Halftime for the 2024 General Assembly

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The FWD #202 • 1,125 Words

Could this session be a touchdown for housing?

It’s an even-numbered year for the Virginia General Assembly, so that means we are in the middle of a 60-day “long” session. It’s been 30 days since legislators convened in their new General Assembly building on January 10. That means just 30 days are left. 

While many bills didn’t even make it to the floor for a vote, an impressive number of housing-related bills remain standing, which speaks to housing’s continued elevation as a policy issue.

Here are the proposals we’ve been keeping a close eye on. Although HousingForward doesn’t endorse or oppose any specific legislation, we still encourage you to be informed and engaged. If you’d like to make sure your voice is heard, we recommend that you connect with Virginia Housing Alliance and other statewide advocacy organizations. 

HB 900 / SB 304: Accessory Dwelling Units

We’ve talked a lot about Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in the past, and adding density to single-family neighborhoods continues to be a hot topic. This bill would essentially allow ADUs by-right in all single-family residential zoning districts so long as the owner seeks a permit and meets certain requirements listed in the bill.

The House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns continued HB 900 to next year, but SB 304 passed the Senate Committee on Local Government with amendments.

HB 30 / Item 102 #1h & SB 30 / Item 102 #3s: 5000 Families Pilot Program

This budget amendment would allocate $100 million to DHCD to establish a state rental assistance program that would serve low-income families with school-aged children. The HB 854 Statewide Housing Study specifically asked DHCD to explore the potential for an expanded state-funded rental assistance program

These budget amendments have not been heard in committees yet.

HB 1397: Manufactured Home Park Purchase Opportunity

Manufactured home parks continue to be a major source of market affordable housing across the Commonwealth. But tenure structure within parks can be difficult for both park owners and tenants to navigate when redevelopment opportunities arise. 

This bill doubles the relocation payments park owners are required to make to tenants who must move as a result of redevelopment from $2,500 to $5,000. It also gives residents greater ability to negotiate the purchase of the park from the owner.

HB 1397 will be heard by the Housing/Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the Housing Committee on General Laws.

HB 1122 / SB 597: Inclusionary Zoning

We’ve talked so much about inclusionary zoning and it continues to be a hot topic in the General Assembly. This session, the City of Richmond is asking to be added to the existing list of localities that are granted the ability to create a mandatory affordable housing dwelling unit program under § 15.2-2304. Meanwhile, a Senate bill is seeking to allow any locality in Virginia to create such a program.

HB 1122 was left in committee, but SB 597 remains alive in the Senate.

HB 1446: Affordable Housing Tax Assessment

The HB 854 Housing Study also requested an analysis and evaluation of “real property tax reduction for qualified affordable housing for localities that desire to provide such an incentive.” Virginia Code Ann. § 58.1-3295 seeks to ensure that owners of affordable rental housing pay real estate taxes based on the rents they actually charge instead of fair market rents. However, the statewide study revealed that many affordable housing providers are frequently assessed at fair market value. HB 1446 strengthens language to require local real estate assessors to appraise affordable rental housing with the income approach (i.e. taking into account affordable rents).

A House Finance subcommittee approved an amended version of HB 1446 this week, but the full committee subsequently voted to send it to the Virginia Housing Commission for further study.

HB 368 / SB 195: Single-Staircase Reform Study

Last year, we brought together three experts in architecture, planning, and affordable housing to discuss single-stair “point access blocks.” The conversation around single-staircase reform has been in progress in Virginia for some time, but for the first time, legislators are looking to take action on it.

This bill seeks to convene a stakeholder advisory group “to evaluate and recommend revisions to the Uniform Statewide Building Code to permit Group R-2 occupancies to be served by a single exit, provided that the building has not more than six stories.”

SB 195 has already passed the full Senate, but HB 368 remains to be heard in the House.

HB 1105: Zoning for Housing Production Fund

Zoning continues to be a major barrier to addressing the housing shortage. Taking cues from the Federal government, this bill would create a fund to offer grants for affordable housing projects in mixed-income neighborhoods. To be eligible for the funding, a locality would need to amend their zoning ordinance in one of the following ways:

  1. Allow by-right development of multifamily housing in single-family zones;
  2. Reduce lot size requirements or allow for the division of existing lots;
  3. Allow ADUs in single-family zones without requiring the occupant to be related to the owner of the primary dwelling;
  4. Implement or expand inclusionary zoning policies under § 15.2-2304 or 15.2-2305; or
  5. Allow lower-cost home construction alternatives, such as modular, 3-D printed, and pre-fabricated housing.

The House General Laws committee approved HB 1105 with amendments and referred it to Appropriations.

HB 1398: Affordable Housing Right of First Refusal (ROFR)

Right of first refusal (ROFR) is recognized as a tool to help preserve the stock of affordable housing, especially in strong housing markets. HB 1398 seeks to give localities the authority to enact a ROFR ordinance for “publicly supported housing.”  Through the bill, a locality or  “qualified designee,” which may include “tenant associations, nonprofit organizations, or for-profit organizations” may be given the opportunity to purchase an affordable housing development should the owner intend to sell.

The House General Laws committee approved HB 1398 with minor amendments.

SB 489: Virginia Residential Infrastructure Fund

Housing construction costs aren’t just the sticks and bricks of the homes themselves. Building new roads, water and sewer extensions, and other utilities can add up significantly to prevent much needed residential development, especially in more rural areas of the Commonwealth. This bill would direct DHCD to assemble a technical advisory committee to develop draft legislation for a residential development infrastructure fund. 

The Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations approved SB 489 with amendments.

These are only a few of the housing-related bills introduced this session. As the session comes to an end in a month, we are interested in knowing what data is needed to make more informed policy decisions. The Virginia Zoning Atlas will be a huge resource as legislators continue to push for statewide zoning reforms, but where else can HousingForward provide important insights? Let us know.

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