Report finds Virginia is short at least 200,000 affordable rental units

Soaring rent prices are forcing a growing number of people to think twice about where home is

Rent prices are on an all-time high.

Across the country and the Commonwealth, people are struggling to find affordable housing.

A new report from the state’s Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission says Virginia is short at least 200,000 affordable rental units.

Soaring rent prices are forcing a growing number of people to think twice about where home is.

“They keep going up on rent every year,” Necole Cook says. “We haven’t caught a break.”

Cook rents an apartment in Salem. She’s been at the same complex for about eight years and had to get a roommate just to keep up on bills.

“It’s gone from about $650 to now $797 to $869 in July,” she says.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development says the average price of a two-bedroom in Roanoke is $999, that’s up 15%.

In Lynchburg, that average price is $836, up 10%. The average rent in Danville is about $688, up 53%. The Highlands are is about $739, only up 0.5%.

The New River Valley is the only area to see a decrease at about 3%. However, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment there is the highest at $1,255.

Several people wrote in on Ask 10 about their renting experiences. One person says, “My rent went from $585 to $625. That’s an increase of $40. The worst part is, I haven’t even been here a year.”

Another person says, “My lease automatically renewed and then I received a letter stating the rent would increase by $250 a month.”

“I have some properties that have increased 12% in the last year, which is astronomical,” Tricia Anderson says.

Anderson has worked in property management in Lynchburg for 15 years. She says there’s no cap on how high rent can go nationwide.

“Rents are increasing because of pure economics, supply and demand,” she says. “A lot of owners of rental properties in the last two years have sold them because the real estate market for sales is through the roof.”

On top of this, Anderson says more people are interested in renting. She says it’s a generational thing and that people aren’t as eager to put down roots.

She says the most important thing renters can do is read the lease thoroughly before signing because renters are locked in once they do.

For those that are finding the rent is getting too high, she suggests reaching out to your local housing association of the Virginia Housing Development Authority.

“You can get a voucher that will offset some of your rental costs,” Anderson says. “Some people that get vouchers, it covers 100%. There is still the CARES funds out there. I believe they’re out there until June and they will cover up to 18 months of past-due rents up to future rents.”

Renters can also downsize. She says to look for a place that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles or look into getting a roommate.

Roanoke relator Michelle Rhodenizer has another option for renters. She says it might not be a bad idea to consider getting a house since most rent prices now cost as much as a mortgage.

“It is a sellers’ market, but it’s still a great time to buy as long as you start looking in advance,” Rhodenizer says. “You don’t want to wait until the last minute because most homes are getting multiple offers.”

She adds there are a lot of programs and 100% loans that can help new buyers. It doesn’t cost anything to start the process with an agent or lender.

“We’re seeing homes list and sell in the same day,” she says. “I’d say a good average right now for a move-in ready home is about four or five days.”

Anderson says, like everything else, rents will eventually stabilize. However, she says she’s not sure if rent prices will ever go back to as low as they were.

“It’s worrisome not knowing what’s going to happen in the future,” Cook says.

Virginia senators say the Commonwealth will receive more than $114 million in federal funding to increase affordable housing.

About the Author:

Kortney joined the 10 News team as a Lynchburg Bureau Reporter in May 2021.