Pulled from the comments of one of last week’s stories – Albemarle growth and appreciation

An excellent comment by JR Jackson last week:

I really question the value of these median price metrics, since it’s entirely possible that you’re not looking at an apples-to-apples comparison. After a closer look at the VAR’s July numbers, it seems that “median price” is really not at all indicative of market trends, which seem poor and getting worse with each passing month in this area.

Consider, average days on the market of 86 marked an increase of nearly 50% from the same month in 2006 and 10% from June ‘07. Homes sold were down 30% in July and are off 14% year to date. I could be mistaken, but a 30% decline in monthly sales is pretty much the worst number this market has ever seen. It’s the sort of decline you’re seeing in Bubble markets like Orlando and Miami.

The only thing preventing a full-blown panic might be the continuing efforts of the media to quote VAR members offering reassurance that real estate will still prove to be a good investment. Or, in the case of the Daily Regress, their decision to completely ignore the bad news. (Perhaps not wanting to anger their builder/Realtor advertisers?)

It makes you wonder why developers seem bound and determined to push through large-scale plans through local governments. Dumping massive supply into a rapidly declining market doesn’t seem to make much economic sense.

And from Luke:

As a real estate amateur and an intelligence professional, I know one thing for certain, the Defense Intelligence Agency is moving a sizable portion of its operations to Charlottesville, creating a significant number of high-paying jobs and likely keeping prices inflated as they have been over the past few years, so I have no fear in buying a house right now, in fact I’m building one. Granted, this may be a rookie move in a seasoned real-estate investor’s eyes, but the addition of 300-400 households to the Charlottesville MSA seems to be indicative of future growth of the housing market in C’ville for years to come. Perhaps this is the reason behind, as one commenter put it, “why developers seem bound and determined to push through large-scale plans through local governments.” Perhaps it is because they are basing their investments on the potential for future growth. Or maybe I’ll just too bullish for my own good.

And a great comment from Lonnie at Cvillenews:

… the current BOS have gone out of their way to increase growth with very little attention given to the quality of it. We can impose standards on the kind of growth that occur, and we can certainly stop granting the ability of developer to go over what they can do by right, unless they can demonstrate that the infrastructure is there to support it. … We could even choose to downzone areas in the county, (ed note: which they might do) so that they can’t be subdivided as much. In short, the Dillon rule does indeed hinder our ability to manage growth, but the county is not without tools to address these issues.

For that matter, Governor Kane [sic] has mentioned a willingness to work with local governments to give them more tools to address the issue of sprawl. I think that if Albemarle county was really serious about addressing these issues then it could do more to advocate for recieving more control or additional tools to address growth from the state.

There is going to be growth in the Charlottesville region. What the current BoS is trying to do is funnel growth into the growth areas, rather than allow sprawl to continue unbounded throughout all the rural areas. If we’re going to grow (and we seem to be) we should grow in the right areas, and we should grow in a smart manner – with infrastructure as well as houses.

As noted on Brian Wheeler’s site last month:

For the SFD permits detailed above (last 12 months), 61.4% were in rural areas and 20.25% were in the Crozet designated growth area … for ALL building permits in the County thus far in 2007 (594), only 95 are in the rural areas, or 16%.  This calendar year has a very different trend in growth area vs. rural area development.

And that is a “good thing.”

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  1. Lonnie September 19, 2007 at 11:34

    Thanks for the quote and the kind words. It just goes to show though that I should spend more time editing, in case my comments get reposted!

    To add a little to that, I think Biscuit Run could be the best practical test of all these concepts. Hunter Craig could either set the standard for the community with a quality development or simply flood the market with a new massive supply.

    Here are things, I’ll be looking for:

    * Is this development walkable?
    * Would it be possible for the same person to shop, work, and live all in this same development?
    * Will streams be culverted, or used as a dynamic and attractive part of the design?
    * Will run off be treated on-site with attractive features, like functional wetlands, green roofs or rain gardens? (and not just retention “ponds”)
    * Will any homes be LEED Certified?
    * What efforts will the developer make to identify, protect or restore wildlife habitat within the development (i.e. use native plants, keep existing trees, weave in green spaces etc.)
    * Will any of these units be truely affordable and appealing to existing residents?
    * How will this development work with the city and county to mitigate impacts on existing infrastructure (i.e. water supply, traffic/roads, and schools)

    If he’s able to seriously address these sorts of issues in his development, then it could not only help heal our housing market, but also restore consumer confidence in the quality and direction of development in our community.

  2. Jim Duncan September 20, 2007 at 06:53

    Lonnie –

    I agree with everything you say. I would add that I hope that the market demands those aspects to the development in addition to the developer providing them “out of the box.” The opportunity exists for him and let’s hope the public holds him accountable.

    Biscuit Run is going to be less than 3 miles from the Downtown Mall – the so-called economic engine of the City. If sufficient transit options exist, then a lot of cars could theoretically be taken off the road.

    Thanks for commenting so thoughtfully.