Written by Tony Howard, President and CEO, Loudoun Chamber of Commerce
In many ways, Loudoun County is the great American success story.
Just count our blessings: Dulles Airport, the international gateway to our nation’s capital. A robust tech industry, led by the world’s leading data center market. A world class school system, more wineries and farm breweries than any Virginia County and now, Metro has arrived.
Yet, there is one issue that threatens to make Loudoun a victim of its own success.
That is the lack of affordable housing for our workforce, particularly those who work in our shops, schools, public safety and young adults in every industry.
While Loudoun’s population has grown by more than 260,000 residents since 2020, new home construction has come nowhere near keeping pace.
That is the conclusion of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors’ Unmet Housing Needs Strategic Plan.
As the plan states, the Loudoun “market is not producing enough housing to meet current and future demand and is not producing enough housing at diverse price points to meet the needs of many residents.” Particularly those at lower income levels.
These are the conditions that foster economic and social crisis.
What is the root of this crisis? Supply and demand. Loudoun has generated demand by creating a world-class community, with high quality jobs, excellent schools, a superior health system and a vibrant community filled with eateries and attractions.
Yet we have failed to meet the demand by providing an adequate supply of safe, affordable, and diverse housing.
For example: In 2013, Loudoun issued 4,302 housing building permits.
Last year, the county issued just 1,680 permits, while our population grew by approximately 116,000 in the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
This has led to skyrocketing home prices.
According to the Dulles Area Association of Realtors, the median home sales price in the second quarter of 2022 was $705,000. Ten years ago, an average Loudoun home cost around $430,000.
Two of Loudoun’s own studies estimate that by 2040, the county will need nearly 20,000 additional homes to meet the demand for housing.
This crisis is even more severe for those making below 80% of the average local income. Loudoun needs 10,000 additional homes for these workers, many who are teachers, health care workers, and first responders, even tech workers.
How do we solve this crisis?
First, Loudoun needs more diverse and abundant housing, built close to transportation, and priced for those making under the local average salary.
The public agrees. According to a recent independent poll, 78% of Loudoun residents believe people who work in Loudoun should be able to live here, and 67% believe Loudoun would benefit from a wider range of housing options.
To achieve this goal, Loudoun needs to reform our restrictive land-use policies that make it harder, more expensive and more time-consuming to build new homes.
As the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors rewrite the county’s zoning laws, those who care about Loudoun’s future prosperity must implore these leaders to address our housing crisis.
Or this great American success story may not have the happy ending we want for our children.
Led by the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, What is the Cost of Loudoun Housing is part of the Workforce Housing Now (workforcehousingnow.org) community service effort amplifying Loudoun’s voice for workforce housing as the missing ingredient to our community’s prosperity.