Category Archives: Housing

Rent Control Bill Introduced in Virginia

by Hans Bader

A just-introduced Virginia bill, HB 192, would limit rent increases to “one percent over the Consumer Price Index” in places where the rental vacancy rate is “less than 10 percent,” if the “Consumer Price Index … is greater than five percent.” Virginia has a rental vacancy rate of about 4%, well below 10%, so effectively, this would be a statewide rent control law.

The bill does not allow larger rent increases even to pay for things like major capital improvements.

The bill, introduced by Democratic Del. Marty Martinez, is called the “Landlord and Tenant Fairness Act.”  It contains this rent-control provision:

C. If the rental vacancy rate for a locality is less than 10 percent during the previous calendar year and the Consumer Price Index as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor is greater than five percent, any rent increase imposed by a landlord shall be no greater than one percent over the Consumer Price Index.

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Around the Commonwealth: Local Unions and Housing Help

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Some interesting recent actions by local governments:

Local employee unions–Many on this blog predicted that local government bodies, especially those in “progressive” urban areas would not be able to resist attempts by local employee unions to enter into collective bargaining. The City of Norfolk has demonstrated that it can and will resist. As reported by The Virginian Pilot, the Norfolk City Council this week voted 5-3 against a request by the Police Benevolent Association to enter into collective bargaining. The city council did create four “employee committees” that are to meet with the city manager. Input from those committees will be factored into council’s budget decisions.

Helping employees buy a house–Henrico County will pay up to $25,000 for a down payment on a house for qualified county or school employees. The county has designated $2 million for this initiative. Therefore, at least 80 employees will be able to benefit.

To benefit fully from this offer, the employee must work five years for the county. According to the county administrator, the county views this as a tool to retain employees.

As reported by the Henrico Citizen, the program is available to first-time home buyers who have worked for the county or school system for at least year on a full-time basis.  The home to be purchased must be located in Henrico County and cost no more than $425,ooo. Furthermore, eligibility for the program is limited to employees who live in a household with income not exceeding $98,400 for two or fewer persons or $114,900 for three or more persons. The down payment provided by the county will be treated as an “interest-free, forgivable loan, and 1/60th of the balance will be forgiven each month that the employee lives in the house and remains employed by Henrico. If the employee stops working for the county or sells the house before the five-year window has ended, he or she will be required to repay the remaining balance.”

Charlottesville, Its Public Schools and UVa – Part One – Bad things Happen

Charlottesville neighborhoods.  Courtesy Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition

by James C. Sherlock

In the relationship between Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, very bad things have happened to Charlottesville and continue to do so.

I have developed a working thesis on that relationship.

The city is at the mercy of the University by virtue of the latter’s wealth, influence, and power in Charlottesville elections.

It is, driven by University community voters, the bluest voting district in the Commonwealth.

Unfailingly progressive Charlottesville city council, school board and Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates are elected by the dominant votes of the University, its employees and its students.

Charlottesville City Schools (CCS) are to a large degree creatures of the University.

Many CCS teachers have their bachelors and/or advanced degrees from UVa’s School of Education and Human Development. Many University ed school students do their student teaching in Charlottesville.

Every progressive educational policy and virtually every experiment the University’s ed school can dream up are visited on those students.  The University’s ed school Research Centers and Labs find the proximity convenient and a pliant school board welcoming.

The University can’t bear to leave anything in CCS alone.

As Charlottesville High School faces the aftermath of rising rates of violence at the school and three canceled days of school due to alack of personnel, teachers at the University and other community groups have assisted in the school’s response. Faculty from the University’s School of Education and Human Development were present at development sessions with Charlottesville High School teachers aiming to address underlying issues….

“Dr. Stephanie Rowley, dean of the University’s Education School, said faculty from Education’s counselor education and educational psychology programs were particularly involved with the efforts because of the relevance of their expertise.”

There is no record of their being invited.

“Lack of personnel”.  The teachers walked out because of runaway violence.

The University “lent a hand”.

“In light of the University’s recent push to bolster its impact in Charlottesville, some members of the University who specialize in education attended the teacher work day meetings at Charlottesville High School.”

Seriously.  To “bolster (the University’s) impact in Charlottesville”.

For Black children in CCS schools, that influence, long-running and well-meaning though it has been, has turned out to have been a disaster unparalleled in the Commonwealth.

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Poking the Woke, and Human Waste in Charlottesville

California comes to Charlottesville: urine, feces, hypodermic needles, trash, and all.

“Affordable housing.”

by Jock Yellott

“What happened to the First Amendment in this country . . . ?” demanded somebody calling himself ‘Rudy Hess.’ Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook cut the audio. This was late in the City Council meeting, about 10 p.m. during public comments mostly taken up by remarks on Charlottesville’s new homeless tent city.

Several previous callers had exhausted Snook’s patience and good humor. They started by pretending to be agreeably Woke. “Speaking as a transgender person,” said one before launching into obscenities, which had to be cut off. Another, ‘Sadie Enwird’ (sound it out after you finish the paragraph) claimed to be a Social Worker helping the homeless. Two minutes later she broke into a toxic rant: “The best solution is to round them all up and send them back to Africa, all these fucking niggers . . . ” Such hate speech, the City Attorney opined, justified cutting her off, too.

Then came ‘Rudy Hess.’ The original Deputy Führer Rudolph Hess sentenced at Nuremburg, committed suicide in prison at age 93. Why would a dead Nazi war criminal poseur phone in to Charlottesville’s City Council? Or the others who were cut off?

Calling it Poking the Woke.

City Council and the Woke champions of the “unhoused” who dominate public comments in the last couple of meetings are easy targets. The activists hurl invective and obscenities of their own, as well as indulging in make-believe. They fomented a fake grievance to loosen the City’s purse strings and get funding for a homeless shelter. From the video of the City Council meeting September 18, 2023, starting at 2:53:19:

There was a incident at the park, where one of the officers kicked the young man that was setting here …. [The officer] was trying to wake him up. But instead of gently touching him … he decided to kick him. And … prior to that … your officers went over to Lee Park and woke everybody up, and made ’em leave with the exception of the white people that were in the park.

He kicked that boy like he was kicking a football down the field to the other team,” another alleged witness told our local paper, the Daily Progress. “He put his soul into that kick.

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Things Fall Apart: Virginia Homeownership Rate

From an email from attributed to RubyHome Luxury Real Estate:

Virginia experienced the largest decline in homeownership of any state during the new millennium. In 2000, the homeownership rate sat at 73.9%; it declined to 67.4% in 2022. This makes for a percentage-point change of 8.8% since 2000 in 2020 — the most of any state. “With the average state decline sitting at 1.3%, Virginia’s dwindling rate of homeownership is the most drastic nationwide,” states the email.

Virginia has a home-ownership problem, which is intimately connected to the home affordability problem. What’s next — tent cities? Continue reading

Short Term Rentals — Long Term Impact

by Jon Balilies 

The City of Richmond has been discussing altering and revising regulations about short-term rentals (STR’s) and the next action will take place at the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday afternoon (September 5th). It is an important decision because it is entirely possible the decision by the Commission and ultimately City Council could have a tremendous impact on housing availability, high sale prices, and neighborhood character.

For the last few years, the city has done a good job of holding public meetings and soliciting feedback through various methods and gathering information about short-term rental properties (like AirBnB and VRBO, etc.). Until 2020, they were technically illegal and unregulated but they did exist (they rose to a more visible status when the UCI 2015 Bike Championships came to town).

In gathering information and developing the first ordinance, the city said it wanted to find the right balance to allow property owners to take part, but also make sure it was done right to protect neighborhoods. Some other cities dove in head-first with few, if any, regulations, which led to adverse, if somewhat predictable, effects. Richmond smartly agreed to revisit the ordinance after having some time to evaluate the initial regulations. Currently, in residentially zoned areas, the city requires that owners must claim primary residence at least 185 days (just over half the year) to rent out as a STR. If the property owner has a converted garage, etc., then they may rent that out all year. In commercially- zoned areas, there is no residency requirement being proposed in the new legislation. Continue reading

Broken Doorknobs, Broken Locks

Memorial to Jwanta Scarbor. Photo credit: The Virginian-Pilot

Last year Jwanta Scarbor, a resident of public housing in Norfolk, was found shot to death in her apartment. Now her mother has filed suit against the Norfolk Redevelopment and  Housing Authority on the grounds that it failed, despite repeated requests, to fix broken doorknobs, locks and windows.

“My family is destroyed,” Tawanda Scarbor told The Virginian-Pilot. “Literally destroyed.”

The killing remains unresolved, according to Norfolk police. There is nothing in the article to suggest that malfunctioning locks and doorknobs allowed the killer access he would not have been granted otherwise. Regardless, it is not unreasonable for tenants to expect landlords to maintain basic security features in proper working order.

It is entirely legitimate to ask why the Norfolk public housing authority did not, or could not, respond in a timely manner to requests for apparently simple repairs. This is not an isolated incident. Poor maintenance of public housing seems to be a systemic problem. Why is that? Continue reading

Slush Funding Housing

by Jon Baliles

There has been a lot of talk about the affordable housing crisis in the region in recent years, but it has been constant in 2023. The entire region needs 39,000 units as fast as it can get them; but interest rates are high, the market is stalling — every week there is a new twist or turn in the drama. And this week is no exception.

Em Holter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a disturbing story about the meeting this week of the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) Board that drew an overflow crowd reacting to the reckless idea by Mayor Levar Stoney and his administration for dissolving the Board and creating a commission instead, that allegedly would allow for raising more money from other sources and involve other partners. The mayor’s and the administration’s argument is that because there is more money to be allocated, there should be more oversight. But what they are proposing is not more sunlight, but less.

The AHTF Board is tasked with oversight of the money in the fund to help support and spur more affordable housing projects. Just last year, the Mayor and Council finally approved a commitment of putting $10 million per year in the fund for five years. Who doesn’t need more money and more partners to help tackle an issue as large and complex affordable housing? Sounds sensible, right? Except…

As the Times-Dispatch article points out, what this is really about is who controls the money and who gets to pick the “partners”:

But with more funding comes more oversight, which city administrators are hoping to achieve. To do so, City Hall wants to eliminate the board and establish a commission that would allow for more money and more partners.

Those in opposition argue that administrators are overstepping their bounds, which could lead to an imbalance of power, loss of control of funds and elimination of public input.

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How Wokeism Is Ruining Medicine

Stanley Goldfarb

by James A. Bacon

The Woke Revolution’s takeover of K-12 schools, the criminal justice system, higher ed, the media, the military, the C-suite, museums, and other cultural institutions has been highly visible, playing out in blogs and the media for all to see. The conquest of the healthcare system has attracted far less attention, though arguably it is the most consequential. After all, human lives are at stake.

Many U.S. medical schools have embraced the idea that American healthcare is systemically racist, that White physicians and other providers are infected with racial bias, that racism accounts for the disparities in health outcomes between Blacks and Whites, and that the only antidote to racism is “anti-racism,” warns Stanley Goldfarb, author of Take Two Aspirin and Call Me By My Pronouns: Why Turning Doctors into Social Justice Warriors Is Destroying American Medicine.

Goldfarb bases his critique on his own experiences as a nephrologist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, an extensive review of the academic literature on racial disparities, and his role as founder of Do No Harm, a nonprofit formed to combat racial essentialism in medicine. Wokeness, he argues, is profoundly destructive. By misdiagnosing racial disparities in health outcomes, the anti-racism movement focuses attention on a nearly non-existent problem and distracts from real causes and solutions.

The predictable result: woke medicine will harm African Americans and other marginalized groups it purports to help. In that regard, it is similar to woke K-12 education, where the racial achievement gap is getting worse; woke criminal justice, which leads to more African American homicides; woke colleges and universities, where African Americans feel less sense of acceptance and belonging than in years past; and woke everything else, the poisoned fruit of which is grievance, resentment, and alienation. Continue reading

The Song’s Not New Just Because You Haven’t Heard It Before

by Joe Fitzgerald

When I was a younger man and indulged in that lowdown southern whiskey, I would sometimes sum up the next day by saying, “I don’t remember church bells.”

Astute observers will immediately recognize literary allusions to Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken,” one of the great rock-and-roll story songs.

Now, 41 years sober, I hear the song differently. It’s the story of someone finding out that an experience may have been unique to him, but wasn’t unique.

Which leads me back, to the surprise of no regular reader, to Bluestone Town Center. BTC is an ill-advised development based on empty promises, misguided good intentions, and governmental obtuseness. Those wishing to know the other side of the story are welcome to Google it.

I was struck during the discussions of the project by how often supporters of the project fell back on baseless accusations of racism and privilege or answered objections that hadn’t been raised. I also noticed things in the city’s deeply flawed housing report that had little to do with building or selling housing.

Come to find out, any discussion of housing faces an underlying set of assumptions. And as any student of left-leaning politics knows, many of those assumptions lead to the expectation that anyone opposing any housing issue must prove their motivations and intentions are not racist, classicist, ageist, or ableist. Continue reading

As U.S. Teeters On the Brink of Recession, Virginia Beach Hikes Taxes

Clouds gather over Va Beach. (Bob Rayner)

by Kerry Dougherty

Do you mind if I’m brutally honest for a minute? Good. Because there’s no stopping me today.

Any member of the Virginia Beach City Council majority who voted Tuesday to approve an obscene $2.5 billion budget as the country teeters on the edge of a recession is a liar if they try to tell you they didn’t raise taxes.

I mean it. Join me in calling them LIARS.

While it’s true these politicians left the tax RATE alone, assessments jumped an average of 9%, with some of us seeing much sharper increases.

That means almost every homeowner in Virginia Beach just got a big fat tax hike. Combine that with an inflation rate of about 5%and the average working family trying to stay above water in the resort city is drowning.
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RVA 5×5: Valet Parking

by Jon Baliles

There was a lot of talk and coverage this week about the City of Richmond’s Planning Commission unanimously approving the removal of parking minimums citywide with the full City Council expected to take the matter up at its meeting Monday night.

The ordinance as written would allow developers to decide how much parking to include in new developments anywhere in the city — or if they need to include any parking at all to serve the development. For decades, the city-required developments to also provide a certain number of off-street parking spaces based on the size of development, the number of dwelling units, type of use, or total floor area.

The end goal is to allow developers to determine how much parking to provide in their developments and if they don’t have to provide expensive parking, they will then increase the supply of needed housing units. The city recently declared a “housing crisis,” and the need for more housing across the entire region is urgent. The proposal is one of the recommendations from the Richmond 300 master plan, which is in favor of less “auto-centric” zoning and more in favor of denser and more walkable mixed-use neighborhoods.
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Unaffordable Housing, Redux

by Joe Fitzgerald

Proposed housing construction in the city of Harrisonburg could add about 1,200 students to the Harrisonburg City Public Schools, with housing already under construction in Rockingham County possibly adding 400 more.

A quarter of the 1,600 potential students could be absorbed by the opening of Rocktown High School, leaving the city to build however many new schools it takes to educate 1,200 elementary and middle school students.

This projection is based on my using other people’s multipliers on a compilation by the invaluable Scott Rogers on The housing count is Scott Rogers’; the school estimates are mine.

The multipliers in question come from Harrisonburg City Public Schools (HCPS) and from Econsult Solutions Inc. (ESI). HCPS came up with its numbers based on who lives where in the city, and ESI does it for a living. They vary, somewhat. ESI thinks a townhouse will generate .52 students and the HCPS method forecasts .45 students.
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Virginia Very Low Income Housing Voucher Waiting Lists are Closed

SeaView Lofts apartments in Newport News

by James C. Sherlock

Some things don’t change that should.

Or don’t change fast enough to keep up with markets.

Which means they will fail.

From Virginia Housing’s discussion of the Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to decent, safe, and affordable housing in the private market.

Housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, and allows you to find housing (single-family homes, townhouses, mobile homes, and apartments) that that [sic] fits your needs.

Or not.  From the Housing Choice Voucher Waiting List Portal

We are sorry, but none of Virginia Housing waiting lists are currently open.

That is the list for the entire Commonwealth.

The program is broken. So, what is going on? Continue reading

Crime in Virginia — the Statistics of Race and their Causes

by James C. Sherlock

Crime, especially violent crime, is a constant topic in private conversations and in public politics, and thus here on Bacon’s Rebellion.

Comments on BR crime-related articles turn quickly to race, often without basis in fact.

I will offer below the actual crime statistics by race from 2021, the latest available year, in an attempt to cure that.

Then I will write about the causes.

I will almost certainly be called a racist. Continue reading