December 18, 2018

Building More Housing Options in Southwest Virginia

As game plans go, “Build it, and they will come” was a home run for Kevin Costner in his 1989 movie which was set in the cornfields of Iowa. But here in the hills of Southwest Virginia, officials are learning to play by a different rulebook: “They’re coming, and it’s time to build.”

Since 2015, employment levels in Botetourt County have spiked 17 percent, a welcome trend that could continue. While this has put the county in an enviable position, it’s also caused complications. One of them stands out perhaps above the others: Botetourt’s diverse and growing population needs more housing.

Knowing that, in late 2016 the county commissioned a study to evaluate housing demand by type and price range. The results of that study were eventually presented at a day-long housing summit sponsored by VHDA and local partners such as the Roanoke Regional Home Builders Association.

A VHDA Community Impact Grant helped fund that study as well as other activities the county is undertaking to improve its housing environment.

“VHDA’s grant money has been an important catalyst,” said Gary Larrowe, Botetourt’s County Administrator. “It provided the means for us to tap the expertise of external consultants, and it will also help fund a toolkit designed to help us drive smart housing growth. Our conversations regarding housing have yielded amazing results.”

Botetourt’s goal for new housing is ambitious: to build 1,000 new units, equally split between apartments and townhomes. So far, progress has exceeded expectations – 500 homes in four new developments have been approved, which will create enough space for at least a thousand residents, if not more.

A large luxury apartment complex called The Reserve at Daleville is one of those developments. With 188 units spread over 17 acres, The Reserve required a change in zoning from agricultural and shopping centers to high-density residential (R-4), with a special exception permit for up to 15 multifamily units per acre. That change was approved by the county in November 2017. Botetourt supervisors passed a resolution in September that will allow VHDA to finance this development through its Mixed-use/Mixed-income loan program. Households with a broad range of incomes will be eligible to rent homes there.

Daleville Town Center, whose 99 units will be flanked by townhomes and additional single-family units now under construction, is another pending addition to the county.

Meanwhile, Botetourt’s housing task force continues its work. On its agenda are meetings with county stakeholders as well as with the planning commission and board of supervisors. Its policy toolkit, which will describe regulatory barriers to housing development and outline strategies to overcome impediments to housing production and affordability, is slated for completion by the end of 2018.

Botetourt County’s response to its housing shortage has yielded strong early results, thanks in part to VHDA grant funding and loan financing. Here in Southwest Virginia, the building has just begun.

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