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Town of Blacksburg should acknowledge, get proactive about severity of housing issue
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Town of Blacksburg should acknowledge, get proactive about severity of housing issue

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Houses are under construction in the Kinloch subdivision off North Main Street in Blacksburg.

In an op-ed for The Roanoke Times earlier this year on housing needs in Blacksburg, I stated that there were only two recently approved single-family subdivisions nearing the point where construction could commence.

The two consist of 21 lots in Kinloch subdivision off North Main Street and the 49-lot Givens Farm subdivision north of the Northside Park community. I stated that these two developments would likely be sold out before the end of 2022 given the pent-up demand for such homes. My projection was far too conservative.

In just the first seven months of construction in the Givens Farm subdivision, 23 homes are either completed and already sold or under construction—nearly half of the 49 approved lots. Similarly, of the 21 approved lots in the Kinloch subdivision, 11 are currently under construction in just four months of construction. Assuming this rate continues unabated, both developments will likely reach buildout by the end of summer 2022.

It is doubtful the 60-lot second phase of the Givens Farm development will be ready much before 2023, which is the same timeframe projected for the 76-lot Beriwick subdivision off Toms Creek Road. Likewise, most of the older residential subdivisions which still have undeveloped lots will likely reach build out by early to mid-2022. Consequently, it is conceivable that Blacksburg will be out of available building lots by the later part of 2022.

The economic principle of supply and demand is evident in this looming shortage. Lots in the Givens Farm development are selling in the $145,000+ range while being assessed for taxes at only half that amount. The Kinloch lot sales are in the $95,000 range as they were contracted to the home builder back in 2019 when lot prices were lower. Furthermore, of the five homes just sold in the Givens Farm subdivision, each on identical quarter-acre lots, the sale price range was from $457,787 for the first sale in August up to $495,805 for the most recent sale in late September. It is likely that homes built from here on in this development will average above half a million dollars. The same price range is projected for the 21 houses being built in the Kinloch subdivision.

Blacksburg is on record as stating that they want to see more affordable work-force housing in town for those who work in Blacksburg and wish to live where they work. However, if Blacksburg is serious about this, the town needs to become active participants in a public/private-sector venture, perhaps partnering with local non-profit housing organizations such as Community Housing Partners and Habitat for Humanity where the town takes the role of the subdivider/ developer. Such endeavors have been undertaken elsewhere in communities facing similar housing escalation pressures.

I am aware that the town has worked with both organizations in the past to create affordable housing within the town’s corporate limits. However, these ventures were small scale while what is needed now is a more substantial undertaking. Perhaps if Blacksburg were to enter into a co-venture with one or more willing property owners in cooperation with one or more local housing non-profits, such a venture could begin to take root. However, first the town has to acknowledge the severity of the problem and express a willingness to become proactive in meeting the need.

Randi Lemmon is a land use consultant of Blacksburg.

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