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Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map Update

Updated: May 7, 2021

Preservation Piedmont continues to closely follow the Cville Plans Together process, where consultants from Rhodeside & Harwell are working with the Planning Commission to create a new Comprehensive Plan and draft land use map designed to guide proposed rezoning for Charlottesville. The plan will come before City Council for approval in the coming months, and then following approval the approved land use map will be used to develop new zoning for the city. A central tenet of the plans is to increase equity and access to affordable housing in the city -- an essential goal, especially given Charlottesville’s racist housing policy history.

The draft land use map is still being refined, but increased housing density is being proposed across the city as a central strategy to increase housing affordability. Preservation Piedmont has several concerns about the current proposals, namely that the proposed land use changes won’t actually achieve greater affordability in the city and may very well bring several other unintended consequences:

  • Greater displacement of historically marginalized communities in vulnerable neighborhoods like 10th & Page, Fifeville, Starr Hill, and Rose Hill due to speculative development and demolitions,

  • Widespread demolitions of smaller, more affordable existing housing in favor of new units that benefit middle/upper income earners, resulting in considerable environmental degradation and waste,

  • Reduction in city tree cover due to new development, which can contribute to heat islands especially in vulnerable neighborhoods, and

  • A small number of actual affordable housing units created: at the November 2020 community meeting, the consultants suggested with mandatory inclusionary zoning and these broad land use changes, maybe 30 new affordable units and 12 new affordable Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs) per year could be anticipated.

In addition to these concerns, there is very little clarity on how these proposed land use changes would interact with overlay districts in the city such as Historic Conservation Districts, and those overlay districts do not appear to be reflected in the draft land use map. There also appears to be little coordination with UVA’s new Affordable Housing Committee and its plans for the construction of affordable housing units in the area.

On April 29, 2021, the “Why Building More Market-Rate Housing Will Not Solve Charlottesville’s Housing Crisis” report from the Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition (CLIHC) cited similar concerns, primarily that greater “trickle down” affordability is not likely to result from broad housing supply increases.

Creating truly affordable housing requires more than increasing density. Community land trusts, rent subsidies, rent control, incentives or other assistance for low income owners to rehabilitate their homes are effective strategies to prevent displacement in vulnerable neighborhoods. Smart ways to increase density without encouraging demolition include encouraging new Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) like basement apartments or freestanding backyard units, encouraging new building additions or the rehabilitation of existing structures to accommodate multiple units, and requiring delay/public hearings before demolition permits are issued.

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