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Virginia legislators mark a few housing wins during 2024 legislative session

The Virginia House of Delegates during the 2024 legislative session.
Brad Kutner
Radio IQ
The Virginia House of Delegates during the 2024 legislative session.

Housing continues to be a leading issue in Virginia, and a number of bills to increase availability and speed up construction survived during the recent legislative session. Here's a look at a few of those that were successful and one that still needs a signature from Governor Glenn Youngkin.

Democratic Senator Schuyler VanValkenburg says housing issues can get addressed in one of three ways in Virginia: by regulation, zoning or in the budget.

The legislature tries to avoid getting into regulation - it’s usually managed under the state’s Department of Housing and involves professionals in the field making or removing rules. But VanValkenburg also said the legislature can urge the body to act, hence his bill which tells the Board of Housing and Community Development to study updates to fire safety rules, specifically with the hope of increasing the max number of floors a building with a single staircase and have from two to six.

“In the name of getting more housing online, especially affordable housing, when you can build more units,” VanValkenburg told Radio IQ.

The Henrico senator had a second housing bill signed as well; it puts housing site building requirements in line with those used for commercial buildings by limiting repeat reviews of build sites. VanValkenburg said some localities engage in a long running back and forth after a first review, adding time to a project and this bill aims to stem that practice.

“The longer a site is sitting there not getting built on the longer you have loan payments, the more cost gets added onto a house,” he said.

Republican Delegate Carrie Coyner sponsored a number of housing efforts but only a few got over the finish line. Among them was an extension of the state’s eviction diversion program, a request from the state’s Housing Commission. The program allows a tenant who faces an emergency to enter a court-ordered payment plan. She said the state hadn’t yet collected enough data on the program’s use and her bill extends it for another year.

“Our goal is to keep people housed and keep landlords paid up on rent, so seeing if that’s an effective tool,” Coyner said.

Governor Glenn Youngkin also offered amendments to a number of housing bills, with many rejected by the legislature. Among those is a bill from Delegate Marcia Price which allows localities to sue landlords who fail to maintain safe properties. Coyner supported the effort, saying it came after complaints about management companies that failed to maintain units, often in lower income housing.

“It was limited in nature and addressed landlords who aren’t even in VA with a rotating door of managers,” Coyner said.

But Youngkin wants the legislature to pass it a second time next year and have the Department of Housing and Community Development look into the issue before that vote.

The legislature denied that amendment, however. The governor has until mid-May to act on bills returned to him.

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

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.