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Votes

Housing Trust?

County pursues study of affordable housing.

Achieving affordable housing in Loudoun takes the government to do the work, Supervisor James Burton (I-Mercer) observed at the June 16 Board of Supervisors meeting.

"The basic thrust of this report is the free market system will not provide affordable housing in the county," Burton said after members of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) presented "Workforce Housing: Affordable Housing to Strengthen Loudoun’s Business Community."

In the report, the EDC provided the supervisors with a list of eight recommendations to address the county’s workforce and affordable housing issues, including establishing a Housing Advisory Board, partnering with the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to act as a housing authority, expanding existing and starting new housing programs, and establishing a Loudoun Housing Trust.

The last suggestion is the most expensive of the recommendations, estimated to cost $1.5 million for initial capital expenses and $.5 million per fiscal year to operate. If developed, the housing trust can provide a funding source for affordable housing initiatives developed by the county and by non-profit and for-profit developers that aim to increase the supply and affordability of housing.

Another of the EDC’s recommendations concerns expanding the requirements of the Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) program, which requires certain land development applications to include affordable housing units in exchange for density increases. As of now, about 50 percent of ADU units are housing work force from other jurisdictions outside the county, said Cindy Mester, director of Housing Services, adding, "Our ADUs, both rentals and for-sales, have huge waiting lists."

Supervisor Mark Herring (D-Leesburg) mentioned not seeing any recommendations in the report that would require the county to work with the region on the affordable housing issue, which is a regional issue, he said. "Sometimes it seems like Fairfax’s view of regional housing is [it gets] the borders and Loudoun and Prince William get the bedrooms," he said.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to forward the EDC’s recommendations to the Economic Development Committee for further discussion and to make a final recommendation to the board.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the Board of Supervisors:

* Heard chairman Scott York's (R-At large) suggestion on what can be done with several million dollars in unobligated fund balance for Fiscal Year (FY) 2004.

"Because of the burden of growth and the fact that we have an adopted FY-04 budget, I would like to reduce the tax rate to reflect the unobligated fund balance," York said in a memorandum he handed over to Burton, chairman of the Finance and Government Services Committee. He explained in the memo that the fund balance results from "continued expense reduction and revenue growth" in the county."

York asked the committee to study if by code the county can adjust the second half of real property tax bills to reflect the rate reduction.

Burton said the committee could not take up the issue until the FY-04 budget numbers can be finalized this fall.

* Agreed unanimously to establish a Loudoun Healthcare Commission aimed to improve the quality, accessibility and efficiency of health care in the county, as recommended in the Loudoun Health Care Task Force’s 2002 report. The commission’s membership will include the board chairman or a designated board member, county and town representatives, representatives from the health care industry and at-large citizen appointees who will continue the work begun by the task force. The members will analyze the county’s health care needs and the availability and accessibility of that care, develop recommendations and identify community resources to carry out those recommendations.

"We are giving health care a place of importance in this county," said Supervisor Eleanore Towe (D-Blue Ridge). "The representatives may have information for us, especially around areas of needs."

The commission is limited to $5,000 in spending to develop the group, which is expected to begin meeting on Oct. 1. The members will serve in staggered terms.

* At Supervisor Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles)’s request, the board heard a presentation by John Liningeer, president of JLL, LLC, regarding the board’s earlier decision to reduce tipping fees to achieve revenue neutrality at the county landfill. Liningeer recommended the county instead rely more on using solid waste transfer stations.

"You’re going against the trend by using your own solid waste facility," Liningeer said, adding that the county would be "hostage to the market" if the landfill runs out of capacity. "The county’s only wedge is the air space."

"I hope down the line there’s something better we can do with our solid waste than burying it," York said.

* York announced that at the next meeting, the board may be able to appropriate $2 million in state funds to return to the School Board’s budget.