Virginia Capitol Connections Summer 2022

Virginia Capitol Connections, Summer 2022 18 High Growth Localities Face the Challenge of Affordable Housing By JOHN MCGLENNON In an era where we seem to face new challenges to the government every day, cities, counties and towns are struggling to find ways to provide safe, decent housing which is affordable to the full range of ages, incomes, and special needs. While the challenge is being felt in almost every community, whether rural, urban or suburban, “high growth” communities face particular challenges. The pressure for development is already intense in these communities, threatening to overwhelm public services and facilities, choke roads, crowd schools, drive out long-time residents and threaten the quality of life that makes them so attractive to newcomers. But the waves of newcomers push land and housing prices ever higher so that even developments designed for first-time homeowners become unattainable. For the service workers needed to provide for everything from medical assistance to fast food to retail sales, finding affordable housing often means commuting dozens of miles. Local governments vary widely in their policies and perspectives on the costs and benefits of high growth, but they all are finding the need to address affordable housing. On June 30, representatives of a number of fast-growing Virginia localities met in Culpeper to share information and ideas on affordable housing. Sponsored by the Coalition of High Growth Communities (CHGC), the group heard from innovators in housing construction, the drafters of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) report on affordable housing, and representatives of the Virginia home and apartment builders, Virginia Housing, and local government. What we know and what we learned included the potential for lowering construction costs through the use of 3-D printers to “print” a high-efficiency, lower-cost home, how to use state and federal funding to meet housing needs for those with the fewest resources and those who provide essential public services, how conversions of underutilized hotels, motels, factories and office buildings can provide solutions, and how unsightly and deteriorating mobile home parks can be transformed. We even saw a farm silo converted into a housing unit outside our meeting venue, the impressive Old HouseWinery. The Coalition of High Growth Communities was founded twentyfour years ago, with the goal of protecting and enhancing the powers of cities, counties, and towns facing heavy development pressure. These localities want to be able to shape the way pressure to grow impacts their unique communities, rather than having a “one-size-fitsall” policy imposed on them from Richmond. We recognize the need to meet the housing needs of an economically and demographically diverse population.We all benefit from reducing the need for our vital workforce to live in the communities they serve, reduce commute times, and enjoy a shared community. We will not always follow the same paths, as we decide what pace of development we can sustain, and we can’t expect to meet these needs without significant public policy initiatives. Those initiatives should recognize that localities will need to have a strong voice in how and how much we grow. John McGlennon is Chairman of the James City County Board of Supervisors and serves as Chair of the Coalition of High Growth Communities, an advocacy coalition of communities that have experienced high rates of residential growth. Amidst the sturm and drang of a very busy legislative session, one bill met a timely demise in the Senate. HB 340 would have created “alternative” pathways to advanced studies diplomas for Virginia high school students. It created one pathway with language study but not career and technical education. The other path had CTE but no world languages. The bill passed the house, but fortunately for our students, it was quashed in the Senate. There are many good reasons to offer a multitude of credentials that serve a diversity of interests and backgrounds of our students. But it is equally important to look at secondary education as an opportunity to teach our students what they may never again have the opportunity to learn. This is the case with language study. Everyone recalls their least favorite classes in high school. Language study can seem to be more challenging than math, science or whatever because of the time it sometimes takes just to get comfortable with new words, grammar, syntax, etc. Our children’s experiences with the language we speak at home are demonstrative of this. Babies learn to eat, crawl, stand, walk, and sometimes even toilet-train before they speak. Learning their first language takes a lot of time. The same goes for learning another language as a high school or college student. Understandably, our elected officials and parents may be concerned that it may not be possible to staff our secondary schools with enough language teachers. But we face that same challenge with teachers of any other subject. So, the solution is not to cut languages from the advanced diploma; instead, it is to provide the same support to language instruction that we provide to other aspects of the high school curriculum. Despite the impact of globalization and social media, it may be the case that some of our students will never need to speak a second language. But the fact is, in a world that is made smaller and more intimate thanks to the communications revolution, the importance of understanding more than one language is greater than ever. We can take a lesson from the thousands of international students who come to our secondary and postsecondary schools each year to study in English as their second (and in many cases, their third or fourth) language. These students are empowered. They can live, learn, and work in more than one country, in more than one language and, as a result, have tremendous marketability and freedom to move around the globe. Do we not want to give our students the same opportunity? Perhaps a more frightening example of the importance of language acquisition comes from the reports of foreign interference in the 2016 election. Russian influencers used social media to create bogus websites, and circulate false information to the American electorate— in English. As Rick Hasen notes in his book Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons our Politics —and How to Cure It, Russians were able to influence our election thinking precisely because they had mastered American English. As a result, they could masquerade as fellow Americana and communicate with a wide spectrum of citizens in order to sow the seeds of discord. The Importance of World Languages in Virginia Secondary Schools By MARK RUSH Continued on next page V