HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Henrico has approved 186 solar-powered apartments on an abandoned hotel near Chamberlayne Avenue, with one Henrico supervisor said it’s time for a “YIMBY” attitude to new development.
“YIMBY” refers to “Yes In My Back Yard” — the opposite of the more common NIMBY sentiment. That would see the county support higher-densities and more mixed uses in an effort to reduce housing costs by increasing supply.
The approved project, billed as “Ashley Terrace Apartments,” will be located just off of Chamberlayne Avenue near its interchange with I-95. The proposal, which was approved unanimously by the Henrico Board of Supervisors Tuesday night, would replace an abandoned lot with 186 apartments.
“The property was once a Days Inn that was torn down,” a county planning official said.
She also emphasized the inclusion of extensive solar panels, which are intended to supply all of the power needs of the residences.
“A unique aspect of this development is that solar panels are proposed on the roofs of the building as well as on a vacant property to the South,” she said.
A representative of the developer said they began the project after the county singled the empty lot out as a prime candidate for redevelopment.
“We would like the opportunity to transform this old, barren parking lot into a new community,” he said.
However, the project saw some opposition from the Northern Henrico Civic Association, a community group centered around Chamberlayne Avenue.
Lisa Walker, who represents the association, said they were concerned the project would increase traffic on the corridor. She also said the project was too dense at 22 units per acre, and that they would prefer owner-occupied units to rentals.
“We don’t necessarily object to housing, but we would like it to be owned,” she said.
That comment invited a response from Supervisor Frank Thornton, who said regardless of their preferences, there was a need for rental housing in Henrico.
“If you own a home, that’s a beautiful thing,” he said. “Now, it just so happens in this universe and in this world, there are some people who cannot own a home, they have to rent.”
The developer’s representative also went on to point out that the proposed project was not even within the boundaries of the Northern Henrico Civic Association.
Thornton also used the opportunity to call for a broad zoning reform in the county, with a focus on “YIMBY” policies.
“We have bad policies, we have some bad zoning approaches that we got to really sit down and talk about, and with everyone’s input we gotta change some of those,” he said.
The developer himself said the project on Chamberlayne would be built “with a focus on housing those whose incomes need a more attainable price point.”
But, as the staff report points out, that’s not something the developer has actually committed to in a meaningful way.
“Staff notes the applicant has not provided any commitments on the affordability of the proposed residential units,” the report reads.
The developer’s proposal also does not specify how many bedrooms the proposed 186 units will have. That makes it hard to evaluate the project’s value in combating the region’s ongoing housing crisis.
That’s because, according to a recent report on local housing, the area has actually lost 2- and 3- bedroom rental units while adding a large number of 1-bedroom and studio apartments.
That’s reflected in the cost of each type of unit. The cost of a 1-bedroom apartment has increased by just $100 on average since 2010, while the cost of a studio has remained completely flat.
Meanwhile, the cost per bedroom of a 2-bedroom has increased by nearly $200, and by over $200 for a 3-bedroom. That means that it’s become increasingly difficult for families to rent, but comparatively easier for single professionals who can afford to live alone.