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The role of affordable housing on this year's election

A for sale sign is displayed in front of a house.
Steven Senne
A for sale sign is displayed in front of a house.

Voters aren't just determining the future of Congress in this election. Many local elections will determine important land-use questions.

How big is too big? That's a question at the heart of many local elections in northern Virginia, places like Arlington and Fairfax City and Herndon where candidates are staking out positions on what kind of density is appropriate and what kind of commitments should be made about affordable housing.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says these elections will have long-lasting consequences.

"The question about how dense housing can be allowed in communities can really have a huge impact on whether or not there is affordable housing for the next generation," Farnsworth says. "But of course it also creates anxieties for people who have invested in a community as it exists now. They might be worried about what it's going to look like in the future."

Terry Clower at George Mason University says many local leaders recognize that figuring out that balance will determine what their workforce looks like in the future.

"There's recent data out that for the first time that such studies have been done we have found that in big metropolitan areas, the largest reason that younger workers are leaving the area are not for more job opportunities but seeking more affordable housing," Clower explains.

And here's another twist for local elections; several local governments will be electing candidates for the first time ever in November, elections that used to happen in May.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.