BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — The town of Blacksburg is looking to amend their charter, and because this requires an act of legislation, they’re looking to Del. Chris Hurst for help.
After speaking with Hurst, the local delegate introduced a bill that would amend the town’s charter.
The bill would allow the town to receive proffers, an offer that’s made before formal negotiations, from developers looking to build housing units and apartment complexes in the area.
An excerpt from the bill reads “…the Town Council is authorized to accept, as part of residential re-zonings, voluntary proffered conditions that would limit or prohibit occupancy by undergraduate students or persons under the age of twenty-three, unless such persons are part of a family.”
This would exclude students from applying to certain housing units, but why?
“The impact that the student buying power has, they can afford a lot more rent, basically, than a normal worker can,” explained Blacksburg Deputy Town Manager Chris Lawrence.
Lawrence says because of this many young professionals who join Blacksburg’s workforce are forced to live outside of the town, and this amendment could open up more opportunities for those wanting a shorter commute.
“We’re trying to approach it as what type of housing is best for the community, for workforce, and young professionals, and being able to limit a certain age population that’s younger than 23 is still within fair housing,” said Lawrence, referring to the Fair Housing Act.
One Virginia Tech senior, while agreeing with the concept of the charter amendment, doesn’t agree with how the town is tackling the issue.
“It just seemed to point the blame at students for the lack of affordable housing, which I don’t believe is the case,” said Camden Carpenter, a Smart Sustainable Cities Major at Virginia Tech.
Carpenter has been aware of the Blacksburg housing shortage for two years, and says the blame is better put at the town working with developers on constructing luxury apartments, rather than complexes that better serve the area’s demographic.
“The average student isn’t going to need a coffee shop in-complex or a tanning salon or a pool, especially now, given COVID,” Carpenter said. “A lot of these amenities aren’t accessible to students.”
She also says students who come from out-of-state may be unfamiliar with the local housing market and accept the high apartment rent as status-quo and not “getting ripped off,” but as a senior she knows the rent in Blacksburg is too high.
“$1,100 for rent? It’s insane,” Carpenter said.
Lawrence acknowledges students are the lifeblood of the town’s local economy and assures the student body that this bill, if approved, wouldn’t mean the end of student housing development.
“We’ve worked very closely with the university (Virginia Tech) on this and over the last four or five years have approved about three-thousand beds for new student housing, and that’s just now starting to get developed and built. Over the next two or three years, those bedrooms will be coming.”
While the bill is still a proposal, at this point, Lawrence hopes it can be passed so that the town can become a more attractive place for students and future long-term residents.
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