Letter: Charles Smith, Leesburg

Editor: Leaders have talked recently about making housing more affordable in Loudoun, but actions speak louder than words. The mere fact that we threw our name in the hat for Amazon’s HQ2 tells everyone it hasn’t been a priority–let alone top.  

Look at home prices in Seattle (home of HQ1) and San Francisco (Silicon Valley). While Zillow shows an average price per square foot of $229 in Loudoun, prices in those areas average $517 and $1,108 respectively.  

According to the Seattle Times, there was a 72 percent increase in people commuting 90+ minutes one-way to work there between 2010 and 2015. No doubt this was fueled by higher rents as people moved out further to get more for their money, or simply couldn’t afford to live there any longer. Coincidentally enough, that uptick of nearly 24,000 more mega-commuters is roughly equal to the number of employees Amazon had in Washington state the latter year (bizjournals.com).  So, when we see numbers showing more people commuting out of Loudoun for work than in, it’s at least an encouraging sign we’re still considered the suburbs. 

If there’s anything to be learned from these areas, it’s that adding tech jobs only makes the affordability problem worse. Location, low unemployment and high incomes will continue to spur demand. So why the constant push to attract more affluent people? It seems the best way to make housing more affordable comes not only through building modest abodes but also courting non-tech industries. We were prepared to offer Amazon huge tax breaks and incentives to make our real estate problem worse. What about the businesses that could really use them?  

These are issues we can’t address without addressing the culture that helped create them. If we genuinely want to make housing (and everything) more affordable in Loudoun, we have to stop putting on airs.

Charles Smith, Leesburg

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