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No Good Turn Goes Unpunished
In last month’s letter to the editor I gave an overview of the history of affordable housing in Crozet. How the community, after a bitter battle over affordable housing, agreed to go a different route. That route would be one where every new rezoning in the Crozet Growth Area for the purpose of housing would have to include, as part of the county’s approval to rezone, the promise to include 15 percent affordable housing. For the next 20-plus-years there would always be someone from Crozet at the Board of Supervisors meeting to make sure the 15 percent was applied to each new rezoning approval. Unfortunately, it has now come to light that there has been a major failure with the county’s affordable housing program and as the late Paul Harvey would say on his radio show, “and now for the rest of the story.”
For several months now, there has been a request for affordable housing data for the Crozet growth area, but the only response from the county has been silence. It took a direct request from Supervisor Ann Mallek to get some action, and, after several back and forth communications, we got the bad news. As you may remember, what I did was to go back 20 years from 2000 to 2019 and extract out the data for houses built in Crozet. The total number of homes built came to 2,205. If you apply the 15 percent affordable housing figure you come up with 330 affordable homes that should have been built. The data received from the county shows that as of now only 21 homes have been sold to qualifying home buyers. This means instead of 15 percent affordable homes, less than 1 percent of what should have been built was built. It should also be mentioned that the rest of Albemarle County did no better than Crozet, to the point that the Supervisor from the Scottsville District called the affordable housing effort abysmal. What most people do not know is if a home is listed as affordable and the county cannot find someone qualified to purchase the home within 90 days, the home can be sold at market price.
So, what was the county’s response to this abysmal situation? Well, they came up with a new cliché they named “missing middle housing,” which they also used to come up with a new land use category. In reality, the name “missing middle housing” simply means multifamily housing. The problem with the county’s desired implementation of adding additional density in Crozet, it was aimed at the older neighborhoods in Crozet, many of which do not have sidewalks, curb and gutter.
If you read the Crozet Master Plan, you see up front that it is based on the county’s “Neighborhood Model,” which is based on walkable neighborhoods and that means sidewalks, curb and gutter. We do not and will not have separate but unequal neighborhoods in Crozet. If the infrastructure for walkable neighborhoods is good enough for all the new developments in Crozet, it’s good enough for our older neighborhoods as well. What we do not need is for our children to become traffic-calming devices to solve the county’s affordable housing debacle.
If the county wants to retrofit these neighborhoods with sidewalks, curb and gutter, which must occur after the new addition to Crozet Elementary School and the completion of the bridge across the Lickinghole Creek is built, then we can start to talk about “missing middle housing.” It is a shame the county has targeted the very neighborhoods where many of the residents live who opened their minds to a new way of doing things and embraced the concept of the Neighborhood Model and master planning, knowing fully well they would be welcoming a great many new residents who would make tremendous changes to their small town in the country.