Addressing the need for housing options in Hanover County
HANOVER, VIRGINIA: Hanover and King William Habitat for Humanity appreciated the recent article in the RTD about Hanover County’s comprehensive planning process and the community feedback around the need for affordable housing. (https://richmond.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/hanover-county-development/article_ad2f2ec4-ddf9-11ed-ba48-53aa52c8d66f.html) At our organization, we see the impact of the lack of homes available at an accessible price every day.
In Hanover County, where the median home sold price in March was $405,000, there are no naturally occurring affordable homes and as the article noted, there aren’t affordable rental options either. This is leaving the average working family out of the market to afford to live here. To afford a home at $405,000 and not be cost-burdened, you’d need to be earning a household income of at least $127,000. This means that essentially there aren’t first-time homebuyer opportunities in Hanover County.
As a nonprofit homebuilder, we comb through land and house listings every day in search of properties that we may be able to develop and sell at an affordable price to a homebuyer earning less than 60% of the area median income, which is $60,600 for a family of four. Without programs like ours where we are selling homes for less than $200,000, there is no way these buyers would become homeowners in the county where they work. As a nonprofit developer, we struggle to increase the number of houses we can build because of cost. We wish small, nonprofit developers like us had requirements that were different from a major developer who is building 100+ home subdivisions.
Without structural changes in county policies, the gap of those needing accessible homeownership will never be filled, even with programs like ours. One avenue that could be considered as a tangible change to increase options for affordability would be incentives or ordinances that require a certain number of homes at an accessible price within new subdivisions being built by developers. Without something like that, the changes mentioned in the article for subdivisions aren’t going to increase affordability.
We agree with Ms. Stevens, who was quoted in the article last month saying, ‘I wonder how a young family is going to afford a place here’ and we know that living in Hanover is already out of reach for many people who grew up here or work in the county but can’t afford to live here. We need the comprehensive plan to include some tangible ways that affordable homes – which means those below $300k – can be made available in Hanover.
The article also spoke to the need to consider what the county’s aging seniors need as far as housing. We work with Hanover seniors every day in our Critical Repair Program who are staying in their longtime home instead of downsizing because there is nowhere for them to go that they can afford. We see how overwhelming it is for them to try to maintain these homes that they’ve lived in for 40-50 years, but they can’t afford to leave.
We encourage Hanover County residents to continue to engage in the comprehensive planning process by sharing their desire for more policies that encourage affordable homeownership opportunities with the planning commission and the board of supervisors.
About Hanover and King William Habitat for Humanity
Hanover and King William Habitat for Humanity is a locally run, independent affiliate of Habitat International and is responsible for Hanover and King William Counties. For over 30 years, they built homes alongside families who pay an affordable mortgage. Habitat’s repair program addresses critical repairs around the home. With their help and the help of the community, Habitat homeowners achieve the strength, stability, and independence they need to build a better life for themselves and their families.