In today’s Daily Progress, Jessica Kitchin has a lengthy article exploring the costs and the benefits of Albemarle’s Neighborhood Model of development. The concept of the new urbanist approach to development is to lower the cost of living and raise quality of life for residents, but creating such neighborhoods is more expensive, in part because developers simply aren’t accustomed to building anything other than McMansion after McMansion. The county’s requirement that 15% of Neighborhood Model construction be “affordable” only further muddies the financial waters. I think the most interesting bit of the article is this:
Affordable housing is defined as safe, decent housing where costs don’t exceed 30 percent of the gross household income. The county’s policy addresses those with household incomes at or below 80 percent of the area’s median income — this year, 80 percent of the median is $53,360. At a 6 percent interest rate, Albemarle County Housing Director Ron L. White estimated, the average family making that could afford a $175,000 mortgage.
Albemarle’s median home value, meanwhile, is $280,000. Many attribute the skyrocketing home values – which went up 45 percent from 1990 to 2000 and have risen 74 percent since 2000 – to the market in a high-demand living area.
Kitchin does a good job of exploring this dynamic, interviewing all the people that play a role in the local housing process. The Progress should have features this in-depth more often.