News & Updates

How the Home Building Industry — and Affordable Housing — Fared in the 2024 General Assembly

Mar 18, 2024 | Capitol Connection, HBAV News

The Virginia General Assembly Session concluded the 2024 Session on March 9, after 60 days of reviewing 2,400 bills and crafting the state’s biennium (two-year) budget.

Craig Toalson, Chief Executive Officer, HBAV

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, 46% of the introduced bills made it through both Chambers and were sent to the Governor, who has until April 8 to sign, veto, or propose amendments to the bills passed by the legislature. The General Assembly returns to Richmond April 17 to act on the Governor’s proposed amendments and vetoes.

2024: Blend of bipartisanship — and fierce partisan rivalry

The Session had its fair share of cooperation across the aisles, but the dynamic between a Republican executive branch and Democratic legislative branch led to contentious debates on several high-profile issues and initiatives:

  • The controversial $2 billion proposal to construct an arena in Alexandria in hopes of enticing the Wizards and Capitals out of Washington D.C.
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2026
  • Establishing a regulatory framework for the cultivation, sale, and possession of marijuana
  • And: data centers, the return of “skill games,” firearm regulations, K-12 and higher education funding, consumer protection, and abortion rights.

Legislation Impacting the Housing Industry

The Home Builders Association of Virginia identified nearly 300 bills impacting every segment of the housing industry, including land developers, single- and multi-family builders, environmental consultants, engineers, land-use attorneys, and other industry partners.

During the 60-day Session, the HBAV team worked to pass, defeat, or amend many of the bills impacting our industry, while also advancing our 2024 Legislative Agenda. This package of 17 bills was developed in consultation with HBAV members around the state. As is the case in every session, our primary goal is to update zoning and regulations to be housing-development friendly, as well as protect Virginia’s top-ranked Uniform Building Code Process. We also worked to advocate and educate lawmakers (many of whom were new to the legislature this year) and ensure their votes do no further harm to the home building industry.

Legislation We Support

Streamlined Site Plan and Subdivision Plat Reviews (SB 296 –VanValkenburg; HB 1356 – Owen): Requires localities to streamline their preliminary and final site plan and subdivision review processes.

Most notably, these bills:

  1. Reduce the time and cost associated with multiple plan resubmissions by placing guardrails on the scope of comments that local government staff can provide during the second, third, or any subsequent submissions
  2. Prohibit local government staff from delaying the official submission of a plat or plan by requiring endless rounds of pre-submission meetings.
  • Status: Passed the General Assembly; awaiting Governor’s action

How regulatory costs add to the price tag of a new home in Virginia.

Residential Development Infrastructure Fund (SB 489 – Carroll Foy): Establishes a Virginia Residential Development Infrastructure Fund to provide targeted financial assistance to localities and developers to support the construction or improvement of infrastructure necessary to spur residential development. A technical advisory group will be created to evaluate best practices from other states, establish project eligibility criteria, project review and selection procedures, and prioritize funding for projects in localities that are proactively reducing local barriers to new construction.

  • Status: Passed the General Assembly; awaiting Governor’s action

Subdivision Plat Extension (Budget Item 65 #2h): Extends the validity of any subdivision plat deemed valid through July 1, 2020 (pursuant to Virginia Code §15.2-2209.1) that was unable to be recorded prior to July 1, 2020 due to the closure of local Clerk’s office during the early months of the pandemic.

  • Status: Included in the House and Senate compromise budget; awaiting Governor’s action

Protecting land use approvals made during the pandemic (SB 244 — McPike): Retroactively validates any lawful local land-use approval made by a public body during an electronic meeting between March 20, 2020 and July 1, 2021. This legislation is in response to a Virginia Supreme Court decision in 2023 which invalidated the County’s zoning ordinance and raised substantial concerns about the validity of zoning approvals, associated permits, and financing contingent upon that zoning ordinance.

  • Status: Passed the General Assembly; awaiting Governor’s action

Conditional Use Permits, Special Use Permits, and Special Exceptions (HB 650 – Coyner): Requires all localities to provide a minimum three-year validity period for any conditional use permit, special use permit, and special exceptions approved for any new residential developments, solar projects, or energy storage facilities.

  • Status: Passed the General Assembly; awaiting Governor’s action

Regulatory Evaluation of Utility Infrastructure Requirements (HB 405 – McClure): Directs the Commission on Electric Utility Regulation to evaluate potential modifications to electric utility’s distribution infrastructure design standards and requirements to minimize impact on planned density and layout of any new single-family or multi-family development.  The HBA of Virginia worked with Delegate McClure to overhaul this legislation, which initially allowed localities to require electric vehicle charging stations and infrastructure in new residential and non-residential developments.

  • Status: Passed the General Assembly; awaiting the Governor’s action

Residential Design Flexibility (HB 368 – McClure; SB 195 – VanValkenburg): Creates a technical advisory group to evaluate building code changes to maximize usable interior space, allow for additional units and enhance construction opportunities on small infill lots. Specifically, the technical advisory group will consider allowing single-exit stairways in Group R-2 structures up to six stories above grade plan. Currently, residential structures with more than 3 stories require multiple exit stairways.

  • Status: Passed the General Assembly; awaiting Governor’s action

Limiting Executive Branch Influence on Building Codes (HB 950 – Lopez): Prohibits any Virginia Governor from unilaterally modifying any regulation of the Uniform Statewide Building Code.  The HBAV partnered with Delegate Lopez to revamp the legislation, which initially allowed localities to adopt energy codes more stringent than the International Energy Conservation Code.

  • Status: Passed the General Assembly; awaiting the Governor’s action.

Partial Periodic Bond Release (HB 378 – Owen): Clarifies that localities must provide  partial periodic bond releases for erosion and sediment control measures, stormwater management facilities, and fill/borrow areas.

  • Status: Defeated on House Floor (52 – N, 47 – Y)

Legislation We Oppose

Growth Management; Adequate Public Facilities (SB 652 – Sturtevant; HB 930 – Earley): Provides local Boards of Supervisors and City Councils broad discretion to impose a moratorium on new residential development. “Adequate Public Facilities” policies are enacted by localities to regulate the timing of new development by using subjective assessments of whether existing public infrastructure can support new development.

  • Status: Defeated in committee

Local Authority to Reassess Previous Rezoning Decisions (SB 715 – Sturtevant): Grants localities the authority to reassess past rezoning decisions to determine whether they align with current land-use patterns and are consistent with the locality’s goal of promoting the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

  • Status: Stricken by the patron

Residential Fire Sprinklers in Townhomes (HB 364 –Martinez; SB 524 Williams-Graves): Allows localities to mandate automatic water-filled or wet-pipe  sprinkler systems in new townhomes

  • Status: HB 364 was unanimously defeated in subcommittee; SB 523 was defeated by a vote of 9-5

Local Building Codes: Climate Mitigation, Resiliency, and Energy Efficiency: (SB 409 – Boysko): Grants localities the authority to adopt local building codes to address climate mitigation, resiliency, and energy efficiency; allows localities to adopt codes more stringent than the International Energy Conservation Code and model standards adopted by the U.S. Department of Energy.

  • Status: Defeated in committee by a vote of 8-7

Cash Proffers for Extinguishing Development Rights (HB 1501 – Milde): Allows cash proffers collected by localities to be used to permanently terminate development rights elsewhere in the locality. The legislation also requires the terminated development rights to be greater than the development rights being granted.

  • Status: Defeated in subcommittee

Additional Passed legislation affecting HBAV Members:

Expanded tree replacement authority (HB 529 – Hope)

Currently, localities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed or within a population density of 75 people per square mile have the authority to adopt ordinances that require developers to replace trees lost in the home-building process. This bill expands that authority statewide.

  • Status: Passed both chambers on party lines and is awaiting action by the Governor.

Affordable Housing Dwelling Unit Authority (SB 597 — McPike)

Authorizes any locality in the Commonwealth to provide for an affordable housing dwelling unit program by amending the zoning ordinance of such locality.  This authority currently exists in counties with an urban county executive form of government or county manager plan of government and certain other localities.  The new bill expands the authority statewide.

  • Status: Passed both chambers on party lines and is awaiting action by the Governor.

What’s Next?

All 2,000 bills that passed the Virginia General Assembly are in the hands of Governor Glenn Youngkin for his action. HBAV will inform the Governor’s Administration of the bills supported and opposed by HBAV. Bills the Governor signs will become Virginia law while bills he vetoes or amends will be heard by the General Assembly at their reconvened session next month.

HBAV will prepare and distribute a comprehensive 2024 Virginia General Assembly review for our members following the April 17th reconvene session.

Craig Toalson, CAE
CEO, Home Builders Association of Virginia