October 15, 2020: 5th and Avon group to get briefing on Albemarle's new housing policy

  
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There are another 1,331 new cases of COVID-19 reported today by the Virginia Department of Health, and the seven-day percent positive rate for PCR tests has increased slightly to 4.7 percent, up from 4.6 percent yesterday. The total number of new cases over two weeks per 100,000 population is now at 166.9. 

In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are another 25 cases reported today with one from Fluvanna, two from Nelson, three from Greene, five from Louisa, five from Albemarle, and nine from Charlottesville. Louisa County is seeing its sharpest rise in cases to date, with 11 new cases reported over the weekend. The seven-day average for positive PCR tests is at 3.4 percent today in the district. 

The University of Virginia’s COVID-19 tracker reports 105 active cases as of yesterday among its population, with 80 of them students. Since August 17, UVA has tracked 1,000 cases, with 893 of them students. As UVA is not a separate health district, those numbers show up officially in counts for the localities in the Blue Ridge Health District. 

On August 17, Albemarle reported 913 cases and Charlottesville reported 560. As of today, Albemarle has added 539 cases for a total of 1,452 and Charlottesville has added 921 cases for a total of 1,481.

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A Charlottesville committee charged with advising the School Board on the eventual transition to in-person instruction is recommending that virtual learning continue through the end of the calendar year. The second nine-week academic period begins on November 9, and the  Covid-19 Advisory Committee recommends waiting until January to begin a phased approach to in-person education.  (slides for meeting)

The committee is suggesting that pre-K through 6th grade students have the option of returning to school four days a week beginning on January 11 and January 19. If demand is high, this could be switched to a two-day hybrid model. The group also recommends that 7th grade through 12th grade could begin in-person instruction two days a week beginning on February 1. 

The email sent to parents includes a question about why the committee recommends waiting.

“Much of the committee’s conversations have focused on Charlottesville’s data, including its higher-than-recommended new case counts (presently 2x higher than the CDC’s threshold for “highest risk”),” reads the email from Superintendent Rosa Atkins. “Additionally, the impact of the arriving flu season has yet to be seen. And finally, the coming disruptions (and increased travel) during the Thanksgiving and winter breaks reduced the value and safety of returning prior to January.”

The information is just a recommendation and is not intended to be construed as a plan.  

The Albemarle School Board voted 4-3 last week to have Kindergarten through 3rd Grade students resume in-person education two days a week on a hybrid model. (coverage)

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Today in meetings, the Natural Heritage Committee meets at 5 p.m. and the 5th and Avon Community Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. Both are virtual meetings. The latter get a briefing on the creation of an affordable housing policy in Albemarle.  (NHC meeting info)

The Board of Supervisors were briefed on the status of the draft plan last weekend. One of the most confusing aspects related to the cost of housing is the federal definition of the word “affordable” which for any given area is tied to a statistic known as the Area Median Income, or AMI. Stacy Pethia is the county’s housing coordinator and she said about a fifth of the county’s households struggle to afford where they live. 

“The current policy focuses primarily on affordable housing and it defines affordable housing as safe, decent housing where housing costs do not exceed 30 percent of the household income,” Pethia said. (draft housing policy)

Albemarle is an affluent area, statistically, and has a median annual income of $93,900 according to data on Virginia Housing (new name for Virginia Housing and Development Authority). That means price restrictions allowed through voucher programs and designated “affordable” housing are much higher than people expect. If you listen to the soundbite, you’ll hear an exasperated gasp from Supervisor Ann Mallek. 

“For reference the current fair market rent for a two-bedroom unit is $1,262 per month and the maximum affordable sales price for Albemarle county is set at $243,750,” Pethia said. 

The new housing policy is intended to find ways to encourage development of more housing within Albemarle based on the idea that more supply will lead to lower prices. The draft policy has 12 policy objectives and 39 strategies to achieve them as the area population continues to rise.

“According to the Weldon-Cooper Center population estimates, Albemarle’s population is expected to increase by about 26 percent by the year 2040,” Pethia said. “To accommodate this growth, Albemarle County will need to add 11,750 housing units to our current stock over the next years.” 

The 5th and Avon area of Albemarle is home to several future developments including the redeveloped Southwood Mobile Home Park, the Albemarle Business Campus, and Spring Hill Village.  The CAC will also get an update on Southwood this evening. (5th and Avon CAC meeting info)

The Charlottesville Human Rights Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info)