely result in a more robust effort to address the need. There also is an emerging demand for more communal, dorm-like living arrangements favored by Millennials young in their careers—a housing type not currently envisioned in Loudoun’s inventory.

Last spring, county supervisors pledged to embrace the challenge of providing workforce housing as an element of its broader economic development strategy. That’s a step in the right direction. Now, if they could tackle it with the same level of enthusiasm as their pursuit of Amazon’s next headquarters, they might really make a dent in that 11,000-home shortfall.

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