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The governor wants to cut "unnecessary regulations," but could that hurt housing development?

In this Jan. 27, 2021, file photo, a For Rent sign is posted in Sacramento, Calif.
Rich Pedroncelli
In this Jan. 27, 2021, file photo, a For Rent sign is posted in Sacramento, Calif.

Lawmakers are about to return to Richmond for the General Assembly session, and one of the items they'll be talking about is expanding the stock of new housing.

Make Virginia Home. That's the message from Governor Glenn Youngkin, who says he's concerned that Virginia is adding half as many residential units as were constructed 20 years ago. That's why he wants lawmakers to consider legislation to get rid of what he calls unnecessary regulation.

"We have got to uncork the supply of housing so we can bring the overall cost down," Youngkin says. "Part of that is the length of time it takes in order to file permits and get approval and oh, by the way, to connect with all the water permits and everything else. And so, we want to shine a bright light on that."

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson says all those permits are there for a reason, and short-circuiting requirements might end up being counterproductive.

"That can be a time-consuming process, and sometimes it should be because you want to make sure the community's voice is heard," Wilson explains. "I would caution Richmond about basically saying that those processes have to be approved during a certain amount of time because I think what you would see, and this is why I think it would be dangerous, is you would see jurisdictions just become automatic nos."

Automatically rejecting development to meet an arbitrary timeline would end up reducing the amount of new housing constructed. That's why Alexandria's mayor sent a letter to the governor asking him to work together to craft legislation to increase the supply of housing. So far, he says, he's still waiting to hear back from the governor.

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.