Daily Press (Sunday)

Va. Beach aims to continue growth, address housing

- By Bobby Dyer Bobby Dyer is the mayor of Virginia Beach.

This is an exciting time in Virginia Beach, bringing the optimism of hope and the difficulty of challenges we must overcome. Over time Virginia Beach has endured tragedy and many challenges, yet due to the strength of our communitie­s we endured together.

With the shutdown of Virginia in March 2020, the collateral impact of keeping people homebound was enormous. We got the beaches reopened two months later, saving countless businesses and encouragin­g citizens to leave their homes and enjoy the outdoors.

Can one name a city that rebounded from the economic shutdown better than Virginia Beach?

We’ve also confronted our flooding problems, so evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, and dedicated $567 million in bonds to more than 40 flood mitigation projects. Avoiding

a tax increase, we absorbed the cost in our current budget and still maintained the lowest real estate tax of any city in Hampton Roads.

Attracting jobs is always a major priority. We’ve secured Amazon and other expanding businesses, and with the overseas broadband internet cables coming ashore in Virginia Beach, that job growth is poised to continue.

I always say, “Friends don’t let friends’ kids find jobs in Northern Virginia. We’ll get them a career here.” We are growing in Virginia Beach, and all statistics point upwards. Partnering with Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his economic team, Virginia Beach is bearing the fruits of success.

More and better paying jobs leads to more intact families, more disposable income, more profitable small businesses and city revenues not reliant on residentia­l taxes.

Job growth brings the challenge of attracting more people to Virginia Beach. We are an attractive city with safe neighborho­ods, a fun Oceanfront, excellent recreation opportunit­ies, great parks and trails and a quality of life second to none.

This creates a need for housing. Scarce housing results in upward pressure on existing home prices or rising rental prices. Of course, no city would want to hinder job growth and have falling home values, shrinking revenues and businesses leaving. The housing challenges are an inevitable result of successful job growth. Coupled with major employers such as the military and Newport News Shipbuildi­ng, housing is an issue faced by every city in the region.

Housing challenges are so significan­t that our military partners list it as a major priority. I chair the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, and their position is clear. Our executive director stated, “If the cost of housing in Hampton Roads continues to climb, this could have a negative impact on future military basing decisions.”

Solving the housing cost crisis actually strengthen­s our partnershi­p with the military.

It also improves quality of life and health. Sentara Health wrote that “too many families are burdened by housing costs, leading to a sacrifice in the quality of life that can negatively impact their physical, mental and financial well-being.” Sentara supports attainable housing that creates strong community engagement and shorter commute times.

The financial stress created by housing costs is exacerbate­d by the actions of the Federal Reserve. In the last 20 months, the Fed has raised interest rates 11 times to the highest since 2001. This hurts new constructi­on, which was already stressed by the post-COVID supply chain delays and runaway costs of lumber and steel. Adding to this the still too high inflation rate, especially on groceries and essentials, and today’s families have few options.

The need for quality, attainable housing is so great that the Virginia Beach City Council set housing as the fourth-highest priority, with education, flooding and public safety. We must solve all these problems in concert. That means supporting housing solutions without compromisi­ng education, flood mitigation and safety, and working with our military partners and nearby communitie­s.

Applicants who propose attainable housing work with city staff to reduce potential negative impacts. Quite often, for example, a new proposal will improve stormwater runoff on an existing property

We want our local economy to grow and create jobs. If we want those careers, we must find a way to address attainable housing so people who work here can live here.

We are committed to that balance between growth and quality of life to keep

Virginia Beach a vibrant and forward-looking city for years to come.

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