Report: Housing Situation Sucks

A comprehensive study of the availability of housing that’s affordable to residents shows that it’s a bad situation and it’s getting worse, Brian McNeill reports in today’s Daily Progress. Given the number of families earning less than $28,500/year, we’re short 4,200 housing units. Who makes $28,500/year? Everybody in the top five most common jobs here: cashiers, restaurant workers and retail employees. They also found that public employees (police, fire, teachers) have to live farther and farther away from Charlottesville in order to pay for housing, leading to more traffic, more need for childcare, and more pollution.

The study was commissioned by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and conducted by the Virginia Center for Housing Research. The TJPDC tells me that they won’t have the study available electronically until next week, so I’m afraid I can’t point you to a copy of it.

01/24 Update: The report is now available (2.2MB PDF).

34 thoughts on “Report: Housing Situation Sucks”

  1. Who makes $28,500/year? Everybody in the top five most common jobs here: cashiers, restaurant workers and retail employees.

    I think 28,500 ($13,70 per hour) is an optimistically high dollar figure for those jobs. The exceptions might be waitstaff and bartenders at higher end establishments (even then it’s the “tips” that are putting them over the top since in VA the employer is allowed to only pay them 50% of minimum wage).

    The majority of people filling those positions make much much less. For example, a full time hourly retail workers at UVA only make 9.75/hr (20,280/year) with no benefits. Salaried Retail at UVA starts around 23,076 (and for the benefits- not available to hourly workers- that means no overtime pay if you have to work more than 40/week). A CVS cashier at starts at 8.00/hr (16,640/year), and at Foodlion around $8.25/hour (17,160). And at either of those last two places by the time someone gets close to 10/hour- they’ve been there for a few years and have likely been given management responsibilities.

    The locally owned and operated might pay a bit better- but even then I would really be surprised to find someone (in any of the most common jobs you mention) making $13.70/hour.

  2. Actually, the article said that all of those jobs had an average annual salary of less than $25,000. The report, however, looked at how much housing we have for people who make 50 percent of the area’s median income level, which is $28,500.

    I’ve noticed that some apartments – those which receive tax breaks for being affordable – won’t rent to a single person who makes over that amount, but they also won’t rent to someone making under around $21,000. If they built more “affordable” housing I imagine it’d be the same. So the CVS and Food Lion jobs you’re describing wouldn’t even qualify for this housing.

    The problem is even worse than the article describes. Many jobs pay well over the $28,500 salary, but still not enough for one to comfortably purchase a house or rent a decent apartment in this area. Bring on the teachers police officers and firefighter argument again.

    I’d be curious to see exactly how many apartments in this area WILL rent to someone making $8 an hour, and how that number compares with the number of people who make $8/hr. Generally the rule of thumb is that you don’t want a tenant’s rent to exceed 1/3 of their monthly income, before taxes. The $16,640 income – which assumes that these people are being paid to work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year – translates to roughly $1386 a month. 1/3 of that is $462. How many one bedroom apartments in C-ville or Albemarle rent for $462? Even if you went out to Waynesboro or Fluvanna you’d have a hard time finding housing that cheap. And $8/hr is still well above Virginia’s min. wage.

  3. Generally the rule of thumb is that you don’t want a tenant’s rent to exceed 1/3 of their monthly income, before taxes.

    I remember when the rule of thumb used to be 1/4 of their monthly income. But I think now, if the person has a stellar credit report, the rule would be rent should not to exceed 1/2 of their monthly income.

  4. Over 10,000 housing units have been approved for construction within charlottesville and albemarle. So, we can rule out supply as being the problem.

  5. Sorry but this entire story seems to be a hoax just like the housing crisis.

    If we have all these low-income workers who can’t afford rent, where are they living? Do we have 4,200 homeless families? Maybe they’re living where they can afford. Last count for homelss in Cville was 125 and 700 vacant houses on the market notincluding empty apartments. So we’re gonna let them tear down more houses and build new houses that are affordable but more expensive than what was there before. And we think that makes the problem better. What awful thing must they have planned that such a high level of fear is needed for justification (conspiracy theory)?

    I visited the sites above and did several google searches. No mention or link to any such report. But I did find this, the most recent article google found–other than the Progress story:

    Center for Housing Research receives $50 million contract extension

    By Heather Riley Chadwick

    BLACKSBURG, VA., May 18, 2006 — Virginia Tech’s Center for Housing Research, in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, has been awarded a two-year extension on its second indefinite quantity contract (IQC) with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The IQC has an umbrella value of up to $50 million.

    The Center for Housing Research is one of a select few contractors nationwide that performs research for HUD on residential building technology and affordable housing.

    The extension is attributed to the Center for Housing Research’s sound national reputation in the area of residential technology research and the excellent relationship the center has established with HUD. The government chose to extend the contract through April 2008 and praised the Center for Housing Research for a job well done.

    To date, the Center for Housing Research has secured task orders for more than $1.6 million under the umbrella contract, in addition to completing more than $1.3 million in work under the first IQC awarded by HUD.

  6. Sorry but this entire story seems to be a hoax just like the housing crisis. […] What awful thing must they have planned that such a high level of fear is needed for justification (conspiracy theory)?

    Uh. Yeah. The Daily Progress invented a study and hoped nobody would catch on. And I’m in on it, too, having claimed to have contacted the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission seeking a copy of the study, and then said that it won’t be available for download until next week, hoping that nobody would remember.

    And that housing crisis? That’s just me and a few thousand friends. We’re just pulling your leg.

    You caught us. The jig is up.

  7. Why don’t you give us a link to the report?

    Also, I’d like for you to have my mail delivered earlier in the day — before noon, if that’s OK — and to prevent any airplanes from flying over my house on their way to the airport. They’re so noisy.

    You know, as long as we’re making arbitrary demands of one another that neither has any ability whatsoever to meet.


  8. It’s like Waldo is on drugs. He’s not making any sense. I didn’t demand. I asked. The only way you can understand what he says is to imagine the intonation of his speech. He’s defensive. Pure emotion. And some people take him seriously.

    So far– Hoax 1 True story 0

  9. I’ve already admitted to it, Blair — it’s a hoax. There is no housing shortage. Now go write up a newsletter about it and hand it out to people so they can learn about the massive conspiracy theory that you’ve uncovered.

    Also — and this is very hush-hush — the CIA is in on it. Two words: Area 51.

    I’ve said too much.

  10. I tried to find it but I’m not an internet expert. You have no intention of reading the report. But if someone else asked you, maybe you would take a look see to know for sure since housing is so important.

    Hoax 2 True story 0

  11. Blair,
    You are making yourself look like a fool here. Just because the report is not posted online yet does not mean it doesn’t exist. This was quite possibly the most comprehensive study of housing patterns ever done in our region and while we can legitimately argue about the extent of the affordable housing shortage here, trying to perpetrate the hoax that there is no affordable housing problem here is like trying to perpetrate the hoax that there is no such thing as global warming or that the Grand Canyon is only 7,000 years old. I would suggest you spend some time talking with some working class people around here and you’ll quickly see that many, many people are having a hard time finding affordable housing in our area. We can disagree on the solutions to this problem but trying to deny there’s a problem just makes you look…well, irrelevant.

  12. Staff at the Grand Canyon are instructed not to mention that it’s 5 million years old so they don’t inadvertently offend those Christian tourists who count the begats and believe that God created the wolrd 7000 years ago — to them the GC can’t be older than that…

  13. I don’t get how Blair missed Waldo’s big take notice at the end of the blog entry:

    “The TJPDC tells me that they won’t have the study available electronically until next week…”

    What part of that was so difficult to grok?

    As for the 4,075 people not included in the homeless tally, they are either (1) living with housemates (which is fine at age 23, but at 43, not so much), or (2) shelling out 40-60% of their income to retain their current housing because they are afraid to change landlords for fear of being rejected due to that credit report.

    That’s why all those 700 houses are staying empty. Have you never heard of “paycheck to paycheck”? Such a situation makes it impossible for below-median workers to save enough for a 1st mo. last mo. security deposit investment, let alone a downpayment on property, even if they could technically afford the mortgage payments.

    [Oh, and it snowed in L.A., so clearly global warming doesn’t exist, though I can’t speak for the age of the Grand Canyon.]

  14. The Grand Canyon bookstore also sells Native American and various spiritual organization books with plenty of their own nonsense. The ~5000 yr age book is in the same category with the other phony ones.

  15. So are all the good jobs at the bottom of the grand canyon? It’s a crying shame that the only thing that sucks worse than housing is economic development–or the lack thereof.

  16. I don’t care for these reports about what someone thinks someone else should have. That’s no secret.

    But let me propose an idea: build more dorms. Build more dorms and make students live on campus, at least through their 3rd year. That ought to free up plenty of housing.

  17. It’s good that nobrainer said “build more dorms and make students live on campus, at least through their 3rd year,” because they would have to be forced to do so. dorms = uncool by the time you’re a third year, if not a second year.

    and the reason this plan is unrealistic and would never go forward is that the screams of protest (from students) would be ear-piercing. I would go so far as to suggest this policy would deter students from choosing UVa—it would be tough, to say the least, to market such a policy to the current college-seeker as a real plus. if I were 18, I would think twice about going somewhere where I knew I’d have to live in the dorms until I was a fourth-year. (now, as a parent, I’d be wholly supportive of this plan, but parents don’t always call the shots in these kinds of things…)

  18. Actually… there is serious talk about extending UVa’s prohibition on second year students bringing cars. In fact, it was brought up recently at the Transporation Work Session:”

    I’ve also heard this idea mentioned elsewhere and I completely agree. I think it would be tough to enforce it against third year students, but many other Universities already require second year students to live on grounds for at least their second year. It also seems insane that UVa can build massive stadiums and research parks all over the place, but doesn’t seem to ever build student housing. In fact, the lot by the parking garage on the corner was even owned by UVa who then sold it to a developer that built housing there. UVa could have just build its own housing or, better yet, a parking garage for their employees.

    UVa teaches innovation design techniques and urban planning in its classes, so I say that it should take initiative to be an example. Currently it is the biggest polluter in Charlottesville, and a big contributor to traffic problems. They are also always requesting permission to get rezoning or to destroy historic buildings (so that other companies can build more student slums). I say the City should take a tough stand and finally request that they walk-the-talk. For that matter, they could let their students have a go at proposing some innovative designs that encourage alternative transportation, and then use them!

  19. Anybody have an idea how UVa’s student housing compares in cost to renting an apartment in the city?

    I would think lower-income students, and their parents, would find more on-campus housing an attractive idea if they can save money. I really wonder how some of these students come up with $400 or $500 a month for one bedroom in a 3 or 4 bedroom apartment, when they aren’t working full time. Makes me realize that had I attended UVa I’d have substantially more debt than I already do.

  20. I just checked and The State of Housing Report is now available (I believe the previous reference was to the December draft).

    I’ve been collecting some stats from this report and other sources readily available online:
    – Affordable housing is defined by HUD as a household that pays no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing.
    – One of the factors reflected in the 3,917 shortage of affordable rental for 0-30% AMI is due to low-income renters having to spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Another factor is UVA students occupying 53% of the rental stock.
    – Of 2 bedroom renters in the area, 47% in C-ville and 38% in
    Albemarle spend more than 30% on their income on rent (per Out of Reach data).
    – Over 900 families are on the wait list for public housing with only 376 units available and now “Housing authority faces cuts Federal funding slashed”.
    – 1,100 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) available in the region, all with closed waiting lists. A recognized need is out there.
    “The single biggest problem with housing vouchers is underfunding. Only about one in every three eligible families gets assistance.” – The Urban Institute
    – C-ville’s point-in-time homeless survey from Jan 2006 was 173. That is 2 times the rate of homelessness in Norfolk. Another point-in-time homeless survey is being done now. Anybody know when these results will be available?

    700 vacant houses on the market notincluding empty apartments

    I’m curious where this stat comes from and what the average price is for these vacant houses?

  21. My math is bad, but will the average price of those 700 homes tell us much about how many of them are “affordable (read: on the cheaper side) and how many are not? Or do we want the mean, or the median? It’s an honest, non-snarky question…if I recall my stats class correctly, “average” could be less than meaningful in an argument about “yes there is a housing crisis for the working class”/”no there isn’t.”

  22. Regarding the homeless, I think there should be some difference drawn somehow between those who basically choose to be homeless, or are homeless due to mental illness or addiction, and those that are living in shelters for financial reasons, etc. Also based upon interviews and articles I’ve heard, I think a certain amount of the people out on the street begging for money actually came from elsewhere. They don’t generally seem to be just Charlottesville citizens down on their luck and unable to afford housing. I increasingly suspect that when a city makes itself a good place for homeless people to be, then the word gets out and they migrate there.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do something about the homeless, or find ways to looking to their needs, but the issue is far more complex than just providing affordable housing. Also each time I get harrrassed by a homeless person asking for money while walking to work I lose just a little more sympathy. Charlottesville needs to deal with how many people are begging in the corner area, especially with the ones who are becoming more ornery. It’s actually becoming a safety issue.

  23. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do something about the homeless, or find ways to looking to their needs, but the issue is far more complex than just providing affordable housing.

    Affordable housing and homelessness sometimes feel almost hopelessly complex to me, but we, the community, do have to do something about it. For me, it’s been a learning experience. Before last year, I was among the blissfully ignorant, “why doesn’t someone do something about that problem” crowd. Then I participated in PACEM, a homeless program where congregations in the C-ville area provide shelter during the winter months for the local homeless population (last year it was just men, this year it’s men and women). What an eye opening experience. The homeless were no longer those people out there, they were 45 black & white, young & old, sober & drunk, unemployed & employed, talkative & private, clean & dirty, intelligent & confused men living with my church family.

    Here are some homeless stats I’ve found useful in understanding the scope of the problem:
    national info from National Alliance to End Homelessness
    . about 50% of homeless individuals are part of a family unit
    . about 38% of homeless are children
    . about 20% of homeless single adults are chronically homeless

    local info from Jan 2006 point-in-time homeless survey
    . 39% of homeless adults were currently employed
    . 4% were homeless with dependent children
    . 61% had been homeless for less than a year
    . 15% had been homeless for less than 1 month

    And, yes Cecil, I think you’re right about median vs. average.

  24. As I said, I do believe something should be done, but I think we need to think creatively about what that solution is. I suppose from one perspective, when we consider all the money spent on the military it’d be a drop in the bucket to do something about the homelessness and unaffordable housing in the U.S. After all, France even declared housing a inalienable right. We could do the same here if we felt it was important enough. Of course, no amount of effort or money can solve the problem until we know exactly what the problem is…

    You’ve cited the national statistics, but what I really wonder is what are the local statistics? Who are these people and where did they come from? If the number of people begging on the street is an indication (and it very well might not be, as I feel most of those are probably in that 20% you referenced) then there’s a whole lot more people homeless in Charlottesville than there used to be. Is that merely because of the increase in the cost of living? After all, we’ve also had virtually negative unemployment for years. I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t seeing the homeless of NOVa and D.C. spilling into Charlottesville, in much the same way that the affluent residents have If that’s the case, then almost nothing we do locally can help, since more will just flood in from elsewhere. If these are local people down on their luck then how is it happening? What can we do to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place? (Getting rid of those “pay day loans” might be one good start…) Our humanity demands that we try to do something either case, but when it gets down to policies and ordinances then these questions become relevant considerations.

  25. The stats I really want to see but have no chance of getting are: How many people are actually homeless? That tally would include people who return to their parents as adults (with or without their families) and who are couch-surfing on friends because they can’t get into another living situation, or combining both by living 6 to a 3-bedroom apartment in order to have an address. IOW, the people whose stuff is in storage, confiscated, or sold off, but who don’t show up at PACEM or the soup kitchen because they’ve found other temporary shelter.

    Americans take a lot of space for granted, both in our cultural development patterns and in our personal habits but it is impossible to live like that and still afford the basics in this town. I would guess that there are 10-12 technically homeless people–people whose names will appear on no lease, sublease, or mortgage because they are living on the limited kindness of friends and family–for every nose counted on TJPDC’s annual survey.

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