Local Del. Bobby Orrock has introduced a bill that would give localities the ability to create affordable housing zoning districts.

Orrock, R–Caroline, has also introduced a joint resolution that, if approved, would direct the Virginia Housing Commission to come up with a statewide common definition of “affordable housing.”

Orrock, who is serving his 31st year in the Virginia House of Delegates, said this is the first time he has introduced legislation related to affordable housing.

“Affordable housing is becoming ever more of an issue, especially in our area,” he said.

Orrock’s bill, HB 765, would amend the Code of Virginia to allow localities to “include districts specifically designated for affordable housing” within their residential zoning classifications, according to the text of the bill.

He said local governments could, for example, use the affordable housing designation when rezoning land from agricultural use.

Homes built on land zoned for affordable housing would be assessed at a lower value than those on land zoned for traditional residential use.

Property owners would also be able to request the down-zoning to reduce their property taxes. It would be “strictly voluntary,” Orrock said.

Orrock said his proposed legislation would give local governments “a tool, if they care to use it.”

The joint resolution, if approved and carried out, would ensure a common definition of “affordable housing” across the state.

“We talk about it, but every local government gets to say what it is,” Orrock said. “Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.”

He said that for many people, “affordable housing” means “subsidized housing,” which he said is “no more or less affordable than other housing.”

“It just means someone else is paying for it,” he said.

The resolution would direct the Virginia Housing Commission, with assistance from state agencies, if requested, to “examine the current usage of ‘affordable housing’ in the Commonwealth and among its political subdivisions and the meaning or criteria associated with the phrase.”

A recommendation for a common definition would be presented to the General Assembly at the beginning of its 2021 session.

Orrock, whose district includes parts of Caroline and Spotsylvania counties, said he was inspired to introduce the bills after talking with local governments, builders and constituents who struggle to afford living in the counties where their families have lived for decades.

Both bills are waiting to be referred to committee.

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Adele Uphaus–Conner:

540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

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