Sponsor:                                                    Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Sharon McCamy, Lee District Supervisor                   October 21, 2002

Staff Lead:                                                               Department: 

Robert C. Counts                                                      Community Development   


Affordable Housing

Topic Description:

Two Sections of the Code of Virginia (Section 15.2304 and Section 15.2305), 1950, as amended, provide localities with the option of creating programs to increase the supply of housing that is affordable to low-income and/or moderate-income households. Section 15.2305 allows localities to create and implement programs that encourage the production of affordable housing, while Section 15.2304 allows localities to require such production.

With two exceptions, the provisions of Section 15.2304 apply only to counties that have either  “the urban county executive form of government or the county manager plan of government in effect.” The two exceptions are Albemarle and Loudoun Counties. These counties were specifically added to this section of the Code by legislative action.

Due to of the inapplicability of Section 15.2304, Fauquier County does not, at this time, have the authorization to require developers to provide affordable units as part of the approval process for rezoning cases, special exceptions, and site plans. Consequently, the County’s efforts to support the development of affordable housing have been limited to encouraging such production through the provision of incentives.

Currently, the County’s Zoning Ordinance contains an Affordable Housing Overlay District, in which incentives for affordable housing production can be provided in the form of additional density, design flexibility, and special processing procedures. The potential for density bonuses of up to 100% of the zoned density is by far the greatest incentive for developer participation.  However, since the provisions of the Overlay District are only applicable to lots of record as of January 1, 1996, most of the current boom in rezoning and subdivision activity is not subject to the district’s provisions. To date, no developers have utilized the Overlay District.

As presently configured, the Affordable Housing Overlay District is seen as ineffective and potentially detrimental to the County. It is viewed as ineffective since no affordable units have been produced pursuant to this District. It is seen as potentially detrimental because, if utilized, the 100% density bonus would produce additional market rate units (and associated costs to the County) that could offset, and even exceed, the benefits of affordable housing production. A copy of the County’s adopted Affordable Housing Overlay District is available for distribution, upon request.

By contrast, the production of affordable housing as a requirement of residential development can limit the use of the density bonus to only compensate the developer for what is required to produce the affordable units in a way that is economically neutral to the developer. The table below shows a simple comparison of a hypothetical parcel of land developed under the provisions of the Affordable Housing Overlay District (AHOD) and the same parcel developed under the provisions of the Affordable Dwelling Unit Ordinance (ADU), as implemented in Fairfax County. The chart reflects the required production of 12.5 % affordable units, with a maximum 20% density bonus, as compared to the encouraged production of 20% affordable units, at a maximum 100% density bonus.

Comparison of Affordable Housing Production


Fauquier Co.

Fairfax Co.




Site Acreage



Current Zoning



Planned Use

1-4 du/ac

1-4 du/ac

Base Lot Yield



Bonus Lot Yield



Total Units



Affordable Units



Bonus Market Units




As the chart indicates, the Affordable Housing Overly District (AHOD) has the potential for producing more affordable units; however, the “cost” per affordable unit (represented here as the ratio of additional market units to the number of affordable units) is more than four and a half times that of the Affordable Dwelling Unit Ordinance (ADU) type production (1.5:1 versus 0.33:1).

Given the actual production achieved to date under the Affordable Housing Overlay District (none) and the comparative “cost savings” associated with the ADU-type required production, it appears that a program that would require affordable housing production, but provide only modest density increases to offset this production, would be the best program to meet the objectives of both affordable housing production and controlling residential growth in the County. The County’s ability to develop such a program is, however, dependent on obtaining the appropriate enabling legislation.

Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

The Board of Supervisors is requested to take two actions:

  1. Include in 2003 legislative program a priority position requesting that Fauquier County be added to Section 15.2304 of the Code of Virginia; and
  2. Direct staff to begin research and development of a program and appropriate Ordinance changes to require affordable housing production as part of the development process. The work program will need to be predicated on the success of the requested revision to the Code of Virginia.

Financial Impacts Analysis:

Fiscal impact is unknown at this time. Cost and benefit analysis will be provided as part of the program development.

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Community Development

County Attorney

Planning Commission   

Affordable Housing Committee


County Attorney’s Memorandum on Affordable Housing