Housing plays an integral role in the health of an overall community including recruitment of new businesses to an area. Some of the most affordable housing in Virginia can be found here with an owner-occupied home valued at a median $116,900. This value peaks in South Hill at $136,000 and is closer to $105,000 in Brunswick County, but overall, housing is very affordable in this region. Just under a quarter (23.7%) of all housing units are mobile homes.
The housing stock in the Southside Planning District is mostly single family detached homes built after World War II. Only 11 percent of houses in the region have been built since 2000. In addition to aging, many structures are vacant and not available on the housing market. This presents a dual challenge to communities in terms of aesthetics as well as underutilized residential land. A vacant structure that cannot be occupied is a detriment to the community
Multi-family housing structures are very limited in the region, but two recent examples include the Taylor Lofts and New Brick Historic Lofts which are adaptive reuse projects creating mixed-income, multifamily housing from vacant industrial buildings. Taylor Lofts are 47 affordable housing units located in historic downtown South Boston in a former tobacco factory. The New Brick Lofts added 27 market rate housing units in downtown South Boston in the last remaining tobacco warehouse in the town. The Town of Halifax has renovated the historic Halifax High School into thirty (30) market-rate rental, 1- and 2- bedroom “loft-style” residential units. Historic features have been preserved and highlighted, as this project utilizes federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits.
Another indicator of housing health is the number of structures without indoor plumbing. Census figures indicate approximately 275 structures that have been identified, mostly in Mecklenburg and Halifax Counties. The Southside Planning District (SPDC), through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Indoor Plumbing Program (IPR) has helped to reduce those numbers by providing assistance to over 100 homes in the region since 1993, and the SPDC – in partnership with the Southside Outreach Group, Inc. – will continue to work with localities to reduce that number to zero within the District.
While many challenges lie ahead with housing in Southern Virginia, affordability is not one of them. Additionally, as the economy continues to turn around, derelict structures can be removed or rehabilitated, vacant land identified for housing can be developed, and vacancy rates will reduce.