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Fairfax County will need to add tens of thousands of new housing units over the next 20 years in order to make room for its growing workforce, according to a new study by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis.

The county — including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, for the purposes of the study — is projected to gain nearly 134,000 jobs by 2032, representing about 20 percent growth. The Washington metropolitan area as a whole will gain more than 857,000 jobs during that time period.

Read the full report

The full report, “Housing the Region’s Future Workforce 2012-2032” by Lisa Sturtevant and Jeannette Chapman, is available for download from the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis website, cra.gmu.edu, under the “Featured Research” section.

That level of growth “is healthy,” said Jeannette Chapman, a research associate at the Center for Regional Analysis and a co-author of the report. But, she adds, “it’s not necessarily what it has done in the past.”

This means that Northern Virginia’s population doesn’t need to grow at the same rate that it did between 1990 and 2012, when it added an average of 16,720 housing units per year.

In order to house its share of the region’s workforce, Fairfax County will need to add about 84,500 new housing units over the next two decades, the report states. That estimate assumes that today’s commuting patterns remain roughly the same, Chapman said.

“The industries of these new jobs in Fairfax are very important,” Chapman said.

The county is anticipated to gain a higher percentage of professional sector jobs than some of the other DC-area jurisdictions, which means workers here will be more likely to be able to afford higher-end housing, Chapman said.

“The demand for housing those workers will primarily be for single family, owner-occupied units,” she said.

About 75 percent of the units needed for the new workers will be owner-occupied houses and condos, according to the report, with the largest segment seeking homes in the $400,000 to $599,000 range.

Although the report cautions about having a sufficient level of affordable units, Fairfax County is also expected to attract more people who are shopping in the middle to higher end of the rental market, the report states.

The report also concludes that area jurisdictions need to ensure that development policies and plans are in line with economic development goals.

“Regions that have adequate housing to accommodate future workers will have a competitive advantage over other places,” the report states.

Chapman said having an available workforce is an essential component to attracting businesses.

“The jobs can’t come unless the workers come as well,” she said. “In certain industries, there have been problems trying to find workers within commuting regions.”

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com