If you have paid any attention at all as you drive around Charlottesville and the surrounding Central Virginia area, you can’t help but notice that there is new housing (both for sale and for rent) everywhere you look. In fact, new home sales are make up more than 20% of all closings in our market area. Realtors are always asked, “Where are all these people coming from?” At first, glance it makes no sense. You don’t hear of any major corporations or companies moving to the area. And yes, fortunately or unfortunately, Charlottesville is not on Amazon’s list of cities to build their east coast location. So why? Here is my shot at answering the question from where and why.
First, Charlottesville continues to be on most every list when it comes to top cities in which to list. Because of this attention, many people are buying or renting 2nd homes so they can come enjoy all our community has to offer. They start out making it a 2nd home and then ultimately retire here. In 2016, there was a survey that said 4% of all UVA alumni end up having a 2nd home or retire here. As an example, the 2020 class as shown in this article will graduate somewhere around 4,000 student which using the 4% number means at some point 160 of them will come back here. Obviously, the classes before them have been smaller but this points to a continued need for 2nd home and retirement housing.
Secondly, whether you agree or disagree with this policy, government support of defense contracting is on the rise. Therefore, the Northern Albemarle facility of NGIC along with defense contractor Northrup Grumman Sperry Marine and other defense contractors are frequently adding new positions.
Another key area of growth is at the University of Virginia especially in the bio tech area. I was at a meeting a few months ago where it is stated that Charlottesville is now the 7th largest community for this type of research. This link is almost 6 years old but shares exactly the point I am trying to make here.
Finally and probably the most significant of all the others is the start up businesses that have been encouraged by the I-Lab at Darden or the incredible work of Paul Beyer and the TomTom festival . These companies of 1, 2, or 3 like Willow Tree, Inc, Apex Clean Energy, and PsiKick along with many others have quietly grown into significant employers here in Charlottesville.
All in all, and for all these reasons, housing is definitely needed and affordability still remains a real challenge. Hopefully with organizations like Charlottesville Area Development Round Table and Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust in cooperation with the City and surrounding counties, solutions to this critical need solutions can be found.