Williamsburg’s Planning Commission met for a work session on Wednesday afternoon and discussed some potential ideas to address housing affordability in the city.
Carolyn Murphy, the city’s director of planning, presented the Neighborhood and Housing Chapter of the current Comprehensive Plan, the Proposed Housing draft and the Williamsburg Housing Assessment Report.
Murphy said the study revealed there were only six neighborhoods in the city that were identified as affordable, meaning for families with an income of approximately $50,000 a year.
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As a result, many people have had to commute to work and are then spending money on the travel expenses.
“Thinking about how people commute, a lot of staff at the college don’t live nearby and they don’t necessarily have the nicest cars” said Elaine McBeth, commission chairwoman. “So if their cars break down, our transportation isn’t necessarily that great to allow people to use public transportation so you may lose you job because your car is laid up for a few days.
The commission discussed various options for diversifying the current housing in the city and making it more affordable for median income families. Commissioner Caleb Rogers said he was worried there would be a similar reaction to affordable housing as there was with the Holly Hills Housing complex, where he said the community reaction was not to want affordable housing near their homes.
“When we talk about affordable we aren’t talking about minimum wage,” said Commissioner James Boswell. “We are talking about Colonial Williamsburg interpreters, school teachers…The people we want to be living here…there’s got to be a way to get the message out so people realize who we are providing this housing for.”
McBeth suggested looking into tax abatement for public service workers or other creative avenues of alleviating potential tax stress for public workers.
“There’s a greater need than there is a demand because there are people who have given up on trying to find a place,” said Commissioner Greg Granger. “The need is without question.”
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As the discussion about affordable housing continued, members of the commission considered how to move forward with their recommendation in the future.
Rogers said since the city has task forces to address those issues, the commission might recommend that while they might not necessarily provide further ideas, they support their fellow residents on the various committees that are working on solutions.