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Departments & Offices » OCE » Local Community Engagement Programs » Many Hands One Home Project » Affordable Housing in Williamsburg

Affordable Housing in Williamsburg

Affordable housing is a term used to describe dwelling units whose total housing costs are deemed "affordable" to those that have a median income. Although the term is often applied to rental housing that is within the financial means of those in the lower income ranges of a geographical area, the concept is applicable to both renters and purchasers in all income ranges.

In the United States and Canada, a commonly accepted guideline for housing affordability is a housing cost that does not exceed 30% of a household's gross income. Housing costs considered in this guideline generally include taxes and insurance for owners, and usually include utility costs. When the monthly carrying costs of a home exceed 30–35% of household income, then the housing is considered unaffordable for that household.

James City County Comprehensive Plan 2009

Housing is shelter, an economic good, a taxable commodity, and it can determine transportation needs and social and political relations.

Through all methods of input, it appears that James City County residents have strong opinions with regard to housing, and most can be summarized as falling into one of two categories. On one side of the issue are those who believe significant quantities of affordable or workforce housing are needed. On the other side are those who believe no additional residential development should be supported at all. The primary challenge facing the County in the next five to 20 years will be providing housing units that are needed while guarding the rate of overall growth.

General guidance is that housing should not cost a household more than 30% of its total income. For homeownership, this 30% ratio is applied to the mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, and homeowner association fees. For renters, the contract rent and tenant paid utility costs combined are considered for the 30% of the household income guideline. “Affordable housing,” then, is housing available at a sales price or rental amount that is within these means…Certainly there should be housing available at prices commensurate with the wages paid by local employers.

Available data indicates that rents have increased at a greater rate than income growth since 2000, although at a slower pace than home prices.

A discussion on housing cannot be complete without a discussion of homelessness…Homelessness is inextricably tied to poverty. Lack of education or job skills, lack of a living wage, lack of family and social networks, domestic violence, divorce, or serious injury or illness can all lead to homelessness.


York Comprehensive Plan 

Shelter is a basic human need, but housing encompasses social as well as physical aspects. To a great extent, where we live determines whom we socialize with, where our children go to school, where we shop, and where public facilities are needed. Furthermore, the way our neighborhoods are designed can even affect our behavior. Both the physical and social aspects of housing are vital to the planning process.


Williamsburg 2006 Comprehensive Plan 

This Plan recognizes the need for more affordable low and moderate income housing, and several areas previously discussed are suitable for this use.

  • The undeveloped portion of the Wales subdivision on Ironbound Road (page 8-19) will support 19 additional single-family dwellings, and would build on the successful upgrades that have been made to the existing subdivision by a Community Development Block Grant in 1996. If future studies determine that a higher residential density is suitable for this area, amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance should be considered. A plus for this area is that it will be in walking distance of the High Street Williamsburg development both over existing sidewalks and a proposed trail system.
  • The Mixed Use area on Strawberry Plains Road south of Berkeley Middle School (page 8-18) will support up to 140 dwelling units of various types in a mixed use context, or a lesser number of houses if developed as a single-family subdivision to match the existing Strawberry Plains Redevelopment Area. This area is within walking distance of the Berkeley Middle School and the proposed City park to the south.
  • A 12 acre undeveloped parcel in the Highland Park neighborhood is located on the east side of North Henry Street north of the 29-unit WRHA subsidized apartment complex on Dunning Street. This land has the potential to be developed as a single family detached subdivision similar in character and quality to the Crispus Attucks and Strawberry Plains subdivisions. The topography of the site will require careful placement of roadways and the maintenance of proper screening from Route 132, which is designated as a Greenbelt street. This area is within walking distance of the Center City area and the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area.
  • The Blayton Building property in the Center City area (more specifically discussed on page 10-8) is proposed for primarily Downtown Residential land use (8 dwelling units/net acre base density, 22 dwelling units/net acre with a special use permit), which will allow the construction of approximately 39 additional elderly housing units on this centrally located site. In addition, the area to the west of the Blayton Building fronting on Scotland Street will be designated as Downtown Commercial land use (8 dwelling units/net acre base density, 22 dwelling units/net acre with a special use permit), which will allow for the option of construction office or commercial space adjacent to the Triangle Block.


Historic Triangle Statistical Snapshot 


There are a total of 41,458 housing units in the Historic Triangle – an increase of 45% (12,932 units) since 2000. Single-family detached homes make up the vast majority (69%) of the area’s housing stock.

• The amount of renter-occupied housing – though relatively high in Williamsburg, where it represents 56% of all occupied housing units – is disproportionately low in the Historic Triangle as a whole, representing 28% of the occupied housing stock. By comparison, rental housing represents 37% of occupied housing in the MSA and 33% across the state.

• Home vacancy rates in the Historic Triangle are slightly higher than in surrounding areas. For owner-occupied housing, the vacancy rates are 2.8% in the Historic Triangle, 2.5% in the MSA, and 2.1% in Virginia. The corresponding rates for rental housing are 8.0%, 7.6%, and 7.6% respectively.

• With almost a third of all housing units (31%) built in the last ten years, the area’s housing stock is relatively young. Only 10% of housing units in the Historic Triangle are at least 50 years old, compared to 23% in the MSA and 24% statewide.

• Median house value data is not available for the Historic Triangle. However, figures for the three localities indicate that house values are generally higher than in the MSA or the state as a whole. James City County leads with a median house  value of $334,100, followed by York County ($316,100) and Williamsburg ($311,200). The median house value is $233,600 in the MSA and $247,100 statewide. Likewise, the median gross monthly rent is $1,124 in York County, $1,017 in James City County, and $950 in Williamsburg. For the MSA and the state, the median gross monthly rents are $918 and $931 respectively.

• Compared with the MSA and the state, the Historic Triangle has a smaller proportion of households that are paying more than 30% of their income on housing. For homes with a mortgage, about a third of households in the Historic Triangle (33.6%) are spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing; for the MSA and the state, the proportions are 38.2% and 34.6% respectively. For rental housing, the figures are 46.3% for the Historic Triangle, 50.2% for the MSA, and 46.8% for the state.