Governor Glenn Youngkin, YIMBY boss? -Virginia Mercury

Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin and California Democrats could hardly be further apart politically; However, their diagnoses of what’s wrong with America’s housing market sound eerily similar: Over-regulation has hampered new housing construction and pushed up house prices to the point of hurting the broader economy.

After a series of big Legislature wins in Sacramento this year, it might Yes in my backyard (YIMBY) Will the movement’s next political champion turn out to be Virginia’s ambitious governor?

“There are not enough apartments”

In a speech at the Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference On Friday, Youngkin vowed to introduce a legislative package ahead of the upcoming General Assembly session to reduce regulations and boost housing. Although further details will not be announced until December, the fact that both progressive Democrats and right-wing Republicans view the housing affordability crisis in a similar light proves that pro-development policies do not follow clear ideological lines.

It is also a sign of how painful the high cost of housing is for voters from all parties.

The results of a state study Released this summer, the show shows how broken the housing market has become across the Commonwealth. In 2004, Virginia issued 63,215 new housing permits. In recent years, the state has built less than half that number of homes per year, despite adding over 1.1 million residents over the same period.

“There aren’t enough apartments,” Youngkin said. “There are not enough units today. Point.”

In the last ten years, more than two-thirds of building permits have been granted for single-family homes. With an average price for such a structure in Virginia last year of $355,000 (a 30% increase from 2016), this most expensive form of housing is increasingly out of reach for many middle-class households.

Tenants face similar, if not more serious, problems. Four out of five renters in Virginia make less than 50% of their area’s median income. The Department of Housing and Community Development and Virginia Housing, the state housing agency, estimate that there is a 200,000 shortage of affordable rental units across the Commonwealth, meaning low-income earners have few options when rents are rising rapidly.

In the Richmond area is the The average rent is 21% higher as 2021. At Hampton Roads rents have risen by an average of 11.2% compared to last year, a further increase of 12% is forecast for the coming year. In the first quarter of this year alone rents up 13% in Northern Virginia. Even areas outside of the Urban Crescent like the city Roanoke has seen a 15% jump in average rent in 2021 as people flock to cities for better job opportunities.

Unless housing can be made more affordable, the governor fears fewer people will choose to live and do business in the Commonwealth.

“We need to balance housing development with economic growth,” he said. “If you want workers, we have to give them a place to live. We need to get housing development plans off the ground just like we get economic development plans off the ground.”

Regulatory Reduction

In his closing remarks, Youngkin attributed the shortage of housing units to three factors: regulatory burdens that limit the supply of buildable land, permitting complications that delay and prevent development, and restrictive land-use controls that restrict owners’ building rights.

To get out of Virginia’s housing ditch, the governor offered three solutions that he intends to present to the general assembly in January. First, he wants to set deadlines for municipalities to approve land use and zoning reviews. Second, he demands that the state conduct a review of land use and zoning laws to make them more efficient and transparent. Third, he wants to create a searchable database of residential government land that developers could potentially build on.

Homes under construction in Richmond, Virginia (Sarah Vogelsong / Virginia Mercury)

What would happen if a municipality does not approve or reject a project in a timely manner? In California, communities that do not comply with state housing policies are subjected to a “builder’s subsidy,” where local zoning authority is revoked. Such a Location in Santa Monica This year, the housing supply in this city could increase by 7%. Youngkins Policy Shop plans to come up with its own proposal next month.

Where the governor’s pro-development push could go haywire is wetland and creek loans. In his speech, he pledged to streamline permitting processes, “operationalize” Virginia’s existing wetland and river replacement fund, and release additional loans — all without compromising the quality of Virginia’s wetland and river mitigation efforts.

Previous waves of growth have engulfed farms, forests and wetlands across the Commonwealth in favor of distant, car-dependent suburbs. A 2020 American Farmland Trust to learn calculated that “since 1982, more than 31 million acres of U.S. farmland have been irrevocably lost to urban expansion, and every hour another 175 acres of farm and ranch land are being lost to make way for housing and other industries.”

If the government’s pro-housing proposals end up looking like a mandate for more urban sprawl, environmentalists may seek to quash Youngkin’s plans in the General Assembly.


The governor’s pro-development bill could face a bumpy road in the General Assembly. After Youngkins lambed “Overburdened and inefficient local government, restrictive land-use policies, and an ideology of fighting every new development tooth and nail” in a speech to the state’s joint finance committee in August fired back from senior members of his own party.

“I wouldn’t characterize it that way” noticed Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City. “People on city councils and boards of directors have the closest connection to the people they represent and the citizens they serve.”

Such intra-party tensions come as no surprise Addison del Mastroan Arlington-based contributor to the conservative publication The Bulwark.

“There are two ways conservatives think about development,” he said. “Pro-business and property rights are a very natural fit for conservatives, but some of them see zoning as a property right itself, to ensure neighborhoods don’t change and housing where ‘these people’ live can be kept out. I even hear both arguments from the same people. One is actually traditional conservative thinking about markets, and the other is an attitude you learn through osmosis when you’re a wealthy suburbanite.”

guidelines for the government

Del. Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield, with more than two decades of land use law experience, understands the cost of development delays and broadly supports the governor’s desire to reduce regulation.

“It’s important that we still have zones at the local level because we don’t know everything at the state level,” she said. “But the state can step in, set guard rails and redefine what local governments use as tools in their toolbox to make local land use decisions.”

If you think about how the Commonwealth might end exclusion zoneCoyner points to how lawmakers have dealt with bids — the fees municipalities are allowed to charge home builders to offset the cost of their developments.

“We created this state system where communities could define offerings broadly and increase housing costs to keep certain people out,” she said. “When the state reclaimed discretion from the communities, it was an attempt to more closely align the intent of the offerings with the original legislation.”

We really failed to educate the average citizen and business owner. Grocery stores don’t just pop up because you want them. They draw a circle and see if that area matches their demographics.

– Del. Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield

The other problem, according to Coyner, is a lack of communication.

“We really failed to educate the average citizen and business owner,” she said. “Grocery stores don’t just appear because you want them. They draw a circle and see if that area matches their demographics. If we start letting people do their own analysis, they’ll realize that the local leaders aren’t just building more houses to annoy me, they’re building houses here so we can offer more services.”

Despite initial support from lawmakers like Del. Coyner will likely face an uphill battle over the governor’s proposals to increase housing production. In addition to seeking the simultaneous support of a Democratic Senate and Republican House of Representatives, Youngkin will struggle with the political power of Virginia’s cities and counties, which are always reluctant to lose an ounce of land-use sovereignty.

In his characteristically optimistic way, the governor believes he can strike the right balance and get his bills through: “We really need to respect the rights of landowners and we need to make sure the zoning and permitting processes are development-friendly,” he said. We can do both. This isn’t an ‘or’. It’s an ‘and’. Often we argue and forget that we can do both.”