Open letter on housing to VA’s gubernatorial candidates

The Virginia Housing Coalition has released this open letter to the candidates running for Governor of Virginia. The election will take place on Tuesday November 5th.

Housing is a cornerstone for our families and our communities in Virginia. For 30 years, the Virginia Housing Coalition has advocated that every family and every individual in the Commonwealth should have an affordable and decent place to call home.  As we emerge from the worst housing recession in our nation’s history, there are many reasons to focus on the housing status of our citizens here in Virginia.

  • More than a million Virginia households are housing cost burdened – meaning, they pay more for housing than they can afford.
  • Over 100,000 families lost their homes to foreclosure and this epidemic is still affecting our people and our neighborhoods.  Many areas of the state still lag behind our stronger markets.
  • The homeownership rate in the state and the nation are continuing to decline. We need to make sure that rental housing is available to meet this growing demand,  but we also need to rebuild the opportunity for young families to buy a home and begin to build equity.  Homeownership has long been the principle way that lower and middle class households increase wealth.
  • The cost of rental housing has outpaced the growth of renter incomes over the past decade.  In 2013, it would take a wage of $20.72 per hour to afford Virginia’s  2BR Fair Market Rent ($1,078), but the average renter wage in Virginia is only $15.79.
  • Finally, while we have begun to make progress in reducing homelessness, this progress is threatened by cuts to federal rental assistance funding.

Good housing policy does more than just provide adequate shelter to Virginians.  Housing is an important element of our state’s economy.  Housing construction generates jobs and economic spinoff benefits the surrounding community. For example, the construction of 100 single family homes in Fairfax County supports 222 short term jobs and 20 long term jobs, bringing the total economic impact to over $16.5 million. Usually, housing leads us out of a recession.  That has not been the case with the Great Recession. Our homebuilding industry has been in a depression for the past five years and that needs to change in order for economic growth to accelerate in our state.

Housing is integrally connected to many of the important issues that you will face as Governor.  Housing density, location and development patterns fuel our transportation needs and expenditures.  Good, stable housing correlates with improved educational achievement in young children, as well as providing mental and physical health benefits, especially to our older citizens.

As Governor, we urge you to place a priority on the development of a detailed housing policy and plan in the first year of your term. We also ask you to commit to continue funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund – an effort that has already begun to yield benefits to families across the state. The first round of Housing Trust Fund projects will be getting underway by the end of the year and will serve a broad range of housing needs in the state, including veterans, persons with disabilities and individuals experiencing homelessness.

On behalf of our membership across the state, we look forward to working with you to expand and improve housing opportunities for all Virginians in the next four years.

Sincerely,

Bob Newman, President

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