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Commonwealth's Counties

VACo Opposes Legislation Giving Religious Organizations “By-Right” Authority to Build Residential Units

SB 233 (Hashmi) and HB 1124 (Carr) permit a religious organization to construct housing on real estate owned by such religious organization, regardless of whether the proposed development is consistent with a locality’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance. The legislation specifically states that “… If the locality’s zoning does not permit residential uses, the housing development shall be allowed a density of 40 units per acre and a height of one story or 15 feet above the maximum height otherwise applicable to the parcel.

In order to bypass local authority for approval, the following conditions must be adhered to:

  • The total number of units, exclusive of a manager’s unit or units, are for persons of low income, except that up to 20 percent of the total units in the development may be for persons of moderate income, and 5 percent of the units may be for staff of the religious organization that owns the land.
  • The housing development remains dedicated for persons of low income for at least 99 years.
  • The housing development must be managed by a nonprofit property manager with experience managing affordable housing that has entered into an agreement for such purpose with the religious organization.

Contact your legislator to vote “NO” on SB 233 and HB 1124. SB 233 is scheduled to be heard in Senate General Laws and Technology Committee on January 17. HB 1124 has not yet been referred to a committee for assignment.


  • VACo supports maintaining local authority to make land use decisions on the location and density of residential development.
  • By right development of residential development on any property, regardless of its location and access to adequate public facilities such as water, sewer, and roads, is inconsistent with the goals and objectives of sound land use policy and practice.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

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