Roanoke considers changing zoning ordinances to remove affordable housing barriers

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 6:24 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke is taking steps to make it easier for housing developments to be built in the city. The planning commission is considering adjusting zoning ordinances to address the affordable housing crisis.

Roanoke is currently short about 4,000 housing units in the city. The deputy director for planning, building and development explained one solution is creating more housing options for neighborhoods, but that requires changing city ordinances.

“Since those types of housing requires public hearing processes, it doesn’t make a predictable environment for developers to create that type of housing,” Jillian Papa Moore said. “By removing those barriers, we’re looking to make that process more predictable for private development.”

The Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s director of redevelopment and revitalization explained eliminating the public hearing process could be an incentive for developers to build in Roanoke.

“That’s a major step,” Frederick Gusler said. “Some properties that are kind of now questionable as to whether they would see development or redevelopment or revitalization, that could put them into kind of a different market where they suddenly become more attractive.”

Another possible change is increasing the density capacity and making housing options more accessible for residents who are low-income, with a history of homelessness or are in active recovery.

“We want to be a welcoming city and not exclude housing options based on somebody’s characteristics,” Moore said.

However, revising city ordinances is only one piece of the affordable housing puzzle.

“It’s not going to create an immediate change,” Gusler said. “It will help, but we really have to think long-term that will allow for more options in the future.”

The planning commission will be doing community outreach in the next few weeks to hear what residents think about the changes.