Governor Bob McDonnell’s Housing Agenda

Elisabeth Corey

This is a guest post by Elisabeth Corey. Elisabeth has sixteen years of work experience in Finance and Information Technology with three major Richmond corporations.  She received her Bachelor’s Degree of Commerce with a concentration in Finance from the University of Virginia.  Elisabeth is currently pursuing a Master’s of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University.  She lives with her four-year-old twins in Bon Air, Virginia.

Governor Bob McDonnell prioritized housing early in his administration by issuing Executive Order 10 and working to create a statewide housing policy. Speaking about affordable housing, Gov. McDonnell mentions in his executive order: “Along with a good job, affordable housing provides the building blocks for the American Dream. Housing has been a major force in the prosperity of the Commonwealth.” Executive Order 10 was released by Gov. McDonnell initially to  focus on several important aspects of housing in Virginia.  You can read the entire Executive Order online, but I have summarized these aspects below:

  1. recognizing the importance of housing to the economy
  2. promoting sustainable building efforts (going green with building and rehabilitating old buildings)
  3. ensuring safe and convenient housing for all income levels
  4. and working to reduce homelessness.

After this executive order was signed, the Governor assembled a Housing Policy Work group. This group was made of representatives from industry, government, direct service providers and the non-profit sector. This work group created a draft of a statewide housing policy. This statewide housing policy lots of great ideas.

One of these great ideas that Gov. McDonnell supports is the creation of a statewide housing trust fund. The draft of the statewide housing policy says that, in order to accomplish goal number 3 above (ensuring safe and convenient housing for all income levels), Virginia should create a housing trust fund:

Create a structure authorizing a state housing trust fund to enable a consistent source of “gap” financing for affordable housing development

A Housing Trust Fund is pool of money available to help developers build affordable housing. This money would be supplemented by private funds from other sources. The state housing trust fund can assist a large number of Virginians in attaining affordable housing which would help to neutralize the rising average housing cost burden.  Without this trust fund, the cost of housing will continue to undermine efforts to improve Virginia’s economy.

Another great idea in this statewide housing policy is to reduce housing discrimination. The Governor’s Housing Policy affirms support of the Virginia Housing Commission’s legislative proposal to end discrimination against affordable housing. Specifically, the statewide housing policy says that Virginia should:

Address local barriers to affordable housing

Most people don’t know how local governments erect barriers to housing construction.  There is a strong and unfortunate attitude of “Not In My Back Yard” NIMBY-ism. People like the idea of a free market economy that builds homes to meet consumer demand. But, they don’t want that housing in their community. This over-regulation of the housing market distorts our economy and drives up housing costs for all Virginians.

There were two 2011 bills that could have stopped these discriminatory practices. The Governor’s support of this legislation was significant. Unfortunately, this legislation did not pass, but it needs to pass now more than ever before.

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