Find Out What Virginia’s Housers are Thinking about Current and Future Affordable Housing Needs

We asked and you answered, and the results are in! We’ve checked the pulse of the affordable housing industry with a short survey of housing affordability in the Commonwealth.


We wanted to know how members of the affordable housing industry perceive the shifting challenges of affordable housing. Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out this survey.


Reminder: this is just a snapshot of how the survey respondents are feeling about several issues – it’s not a rigorously selected sample of opinion. With that, let’s take a look at the results.


Major Findings


  • Responses were provided by 145 individuals from across the state and from a diverse range of industries.
  • 73% of respondents think that affordable housing has become “much more” or “slightly more” difficult to find in their community over the past year.
  • Over half (58%) of respondents felt that the amount of housing resources in their community has “significantly” or “somewhat” decreased over the past year.
  • Only 9% of respondents feel “somewhat” or “very” optimistic about the future of housing affordability.


The most challenging housing problem identified by respondents was high rental costs. Urban respondents were more concerned about rental costs than average, while rural respondents said that poor housing quality was just as challenging.


Respondent Profile




Over half of the persons that completed the survey work in the nonprofit sector (56%), primarily in housing. Of the remainder, 21% work in government and 13% in the private sector. Common responses for “Other” included “education” and “retired.”



Geographic Distribution


Nearly half (47%) of all respondents live or work in urban areas. Almost a third (31%) are from rural regions, and the rest from suburbs (22%). Responses were provided by at least one person from 61 out of Virginia’s 133 counties and independent cities.



Analysis of Results


Availability of Affordable Housing


“Over the past year, do you think affordable housing has become more difficult or more easy to find in your community?”


By a wide margin, respondents agreed that affordable housing had become much more difficult (39%) or slightly more difficult (34%) to find over the past year. About one in four people felt no significant change. Only 4% said that affordable housing had become easier to find.



Availability of Resources


“Over the past year, do you think that resources to help with housing affordability in your community have been increasing or decreasing?”


About one-third of respondents each thought that affordable housing resources had either stayed the same (32%) or somewhat decreased (36%) since 2016. Twice as many said that resources had decreased significantly (22%) than increased at all (11%).



Future Assessment of Affordable Housing


“How pessimistic or optimistic are you about housing affordability in your community over the next year?”


Nearly three in four respondents were very pessimistic (34%) or somewhat pessimistic (40%) about the future of housing affordability in their community for 2017. Just 17% did not feel strongly either way, and only 9% were optimistic at all.



Housing Challenges


Respondents were asked to rank five housing challenges from least challenging (1) to most challenging (5) in their locality. “High rental costs” was selected as the most challenging by 40% of respondents, followed by “Poor housing quality” (18%), “High home-ownership costs” (15%), “NIMBY opposition” (14%), and “Limited senior housing” (12%).

Housing Challenges Ranked as “Most Challenging”




On the other hand, respondents in rural localities chose “Poor housing quality” (39%) as equally challenging as “High rental costs” (38%). “Limited senior housing” was selected as the most challenging problem for 22% of rural respondents, while “High home-ownership costs” and “NIMBY opposition” ranked very low. These results closely resemble the findings in Housing Virginia’s report on rural housing issues in the state.


Housing Challenges Ranked as “Most Challenging”

(Rural Areas Only)



In urban localities, “High rental costs” were the biggest concern for nearly half (47%) of respondents. “High homeownership costs” were identified as the most challenging problem for 22%, followed by “NIMBY opposition” (16%), “Poor housing quality” (12%), and “Limited senior housing” (7%). This anxiety reflects the ever-expanding need for new, affordable rental units in Virginia’s growing metro areas.


Housing Challenges Ranked as “Most Challenging”

(Urban Areas Only)


Taking the average ranking for each challenge provides a value between 1 (least challenging) and 5 (most challenging). As expected, “High rental costs” scores highest with an average rating of 4.04. The remaining challenges rank somewhat equally between each other, indicating that many housing advocates have similar levels of concern for these problems.


Average Difficulty Ranking for Housing Challenges


Additional Comments


Respondents were offered a space to provide any additional comments on housing affordability concerns in their community. Some common issues were:


  • “Affordable” housing does not always equal safe, quality housing.
  • New housing construction is primarily luxury/upscale and not affordable.
  • In college towns, rents are skewed higher because college students might have their costs subsidized by loans or family assistance.
  • Local governments should require more affordable units in new construction, along with proffers to support community needs.
  • Affordable housing is difficult to find for seniors on fixed income.
  • There are fewer financing incentives for affordable housing in rural areas and small towns.
  • More supportive housing is needed to lift the extremely low income and unhoused populations out of poverty.
  • Minimum lot size requirements and building restrictions, combined with NIMBY opposition, keep affordable units from being produced in growing suburban communities.
  • Wages are not growing along with rising housing costs.