Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The People Have Spoken: We Need More Affordable Housing!

At our City Council meeting last night, the UVa Center for Survey Research reported the results of a major survey of Cville residents on quality of life issues in the city. (1,111 telephone surveys were conducted in February and March of 2006.) The Center conducted the same survey in 2000, so we can get a sense of how citizens feel things have improved (or worsened) in the intervening years.

Overall, citizens seem to be satisfied with the quality of life in Charlottesville. On a 10-point scale, 64% gave the city an "8" or better in their general estimation of Charlottesville as a place to live. (14% gave the city a "10.") The mean rating for 2006 was 7.72, down slightly from 7.89 in 2000.

The survey results revealed that not all is well and good in our fair city, however. One issue in particular jumps out as needing more attention. In asking citizens to assign priority to various local issues, no subject rose higher in priority between 2000 and 2006 than affordable housing. Citizens now put affordable housing as second on the list of most important goals for the City to pursue, just behind quality education. In determining citizen satisfaction with City services, no service rose higher in citizen dissatisfaction between 2000 and 2006 than the City's efforts to provide for affordable housing.

When you compare those findings to the meager dollars that the City actually allocates to affordable housing development (i.e., less than .32% of our FY07 budget--we spend more than 3 times that on upkeep of our City golf courses!), you quickly realize how far out of line our budget is with the needs and demands of our citizens, at least in this particular area. Hopefully that will soon change.

6 comments:

Kevin Cox said...

So what are you going to do Dave, raise real estate taxes on the rest of us so that we can help fund the Piedmont Housing Alliance?

Kevin Cox said...

Dave I'd like to expand a little on my previous comment. Real estate taxes are part of my mortgage and are also included in rents. When the tax bill goes up mortgage payments and rents increase. If the city starts subsidizing more housing programs without taking the money from existing programs then those of us already living here are going to see our housing become less affordable because our housing costs are going to increase in order to fund the program. Some of us are on the edge of our budgets right now. I can't afford to pay for other peoples affordable housing. I do see the need for affordable housing and I want to be able to continue to afford mine.

DaveNorris said...

Kevin,
The results of this survey clearly show that the citizens of Charlottesville expect City Hall to do a better job of addressing the affordable housing issue. Failure to respond to this pressing community need will mean that Cville continues on its path toward becoming a city where the people who do the hard work of making this place function cannot afford to rent or buy anywhere near here. We can pay all the lip service we want to affordable housing, but unless and until we bring significant new resources (public and private) to the table to make it happen, it will not happen. Having said that, even if my CAHIP proposal were fully funded, it would still amount to well under 1% of the City's overall budget. Given our current financial situation in the City, a tax increase is not necessary to fund it. Thanks, Dave

Kevin Cox said...

Dave,
Like most people in the city I never saw the survey so I don't know how the question was asked. Were people just asked if there was a need for more affordable housing? Or were they asked if they thought that the city should subsidize more housing? Were they asked if they wanted an increase in spending of tax revenue by the city government to subsidize more housing? Can you please post the question as it was asked?
Thanks,
Kevin Cox

Kempis said...

"Uhm. Probably a dumb question but- how are we defining "affordable?" What price range? I have one idea of what that number should be and the developer has a totally different idea.

Kevin Cox said...

kempis,
The definiton of "affordable housing" that many use is housing that costs no more than 30% of the residents income. By that definition there is plenty of affordable housing in Charlottesville...if you've got plenty of money that is.

The housing business is actually very competitive. There are lots of people trying to make a living building, selling, remodeling and renting housing. The market is very subject to supply and demand, interest rates and regulatory costs. The "developers" do not have a unified monopolistic organization that sets prices. They are all ready to undercut one other as much as they can and still stay in the black.