News & Updates

At Halfway Mark, a Fight to the Finish for Housing Affordability

Feb 15, 2024 | Capitol Connection, HBAV News

The headline in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this week certainly caught our attention: “Zoning flexibility is the key to bringing down housing costs.”

Craig Toalson, Chief Executive Officer, HBAV

The column said what many of us in the industry already know: Homeownership — and housing in general — is out of reach for many Virginia families (and a second story, on Gen Zers being unable to afford homes, drove the point home even further).

Rising home costs and rents are due, in large part, to overburdensome zoning and building regulations that add more than $93,000 to the cost of a new home — an 11% gain in Virginia from 2016 to 2021.

It’s only getting worse: Our builders lack lots. The investment often doesn’t make financial sense. And it all trickles down to the Virginia family or young person who is unable to afford the mortgage or rent for a quality home.

And so updating zoning and regs to be housing development friendly — as well as protecting Virginia’s top-ranked Uniform Building Code Process — have been at the top of the Home Builders Association of Virginia’s 2024 Legislative Agenda in the Virginia General Assembly. Since early January, we have advocated every day to maintain the statewide Uniform Building Code adoption process and supported policies that do no further harm to the home building industry.

Members at HBAV’s Day on the Hill on January 25. For more photos, scroll to the bottom of this article.

This week is crossover, when bills that pass the Senate and House move to the other for consideration. If the bills pass those chambers, they will go to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk for signing into law. Many of the bills HBAV drafted and is proactively pushing are moving forward. Some bills we supported have failed, as have some we opposed. Other bills that we originally opposed were amended, and we now support them. Find the latest on the bills we are supporting and opposing below.

The first half of the session saw more than 2,200 pieces of legislation introduced. Of those, 345 — 15% — would impact builders and suppliers. Our staff and our members put a lot of time and energy into defeating legislation that would have been extremely detrimental to housing and homeownership in the Commonwealth.

Until session ends on March 9 (barring any extensions), we will continue to advance HBAV’s Legislative Agenda and work hard to defeat harmful bills. There will also be state budget talks, and we will actively work to protect funding on any of our legislation with a fiscal impact, along with monies to those agencies that regulate and permit new housing in Virginia.

Finally, our success each session depends on the relationships we build throughout the year. Our HBAV Build PAC supports candidates who recognize the value the homebuilding industry brings to all Virginians. We encourage you to make a contribution.

Craig Toalson, CAE
CEO, Home Builders Association of Virginia

Bills Previously Opposed, now Amended to be Industry Friendly

HB 950 (Lopez): Local stretch energy codes, amended to a temporary prohibition on modifications to the Uniform Building Code. 

Update: We were originally opposed to this bill, which would have allowed localities to create and require stretch energy codes beyond a “base” energy code. In recent code cycles, Virginia has made significant strides in energy efficiency standards in new homes with increased ceiling insulation and mandatory building envelope testing. 

Establishing local building codes creates uncertainty for the housing market and consumers, and current Virginia Code allows customers who choose to build a home to a higher energy efficiency standard to do so.

And so, we worked with the patron to ensure the bill was more friendly to our industry. The patron, Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), instead put forward a substitute bill that would prevent modifying any regulation in the Uniform Statewide Building Code prior to the conclusion of the next triennial code development process. We strongly support this bill.

Virginia’s Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) development process is ranked No. 2 in the nation — a ranking we want to keep, and one that makes the Commonwealth competitive and a great place to live and work. We must protect the Virginia USBC process and not create local building codes.

HB 405 (McCLure): Subdivision ordinance; electric vehicle charging stations.

Update: This bill incorporates two others that would have required mandatory EV charging requirements in new multifamily developments. HBAV worked closely with the patron of HB 405, Adele McClure (D-Arlington) on substitute legislation.  The substitute bill requires the Commision on Electric Utility Regulation to evaluate the design and necessary infrastructure to support the installation of EV charging facilities in new developments. We strongly support this bill.  

Background: HBAV is actively working with stakeholders and utility providers on the electrical grid’s capacity for EV charging stations in new homes. Challenges include a plan for development processes, grid capacities, electric components, easements, and right-of-way. We are committed to finding common ground on this issue as grid capacity and technology expand.

Opposed Bills, Dead for the Year

HB 364 (Martinez) and SB534 (Williams Graves): Local authority to mandate fire sprinklers in new townhomes

Update: Both bills were killed in committee — a key victory for protecting our Statewide Building Code. 

Background: Virginia’s Uniform Statewide Building Code development process allows all stakeholders to thoroughly vet each code proposal before being voted on by the Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

This bill skips that process and establishes local building codes, creating uncertainty for the housing market and consumers. Current Virginia Code allows customers who choose to install a sprinkler system in their home to do so.

SB 652 (Stutrevant) & HB 930 (Earley): Local government denials of zoning applications based on current public facility infrastructure

Update: Early in the session we defeated the Senate version of the bill, and we followed it up with a defeat of the same House bill.

Background: The bill would allow a locality to reject or defer a rezoning application solely on the adequacy of current public facilities. Virginia’s population and job base is growing, and housing supply needs to keep pace. Localities need to own the housing supply problem and be willing to address it. This legislation allows localities to significantly limit housing supply and job creation.

Supported Priorities After Crossover

SB 296 (VanValkenburg): Expedited Review of preliminary/final plats and site plans

Update: The bill passed the Senate and is progressing through the House. A House counterpart was laid on the table for the year. Advancing this bill to the Governor is a top priority for HBAV.

Background: Guardrails and parameters regarding plan review and timelines differ between commercial and residential projects. This legislation, backed by HBAV, seeks to give the same protections to residential development and construction that is afforded to commercial projects. This limits endless rounds of comments and speeds up construction timelines.

SB 489 (Carroll Foy): Virginia residential development infrastructure fund

Update: The bill passed the Senate and is in the House.

Background: The bill directs the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to work with stakeholders to develop legislation to establish a residential infrastructure fund. The infrastructure fund will be available to local governments who prioritize the linkage between economic development and housing supply.

SB 244 (McPike): Protect land use decisions made at virtual meetings during pandemic

Update: The bill passed the Senate and is in the House.

Background: Like all businesses, government at all levels relied heavily on virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent court case in Northern Virginia has questioned the land use decisions made by local governments at virtual meetings, and our bill seeks to uphold these decisions.

HB 650 (Coyner): Plats and Plans 3-Year Validity

Update: The bill passed the House and moves to the Senate.

Background: Our members need certainty, predictability, and reasonable plan validity time. This legislation will set the floor for localities to provide a minimum of three years of validity for conditional use permits, special use permits, and special exemption on land development projects exceeding a certain size threshold.

HBAV Legislation that Failed to Advance

Bills where we tried, failed, and will come back another time and try again.

HB 378 (Owen): Partial bond release for E&S and environmental bonds

Update: While the bill passed in committee, it failed to pass on the House floor and is dead for the year.

Background: Clarifies that existing provisions related to the partial and final release of performance guarantees shall also apply to erosion and sediment (E&S) control measures, stormwater management facilities, and fill and borrow areas. If a bond release is denied, the locality must provide justification in their policy as to why and what needs to be corrected.

HB 377 (Owen): Creating a uniform statewide traffic impact study threshold. 

Update: The bill was tabled for the year. 

Background: We must prevent localities from requiring a traffic impact analysis on projects that fall below Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) thresholds for requiring such a study. In other words: if VDOT says an analysis is required, one should be done; if not, no analysis is necessary. Local traffic impact analysis requirements add months in delays and unnecessary costs to new homes.