Zoning has dictated the fabric of our communities for nearly 100 years.
Today, local ordinances still determine the type, amount, and location of the homes we build. As a result, zoning can limit—or expand—our ability to create diverse housing opportunities to meet the needs of all Virginians.
At the 2022 Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference, we convened a panel of experts from across the Commonwealth to discuss the ways that land use policy can affect housing affordability. Participants shared personal experiences and professional insights, and audience members submitted questions to spark the conversation. View a recording of the presentation below.
Jodi Dubyoski is the founder and director of FORM Coalition, a community-engaged design practice based in Richmond, VA. Her work is focused on providing accessible architectural services to community builders and promoting equitable neighborhood development.
Jodi has a Masters of Architecture and a Graduate Certificate in Public Interest Design from Portland State University, where she served as a Graduate Assistant and a Student Fellow at the Center for Public Interest Design. She also holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech and is a licensed architect in Virginia.
Maritza E. Mercado Pechin, AICP is the Deputy Director for Equitable Development at the City of Richmond, Virginia where she is implementing the city-wide Master Plan through cross-departmental alignment and external partnerships to make Richmond more equitable and sustainable. Her office’s work focuses on 1) redeveloping city-owned property, 2) city-initiated rezonings, 3) community planning, and 4) capital budget alignment. Maritza is currently leading the Diamond District project, which entails redeveloping 67 acres of city-owned land through a public-private partnership to create a minor league baseball stadium within a mixed-use, mixed-income community. Some of her other current projects include the redevelopment of Richmond’s defunct coliseum, Reconnect Jackson Ward, and the HUD-funded Jackson Ward Community Plan. Maritza was previously a planning consultant with AECOM where she worked for local, regional, and federal clients to develop facility, land use, and sustainability plans. She also previously served as the development manager at Fulton Hill Properties, a Richmond-based development company that focuses on urban infill and adaptive reuse projects. Maritza earned an AB in Government from Harvard College and Master of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Originally from Puerto Rico, Maritza speaks 5 languages. Maritza and her family have lived in Richmond for 11 years, which is the longest she has lived anywhere.
Jim Russell is a geographer at RustBelt Analytica. Jim studies long cycle economic change, innovation, migration, and geopolitics. He is currently the chair of Loudoun Habitat for Humanity’s board and the Loudoun County Housing Advisory Board, and the Vice Chair of the Virginia Statewide Community Land Trust. He and his family have lived in Leesburg, Virginia for over a decade after moving from the Greater Denver area in Colorado.
Hannah Sabo currently serves as the Zoning Administrator for the City of Virginia Beach. A Virginia Beach native, Hannah has spent her career in public service, having worked in the City of Hampton’s Community Development Department for seven years prior to assuming her current role in her hometown. Hannah earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia.
Eleanor Vincent, Ed.D., LPS, LCPC, CSAC is the Chief Operating Officer at Pathway Homes, Inc., and licensed psychotherapist in private practice. She has 30+ years of experience in direct clinical, supervisory, and administrative oversight of inpatient and community mental health programs in the UK and US. Eleanor’s background is in psychiatric nursing, with undergraduate degrees in psychology and human services, a master’s degree in Public Administration, and doctoral degree in counseling psychology. She managed SAMHSA’s National Mental Health Information Center for two years and served as Adjunct faculty at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology Masters Forensic Psychology program for 5 years. She also served as administrative and program surveyor for the Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) for seven years and continues to provide input into CARF standards review process.
Eleanor served as the Chair of the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute Advisory Board for two years, and as a member of the Fairfax County Long Term Coordinating Care Council for four years. Currently, she serves on the Virginia Commonwealth University Psychology Industry Advisory Council, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps Advisory Committee, and the Fairfax County Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (AHAC). She also serves as Co-Chair of the AHAC Homelessness Committee.
Shernita Bethea, Moderator
Shernita L. Bethea is the Housing Administrator for the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. In her capacity as a planner, she works with a variety of organizations and agencies in the effort to promote regional approaches to issues pertaining to the elderly population, services for persons with disabilities as well as various housing issues.
Before coming to HRPDC in 2006, Shernita Bethea was the Program Director for Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia where she developed and managed their Consumer Credit Counseling program, Housing Counseling, Emergency Services and Disaster Response initiatives. Prior to that, she worked as a credit counselor for Consumer Credit Counseling of Hampton Roads. Shernita holds a BA in Psychology from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. She is also a Certified Comprehensive Housing Counselor, Certified Financial Health Counselor and holds various other certifications in housing and credit.
Currently Shernita Bethea is the current Past President of the Virginia Association of Housing Counselors and serves on the Board of Directors for HousingForward Virginia, Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, and the Hampton Roads Housing Consortium. Shernita has spent countless hours helping agencies and organizations throughout the state of Virginia improve their programs and resources.
Many zoning and land use regulations were written without affordability or opportunity in mind. In fact, our zoning ordinances were often written explicitly to exclude Black and lower-income households from better housing opportunities.
We’ve been happy to see and be part of the growing recognition of this history and its continuing impacts. ZONED OUT was a great kick-off to the work we will begin next year, and we look forward to continuing the conversation about zoning reform and zoning education in your locality.