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NRVRC housing study lays groundwork to address affordability, availability issues

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 11:24 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Finding a place to live, or even one that’s reasonably affordable, can be difficult across communities in the New River Valley.

The New River Valley Regional Commission started a study over two years ago when it kept getting different kinds of questions about housing.

Now, results are back, and a plan is in place to address regional issues of affordability and availability.

Of the nearly 182,000 people who call the NRV home, more than half live in Montgomery County. Especially in Blacksburg, new housing can’t keep up with the demand.

The NRVRC has laid out a plan to start fixing this problem.

“There’s fewer houses available, especially for those first-time homebuyers, we’re finding that people are staying longer where they’re at,” Cassidy Jones of Slate Creek Builders.

Jones served on one of the committees that collaborated on the Regional + Local Housing Study. She helps families design brand new homes or upgrade their existing ones, but recently that’s been trending more toward remodeling. According to the new housing study, a home in Blacksburg might be three days on the market.

“There’s just not enough housing available,” Jones said.

Which makes it hard to recruit people to the NRV.

“Housing availability is definitely something that from a talent attraction standpoint is paramount,” James Cabler said from Onward NRV.

Cabler said there are more than 2,500 technology and business jobs up for grabs, but because it’s so hard to find an affordable place to live they can’t fill entry positions.

“The more affordable housing that’s available in the New River Valley, the better it is for the entire continent region,” Cabler said.

According to the study, the focus doesn’t need to be so much on low-income housing. Right now there is intense competition in the $175,000 to $275,000 range.

“If we had a lot more housing in that range, it would free up a lot of our demand pressure,” regional planner Jennifer Wilsie shared during Tuesday’s virtual community meeting.

The study suggests creating diverse housing types and re-investing in existing stock. Income-restricted housing for renters and owners still needs to be addressed for low and moderate-income households.

Wilsie shared during her presentation median selling prices have risen 50 percent from 2002. Regionally, the median rent price is over $850 — up nearly 39 percent over a span of nine years.

“There’s a good chance that our own children may not be able to afford to live in the communities they were raised in, if something doesn’t change,” Jones said. “This study is a result of the New River Valley being so desirable and I think that that says a lot about the culture and the people here.”

Regionally, the study lists seven next steps including a housing education campaign, a regional housing trust fund and to grow the workforce in the construction business in the NRV, because many companies are outsourcing those jobs from other states.

This story only brushes the surface of this study. It is broken down regionally and you are encouraged to read about your hometown.

Part two of the community presentation will happen May 25, looking closely on a housing resource guide that was recently upgraded after the study was complete.

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