Blacksburg aims to incentivize affordable housing and green building

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) -- It's no secret Blacksburg is growing.

The town projects an influx of nearly 9,000 people over the next decade, and it's making a plan now to make sure they all have a place to live.

"What we're trying to do is develop a set of policies for future land use and development to advance both affordable housing and green building together," said Blacksburg's sustainability manager, Carol Davis.

The town is teaming up with the Virginia Center for Housing Research to eventually draft an ordinance that would provide incentives for development projects that focus on affordable, environmentally-friendly housing.

The focus would be on higher-density projects, similar to the Terrace View student housing development the town recently approved, which will add nearly 1,000 more units to the property.

But it's not just students the town is worried about.

"As housing is becoming less and less affordable in our community, those people are getting squeezed and, in some ways, squeezed out of our community," Davis said. "So, we love being a college town. We love our students, but we don't want it to be a community that just caters to students. We want it to be a community for everyone."

As it stands, a family of four making the median income for the Blacksburg market can afford to pay just over $243,000 for a home, which is $20,000 lower than the median home price.

That discrepancy helps explain why three out of every five Blacksburg employees don't live in the town where they work.

"We have a responsibility to provide housing for people who work in our urban core, and even though they can live throughout the New River Valley, if someone wants to live here or be within walking distance or close commute to their job, the idea is that they should be able to do that," said Mel Jones, a research scientist for the Virginia Center for Housing Research.

Monday's community meeting was the first of three scheduled meetings that are planned through next summer. The next one is expected to take place in February.