11  Bedford County

11.1 Primary solutions

11.1.1 Increase capacity and impact of Bedford Housing Coalition

Issue: Current efforts to coordinate and advocate for housing may not be sufficient to address quickly growing needs.

The Bedford Area Resource Council manages the Bedford Housing Coalition, a group of practitioners and advocates involved in housing, homelessness, and social services. The Coalition meets regularly to provide updates, discuss challenges, and identify opportunities to improve housing outcomes for Bedford residents.

However, accelerating demand for housing in the county—coupled with the limited ability of existing lower-income residents to absorb rising costs—is destabilizing more and more households. Furthermore, these same trends are now worrying employers and economic development officials, as workers across the wage scale look for other opportunities in more affordable areas. Today, Coalition members and other community stakeholders are very concerned about the county’s future if action is not taken soon.

Solution: Conduct a strategic assessment among the Coalition and allied stakeholders for increasing ability to educate leaders and the public on the importance of housing.


The Coalition and its network are a strong foundation for effective advocacy, but members have noted that the Coalition is under-resourced and members have full-time positions elsewhere that take precedence. Formalizing the Coalition into a nonprofit organization and expanding participation to include those outside housing, homelessness, and social services can help to increase visibility and support of the Coalition’s mission to “educate, collaborate, and advocate to increase and improve affordable housing opportunities in Bedford County.”

Increased participation from employers and economic development staff can potentially help to bring private sector funding to support the Coalition. Workforce housing has become a rallying point across the political spectrum and there have been emerging campaigns across the Commonwealth to learn from.

With increased funding and formalization, Bedford Housing Coalition, or simply the Bedford Area Resource Council, can hire a full-time staff member to help advance the mission of the network. This would reduce the burden on volunteer members of the Coalition and Council, and would ensure that the challenges and opportunities identified by the Coalition can be addressed effectively.


Immediate (within 6 months):

  • Invite business leaders and economic development professionals to join the Bedford Housing Coalition.
  • Discuss with the BARC Steering Committee the potential to formalize the network into a standalone nonprofit organization.

Short term (within 12 months):

  • Explore funding opportunities to support sustainability of BARC, or Bedford Housing Coalition, as a nonprofit organization.
  • Explore funding opportunities to hire a consultant for organizational development and strategic planning.

Long-term (within 24 months):

  • Evaluate the ability of the Coalition to hire a consultant to assist in the development of housing campaign. Consider launching a campaign around workforce housing to reach a broad spectrum of people.


Bedford Housing Coalition members will be responsible for elevating this issue to the Bedford Area Resource Council and advocating for formalization and/or launching a housing campaign. Consulting firms like The Spark Mill or organizations like the Center for Nonprofit Excellence may assist in exploring nonprofit organizational development.


There are no legal boundaries preventing the formation of a standalone nonprofit. Current members of the BARC Steering Committee and/or Bedford Housing Coalition would likely serve as nonprofit board members. Financial requirements to hire consultants, stand up a nonprofit organization, and launch a housing campaign will be significant. The capacity of existing members will be limited.


The scope of funds required is dependent on the path that Bedford Housing Coalition and Bedford Area Resource Council chooses. Organizational development and sustainability, as well as a housing campaign, can be costly.

At a minimum, the Coalition should aim for the equivalent of one part-time position, along with a similar number to support hiring consultants who can provide marketing and messaging services.


Philanthropic and corporate partners are likely to be the largest supporters of nonprofit organizations addressing housing advocacy and education, including The Bedford Community Health Foundation, Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, and United Way of Central Virginia, and Centra Health.


If choosing to launch a housing campaign, measure the collective impact of the campaign by asking nonprofit and private organizations to “sign on” to the effort as supporters, setting goals by audience type, and tracking total signatories by quarter.

If choosing to create a nonprofit, donations and sponsorship can be key indicators of growing success and impact. The number of donors, overall dollars received, and amount of other funds leveraged can help quantify success and reach.


The impact of an organization whose sole purpose is to address housing challenges in the county and advocate for residents cannot be easily quantified. An organization with representation from a broad spectrum of stakeholders, however, can have substantial influence on policymaking and decision-making.

11.1.2 Attract and incentivize developers to build lower-cost homes and increase housing diversity

Issue: Bedford County faces greater housing demand than can be supplied by developers working under the current regulatory and economic status quo.

While this demand exists across the whole housing spectrum, particularly absent are lower-cost ownership options that would be more affordable to existing residents. These include essential workers like teachers and nurses. County land use regulations, along with a shortage of construction and specialty trade contractors across the region, are a major constraint on creation of new lower-cost housing.

Solution: Reorient county regulations and resources to support developers who can deliver housing options affordable to current residents.

A combination of efforts to increase the supply of lower-cost homes include but are not limited to: streamlining the development process, offering zoning and land use incentives, providing financial support, and increasing technical programs and assistance to navigate the development process.


Attracting and incentivizing developers who can deliver lower-cost options requires a combination of financial, regulatory, and technical support. To accomplish this, Bedford County should pursue the following recommendations.

Monitor and amend permit fees as needed

In May 2023, the Board of Supervisors approved increases to county building permit fees per staff recommendations. Staff completed an analysis to compare the county to peer jurisdictions and proposed increases that would keep Bedford regionally competitive while still providing needed revenue to support the services rendered.

Change in certain permit fees (adopted May 22, 2023)
Permit Type Previous New
Single Family Residential .12 cent sf .18 cent sf
Addition Residential .12 cent sf .18 cent sf
Alteration Residential .5 cent sf .15 cent sf
Electrical Residential $25.00 $50.00
Plumbing/HVAC Residential $25.00 $50.00
Commercial Alteration .15 cent sf .20 cent sf

The full Agenda Item Summary for this action is available here: Resolution #R 052223-02 (PDF)

Staff should develop monitoring criteria to evaluate if/how these changes affect residential development patterns in the county. For the purposes of this solution, staff can focus analysis on single-family homes only. (See “Metrics to Evaluate Success” below.)

Should staff determine that the new fee structure is limiting desired development types (for any reason), potential remedies include:

  • Reducing certain fees back to previous levels (or other alternative amount), for certain building types or values,
  • Increasing certain fees for “high end” residential construction, and/or
  • Offering partial or full fee waivers or rebates.

To encourage smaller, more affordable homes, these remedies could be made available only to certain building types, sizes, or values. For example, the county may lower the permit fee to the previous 0.12 cent per square foot for homes no larger than 2,000 square feet.

Incentives for creative single-family development options

Reach out to and identify potential builders for innovative single-family development styles. These designs should focus on lower cost via density, material type, construction method, and other factors that can reduce prices without public subsidy.

Possible approaches include:

  • Modular or higher-end manufactured home subdivisions,
  • Cluster development of small cottage-style homes, and
  • Condo units in duplex or similarly small multifamily structures.

The most appropriate mechanisms to encourage each of those options will vary based on the county’s vision and priorities. Generally, however, strategies to incentivize such projects may include:

Pre-approved designs: Develop a “pattern book” of pre-approved designs eligible for accelerated and/or reduced permits and fees. The county can establish certain desired criteria (size, materials, style, etc.) in those plans that align with broader county development goals.

Discounted land: Proactively identify and market any surplus land already owned by the county or school board, with the condition that it be developed into the desired lower-cost housing types.

Builder grants: Provide funds to builders to cover certain planning and development costs (site plans, architectural drawings, environmental review, etc.) if the project includes lower-cost homes.

Homebuyer grants: Virginia localities do not have the power to provide real estate tax exemptions or abatements based solely on a home’s size, price, or other features. However, the county could consider a de facto abatement by offering multi year “grants” to buyers of lower-cost homes that partially or fully offset their real estate tax.

Optional density increases: Establish voluntary density bonuses within certain zoning districts that are available to projects that include a certain share (or entire share) of smaller and lower-cost single-family homes. (Also evaluate the efficacy of residential cluster options currently included in the county’s zoning ordinance, and amending as needed to promote less expensive homes.)


Immediate (within 6 months):

  • Examine building permit data from recent years to determine the current distribution of sizes (square footage and bedrooms), lot areas (acres), and sales prices for new single-family homes.
  • Identify particular builders (if any) who have been delivering relatively affordable products. Conduct outreach (interviews, focus groups, etc.) to determine what barriers currently prevent them from building more modestly-priced homes.
  • Establish process to monitor changes in development trends following permit fee changes.

Short-term (within 12 months):

  • Proactively share permit trends with county leadership and make them aware of any potential changes in developer behavior and proposed projects.
  • If needed, begin projecting possible updates to permit fees to incentivize lower-cost housing production. Estimate potential changes in county revenue.
  • Determine what kinds of lower-cost single-family development to prioritize with incentives. (For example, small site-built subdivisions, or infill modular homes, etc.)
  • Create definition(s) with stakeholder input to be used in policy and program language.
  • Select specific incentive strategies (as described above) and draft guidance that aligns with preferred development type(s).

Long-term (within 24 months):

  • Propose incentive packages to stakeholders and county leaders, gather and incorporate feedback, and implement upon approval.
  • Conduct education and outreach to developers to encourage their participation in the incentive programs.
  • Establish and track metrics to measure how successful the incentives are.


County staff: Monitor and amend fee schedule as needed, initiate stakeholder outreach, evaluate and draft incentive program options, and provide updates and recommendations to county leadership. Board of supervisors and planning commission: Evaluate and approve staff proposals, make recommendations, establish high-level objectives and direction for incentive programs.



Virginia state code (§ 15.2-958.4) grants local governments the power to waive certain fees for affordable housing. Localities must define “what constitutes affordable housing” in an ordinance, which may also include certain conditions and exceptions.

The state does not appear to place restrictions on how permit fees are structured, so long as any changes are approved by ordinance. For example, the county may in theory establish tiered fee rates for different types of single-family construction. A more formal legal opinion from the county attorney may be beneficial.


Much of the tasks described above do not incur necessary costs beyond additional staff time. However, any changes to the county fee schedule will directly affect revenues. Depending on circumstances and context, potential fee changes to achieve the goals in this solution could be structured as revenue neutral if reductions in certain fees are paired with commensurate fee increases on other development activities.

Possible builder and homebuyer grants do require direct allocation of county funds, since the appropriate indirect tax exemption mechanisms are not allowed under state law.


Staff’s recent research and work to propose permit fee changes provides them with very helpful knowledge about the relationships between those costs and the residential development market. However, additional staff resources and/or outside consultants will likely be required to thoroughly investigate and propose incentive programs described in this solution.


No upfront money is required for any potential fee changes; associated fiscal impacts would occur subsequently.

To be effective, builder grants for predevelopment costs should likely start around a few thousand dollars per award.

Homebuyer grants to offset real estate taxes can also vary depending on program design. Input variables the county can control include:

  • Real estate tax rate ($0.41 per $100)
  • Assessed value of homes eligible for grant
  • Share of annual tax amount to be reimbursed (e.g., 50 percent, up to certain fixed amount, etc.)
  • Length of rebate in years
  • Number of homes eligible for program in given year (or, participation is unlimited)


Along with unrestricted general fund revenue, some or all revenue from any future permit fee increases could be set aside for financial development incentives reserved for new lower-cost homes.


  • Average lot size of new single-family units
  • Average finished square footage of new single-family units
  • Average sales price of new single-family units
  • Number of homeowners below 100% or 80% AMI


The Charlottesville Homeowner Assistance Program (CHAP) is the only known local initiative in Virginia to provide direct grants to homeowners to offset real estate tax costs. Charlottesville’s program is targeted to long-term homeowners with low incomes facing potential displacement pressures. Although this policy goal is very different, the program demonstrates how localities can offer tax relief without a formal exemption or abatement.

Numerous localities in Virginia use progressive permit fee rates based on the estimated home valuation. Examples include:

  • The City of Lynchburg [link]
  • Roanoke County [link]
  • Rockbridge County [link]

11.2 Secondary solutions

11.2.1 Provide support for the aging population

Issue: A growing number of seniors in the county require homes and services to support their mobility status and changing health needs.

An increasing number of older adults are choosing to “age in place” (AIP) and stay in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Across the region, the senior population grew by 9,021 individuals from 2012 to 2021. In Bedford alone, the number of seniors living alone grew more than 900 over that period. Bedford also experienced a 56 percent increase of renters 65 years old and over.

Solution: Adopt and implement an AIP framework for local builders to address essential home modifications and community adaptations that address residents and life-stage changes.

Solutions include finding and/or training regional developers capable of retrofitting existing homes and building new patio-style housing that address accessibility needs. This work must be intentionally built into development patterns and transportation infrastructure to ensure seniors can access health and services needed outside the home, particularly in rural areas or areas along county lines.


While aging in place has always been the first choice of seniors, baby boomers are choosing this approach to aging at a rate well beyond their parents. Existing research shows that more than two-thirds of boomers want to stay in their homes as long as possible and resist the idea of moving into retirement homes, even as children and families are increasingly moving away from their parents.

Beyond the social motivations for this shift, the financial benefits of aging in place have also influenced many to seek this path. According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2021, the average cost of assisted living in the Lynchburg region is $4,625 a month.

Housing modifications become increasingly important as people age in order to assist in their adaptation to changing capacity and to maintain a sense of well-being and independence in daily life. The relationship between housing and health is especially important in very old age as older adults are more vulnerable to environmental challenges.

Designing an Aging in Place program involves at least two essential categories: Home modification and community adaptation.

Home modification begins with an assessment by a qualified professional.

  • Often these are people with an occupational therapy background.
  • They walk through the home with the resident to determine their individual physical needs and how the home needs to be modified in order to accommodate those needs.
  • The home assessment will look at current and future needs so that the plan can be put in place to ensure that the house will continue to need the changing needs of the residents.
  • Once the modification plan is in place, the challenge is to find a qualified contractor who will be able to accomplish those modifications at a cost the homeowners can afford.
  • Since many seniors have limited incomes, it is important to be able to find sources of subsidy that can make it possible for seniors with limited incomes to be able to take advantage of all modifications that will keep them safe.

Community adaptations relate to changes in public spaces that can facilitate an ease of access to community and services.

  • As seniors drive less, for example, there is a need to find transportation services that can take the place of self-driving.
  • Many communities are also looking at changing their own development patterns and infrastructure to make it easier for seniors to age in place in a way that does not separate them from the community.


Immediate (within 6 months):

  • Evaluate existing networks and leadership: Identify service providers and community leaders who are currently involved in working with seniors and would be well positioned to join a countywide Aging in Place Leadership (AIP) Team. This team would be responsible for organizing and guiding a comprehensive initiative following successful models like those in the New River Valley and the Village network model in Northern Virginia.
  • Identify gaps: Learn where the gaps exist in housing needs and services for seniors (i.e. access to food, transportation, recreation, etc.).
  • Map areas of concentration: Map the location of senior households in the area using tract or block-group level American Community Survey estimates to understand where concentrations exist.
  • Evaluate survey data: Review prior surveys of senior renters and homeowners in the region to refresh the understanding of their preferences and plans with respect to housing. Update findings as needed.
  • Seek best practices for an AIP policy: Research best practices from similar communities as to how they built AIP into policy and program decisions at the local level—for example, as a part of new developments or streetscapes.

Short-term (within 12 months):

  • Establish timeline and resources: Assembly a county-wide AIP Leadership Team to meet on an established basis. Develop an action plan by placing the AIP initiatives on a timeline and identify the resources needed for implementation. If resources do not permit full scale implementation, identify initiatives that can be piloted by order of priority.
  • Develop a home-modification program: Implement a comprehensive home-modification initiative that incorporates the following elements:
    • Home assessments: pursue outreach to older residents to support home self-assessments as well as access to low-cost certified home assessments.
    • Quality construction: coordinate with qualified contractors and use a construction quality control process.
    • Financial assistance: provide financial assistance to homeowners on terms that are consistent with their ability to pay for AIP home modifications.
    • Program navigation support: Many seniors will need a navigator/coordinator to help them through the process.

Long-term (within 24 months):

  • Coalition build beyond the county: Support localities in mapping and prioritizing the needs of their residents and identify areas of shared priority to be pursued at either a regional or local scale (perhaps as a pilot project if funding is limited). Ensure the CoC, regional healthcare providers, and other partners understand and are on board with plans.
  • Strengthen capacity: Establish consistent funding sources and training programs to continue to provide a stream of home modifications services to address all levels of need. This may involve create hub locations in rural parts of the county.
  • Incorporate AIP in housing education and outreach: Make AIP part of follow-up housing study conversations and outreach. If a housing forum is held, make AIP one track within the event. Use the existing community/senior centers, community events, and/or hospitals as natural venues for disseminating relevant information.


  • AIP leadership team: Initiate and coordinate program activities.
  • Local government staff: Educate partners and clients on information for existing resources, and assist with implementation.
  • Local senior service agencies, housing and healthcare providers, counselors, and volunteers: Provide direct services and update leadership team on changing needs and opportunities.

Connecting with regional institutions and leadership can further strengthen the work of local actors.


  • As with any program where advice is being given and changes are made to the homes of seniors, it is important to carefully assess legal liability. Making sure that providers are professionally trained and certified and that contractors are properly insured are critical elements to a properly designed program.
  • Aging in place is an extensive undertaking. It will require coordination of many agencies and organizations. The AIP leadership team is the starting point for this and can be built out with other public and private sector leaders.
Longevity Project

Richmond, Virginia

One model is to create a coordinating council that provides guidance and measures impact. In the Richmond area, that organization is the Longevity Project—a coalition led by VCU’s Gerontology Department but that includes local governments in the region as well as many housing and service providers.

The Longevity Project for a greater Richmond


Many traditional affordable housing funding sources can also be accessed to assist lower income seniors with aging in place. Most of these programs are means tested and only available to seniors with incomes below 80% of AMI and in many cases, less than 50% AMI. These include:

  • State and federal grant programs: Funding programs through the DHCD, HUD, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Virginia Housing exist that may serve the housing needs of seniors; however, these sources have significant limiting factors to serving effectively for home modification needs. CDBG funds, distributed by DHCD, may be used for a wider variety of housing, community and economic development activities. These funds could be used to make home modifications or repairs as well as make community adaptations.
  • Medicaid and Medicare: The Commonwealth Coordinated Care Plus (CCC Plus) is a Medicaid managed long-term services and support program that includes some minor home modification services for qualifying seniors. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rules are also providing strong incentives for health care institutions to address the housing status of their patients. This could include partnering for home modification initiatives—especially those in which trained occupational therapy professionals can evaluate home conditions and make recommendations.
  • Nonprofit assistance: Local affordable housing providers like Habitat for Humanity have demonstrated experience providing home modifications. The Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, (SERCAP) Aging in Place program, based in Roanoke, provides support services to help individuals who wish to continue living at home despite health setbacks, including adaptive design solutions for homeowners.

Aging in place, however, is not a unique need for lower income seniors. Many seniors with significant retirement income as well as substantial home equity are also in need of AIP assistance.

Any AIP program in the region/the AIP leadership team should recognize this and make access to programs and services available on a market rate basis, and connect local developers with the tools to succeed in providing the best fit for buyers.


Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP) - Seniors Safe at Home


The Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP) is a 30-year-old housing organization located in Albemarle County, Virginia. Over the last decade, AHIP has evolved into an agency that primarily serves seniors with a range of services to help them stay in their homes longer.

Seniors Safe at Home sets out to make sure that no senior citizen must wait for a critical home repair while helping them preserve assets and age in place. The types of repairs vary and include heating/cooling, roof leaks, stair and porch repair, kitchen and bath accessibility, plumbing and electrical problems, and issues with well and septic systems.


In 2016, this program helped 98 senior citizens with repairs and rehabs, or 53% of AHIP’s clients—as of 2021, the number of seniors rose to 66% of their total rehab participants.

AHIP uses a variety of funding sources; however, the largest share of its support comes from the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Both of these jurisdictions use local and HUD funds to support AHIP’s work. AHIP also raises a substantial amount of charitable funding every year from corporate and philanthropic sources as well as individuals.

AHIP - Safe at Home

11.2.2 Attract and retain public sector talent with housing assistance

Issue: Rising housing costs and limited options now impact localities’ ability to attract and secure talented workers.

Participants in focus groups and local government meetings shared examples of recent housing challenges faced by new hires and prospects for local government positions. These workers now have trouble finding a home at an affordable price and in the community they will serve. As a result, localities are finding it more difficult to maintain staffing and implement new initiatives across all functions of government.

In Bedford, the median household income for homeowners fluctuated between $71,000 and $77,000 between 2010 and 2020, above the national average salary for teachers and government employees (which hovered around $60,000 in the same period, according to the BLS).

Solution: Provide new and current employees with financial (and other forms of) housing assistance.

Ways to keep local government workers and attract new talent to live and work in the region include employee down payment assistance (currently used by Henrico County, Chapel Hill, and more places), rental location services, and other programs. This solution would identify and map out specific options a local government may want to pursue.


Keeping new and existing employees in the community can be difficult when the housing market is not keeping pace with wages. Employee turnover can be challenging for local governments, resulting in the loss of institutional knowledge and established relationships, and a significant time and resources to orient new employees.

By providing assistance in finding housing or even offering financial assistance, local governments can better attract and retain public sector talent. This can include housing subsidies, partnerships with housing developers, flexible housing loans, and relocation assistance to remove housing barriers and improve the attractiveness of public sector employment.


Immediate (within 6 months):

  • Establish a dedicated team consisting of public sector HR personnel, housing policy experts, and finance professionals. The team will conduct a comprehensive study to understand the specific housing challenges faced by public sector employees.
  • Begin negotiations with real estate developers and financial institutions for potential collaborations.
  • Draft a preliminary design of comprehensive housing assistance programs tailored to meet the housing needs of public sector employees.

Short-term (within 12 months):

  • Implement a direct housing subsidy program that provides monthly financial aid to those employees spending more than a set percentage of their income on housing costs.
  • Finalize partnerships with developers for priority access or reduced rates on specific housing projects, and with financial institutions to provide flexible housing loans with preferential terms to public sector employees.
  • Initiate a relocation assistance program that helps to offset the moving expenses for employees relocating due to job requirements.

Long-term (within 24 months):

  • Continuously monitor, review, and refine the assistance programs to ensure they effectively address the housing needs of public sector employees.
  • As necessary, expand the network of partnerships to provide a wider range of housing options and financial assistance.


One or several of the county’s existing departments would administer the program, sett guidelines, process applications, determine eligibility, and provide financial assistance.

Public employers, especially in programs targeting government employees, play a critical role in promoting the program to employees and providing necessary information.

Financial institutions that provide mortgage loans often collaborate with these programs, considering the assistance provided in loan evaluations and handling the disbursement of funds. Real estate agents and developers play a significant role in promoting the program and assisting in locating qualifying homes.


The programs can be funded through the county’s general revenue, state and federal grants designed for workforce housing and talent retention, contributions from partnered developers, and low-cost loans from financial institutions. Exploring public-private partnerships can also provide innovative funding solutions.


Live Where You Work - Arlington County


The county offers grant assistance toward the purchase of a residence in Arlington County for eligible government workers. Funding comes through general funds, and there are a number of restrictions on who can qualify and what types of housing they can put funds towards.


Around 25 grants have been made between 2021 and 2022 to help employees attain competitive home prices, with an average grant amount around $11,000.

Public Employee Homeownership Grant Program (PHEGP) - Loudoun County


The PHEGP in Loudoun County provides down payment and closing cost assistance to employees of the Loudoun County Government, Loudoun County Public Schools, and Loudoun Water who are first-time homebuyers in the county. The program aims to make homeownership more affordable for these employees, promoting community stability and reducing the commute times for public employees.


Over 118 public employees have been assisted through FY 2020, including county workers and public teachers, with the average household income for assisted households at $62,853.