Harrisonburg, like much of the nation, is suffering from an affordable housing shortage, according to local and countrywide real estate data.
In response, the city has hired a firm to conduct a housing assessment and market study, the results of which will help City Council make informed decisions about how to tackle the problem in Harrisonburg, according to Mayor Deanna Reed.
“We’re going to have a wealth of information on what is our inventory, what is needed, what is not needed here in Harrisonburg, and it’s exactly the tool that we need to move forward to make the decision that we need to make for housing,” Reed said Thursday.
Data collected and analyzed by the study will include demographics, economic conditions, home ownership and rental markets, student and non-student housing, projects, trends, needs, financial gaps, programs, supportive housing and barriers, according to city documents.
Pennsylvania consulting firm Mullin and Lonergan Associates Inc. was hired to conduct the study, which has begun, Reed told City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.
The firm has conducted a housing needs assessment for the city of Pittsburgh, which has over 300,000 residents, among other housing, planning and economic development studies it has done for other localities, according to the company’s website.
On Wednesday, Reed said, she met with employees of Mullin and Lonergan Associates, as well as organizations that work with the Harrisonburg area’s homeless population.
Staff and council have been told that the full study, which includes recommendations for action council can take, is slated for completion in late January.
“It’s not going to take years and years like people think,” Reed said. “We’re going to have this information by January, and we will be able to bring it forward to the community.”
In March, Harrisonburg group Faith in Action called on the city to allocate $750,000 a year for an affordable housing trust fund. Housing trust funds, once begun by localities, receive public funding and private donations to promote affordable housing, according to the Housing Trust Fund Project, a group that provides information about the initiatives.
Mullin and Lonergan Associates are “looking at housing trusts, land trust, zoning issues,” Reed said. “If we can just wait till we get the information from the housing study, we will be able to make those decisions that people are looking for us to make.”
Adam Fletcher, the director of the Harrisonburg Community Development Department, is leading the project, according to city documents from July.
“We are very eager to dig into the data and research and to see what recommendations and steps we can take to make a positive impact for our community,” said Fletcher in a July 13 press release. “We hope to get stakeholders and key organizations involved in this discussion and then to present major findings of the data and research at a public meeting in the fall.”