CSPDC Kicks off Data Training Series for Regional Housing Study

The CSPDC recently began a Regional Housing Study in partnership with the Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR) and HousingForward Virginia. As part of the study process, VCHR will host a series of data trainings that are available to both CSPDC staff and the region’s local government staff. The purpose of these trainings is to introduce participants to the variety of publicly available data that can be used to assess regional housing issues. Additionally, the trainings hope to empower staff to update data in comprehensive plans, housing studies, and other projects without needing to engage a consultant.

The trainings will be held virtually, and will begin on Thursday, July 14th from 10am-11am, with the first session focusing on American Community Survey and U.S. Census data. The series will span across seven sessions and cover a variety of topics, including economic data, housing affordability data, and MLS and real estate assessment data.

Local government staff interested in attending any of the data training sessions can fill out a registration form here no later than Wednesday, July 13th.


Thursday July 14 – American Community Survey/U.S. Census

Thursday July 21 – Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)/Jobs EQ

Thursday July 28 – Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) Data

Thursday August 4 – Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) Data #1

Thursday August 11 – PUMS #2


TBD – MLS Data

TBD – Assessment

Afton Express Experiencing Increased Ridership

The Afton Express has seen an increase in ridership as gas prices remain high. Ridership has been steadily growing since the service launched in September of 2021, but has really taken off in the last few months. From February to May, the CSPDC saw passenger counts increase by about 5% each month as more people learn of the service. From May to June that number jumped to 25%. As of June, the Afton Express sees between 45 and 50 passenger trips per day Monday through Thursday. Ridership is slightly lower on Friday, as people may take vacation, or may drive their own car to get a head start on their weekend plans.

CSPDC Planners attribute the increase in ridership to several factors. Gas prices are likely a factor. Additionally, more employees are transitioning back to an in-person work schedule. And finally, the partnership with the University of Virginia’s Parking and Transportation Office has made it easier for UVA employees to purchase Afton Express farecards.

An expansion of the service is planned for the fall of 2022. The CSPDC seeks to add an additional run in the evening that would allow the Afton Express to better serve hospital staff who work 12-hour shifts and get off work later than the service currently runs.

For more information about the Afton Express, visit www.aftonexpress.org

Buena Vista’s $1M CDBG Downtown Revitalization Project is Underway

Buena Vista is moving forward with downtown revitalization activities. This spring, the City jumped into its $1M Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the Department of Housing and Community Development. The $1M CDBG project will fund streetscape enhancements along the City’s 21st Street Corridor, upgrade wayfinding signage throughout downtown, and develop a façade improvement program.

In May, Buena Vista installed an official project sign outside City Hall to note the project location, contractors, and funding source. The City has also launched its new, CDBG Façade Improvement Program. City staff and the project architect are currently collaborating with 14 downtown property owners to create façade design proposals. With approval from DHR, Buena Vista will finalize improvements with property owners, procure a contractor, and begin work to the downtown building exteriors. The Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission is providing grant management services for the project.

Localities Selected to Participate in Work from Home Pilot Program

This April, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) launched a Work from Home Pilot Program and selected three localities in the Central Shenandoah Region to participate: Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, and Highland County. (DHCD also selected the Town of Luray and Marion.) Through the Pilot Program, the National Main Street Center and Virginia Main Street will provide technical assistance to assess remote work and residential attraction as a community revitalization strategy. The program kicks off this May and will result in place-based recommendations and a feasibility report.

COVID-19 accelerated remote work trends and enabled many to relocate and telework. DHCD’s Work from Home Pilot Program will help localities pursue, prepare for, or respond to remote work migration. At a regional level, remote work has been discussed in terms of COVID-19 recovery and economic development.  The CSPDC’s COVID-19 Economic Impact Report, prepared by Chmura Analytics, includes a remote work analysis, and information on telework plans, remote work trends, and broadband.  More remote work resources are available on the CSPDC’s COVID-19 Recovery Webpage.

FTA Awards CSPDC $1.2 Million for Transit Hub Rehabilitation

The Federal Transit Administration awarded CSPDC a $1.2 million Bus and Bus Facilities Discretionary Grant to rehabilitate the BRITE Transit Hub at 240 North Lewis Street in downtown Staunton. The federal grant is matched with state and local transit funds, and will rebuild the surface parking lot with a concrete bus lane, defined parking, ADA sidewalks and a passenger boarding area with shelters and safety lighting. CSPDC will also coordinate with public and private partners to install 4 electric vehicle charging stations on the lot. The PDC anticipates construction of the new Hub in 2023.

CSPDC Awarded Community Impact Grant

On April 1st, the CSPDC was awarded a $200,000 Community Impact Grant to complete a regional housing study from Virginia Housing. The study process will begin immediately, concluding in spring 2024. The first year of the study will focus on data gathering and analysis and stakeholder engagement, and will result in an interim data report. In year two, the CSPDC will work to develop regional, partner-based, locality-specific recommendations and strategies.

The CSPDC will be working with the Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR), the Commonwealth’s official housing research agency, to complete the study. VCHR has a successful track record of analyzing regional housing data, and has led several PDC-wide housing studies. VCHR’s strategies and recommendations will be developed in partnership with HousingForward Virginia, a statewide housing policy and research agency.

To begin the study process, the CSPDC and VCHR will be holding a series of kick off meetings with local government staff over the next month, where VCHR will introduce the housing study scope and garner feedback about what local government staff would like to see from the study results. For questions about the housing study, contact Olivia Raines at olivia@cspdc.org.


Data Research for Recovery Plan Completed

Chumra Economics and Analytics has been working with the CSPDC to provide local and regional data that will be included in the Central Shenandoah Pandemic Recovery and Resiliency Plan. Data analysis by Chmura includes the impact of the pandemic on various industry sectors and employment, including the effect on downtowns and the housing and commercial real estate markets. New business trends such as the sizable employee shift to teleworking as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is also included in the analysis.

The next step in completion of the Plan will be for the CSPDC to integrate Chmura’s research into the overall planning document. It is anticipated that the Pandemic Recovery and Resiliency Plan will be completed and available for distribution in early 2022.

Afton Express Bus Begins Service

The Afton Express bus service connecting Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro to Charlottesville began operations on September 1. Ridership has continued to grow throughout the month.

A survey is being distributed to current riders exploring their satisfaction with the routing and schedule and soliciting any suggestions for potential service improvements. Surveys will be evaluated in October and will impact upcoming marketing efforts.

During the month of September, Afton Express passengers rode fare-free. Beginning October 1, a $3 one-way fare started to be collected. A cost saving ten-trip fare card for $25 is also available to frequent riders. Follow the Afton Express Facebook page for up-to-date information.

2020 Census Data

In August, the U.S. Census Bureau launched state-by-state profiles highlighting the preliminary findings of the 2020 Census. In addition to data on population growth, race, and the Hispanic population, the rollout also included totals for housing units and vacancy.

The total number of reported housing units in the CSPDC region is 131,088, a 4.5% increase since the 2010 Census estimate. In comparison, Virginia has seen a 7.5% increase in housing units over the past 10 years. Some localities have experienced more rapid housing unit growth than others; for example, housing units in Harrisonburg increased by 6.8% over the past decade.

Vacancy in the CSPDC region is estimated at 10%, which is a 2.6% decrease from the 2015-2019 American Community Survey (ACS) five year estimate. The State has consistently maintained a slightly lower vacancy rate, where vacancy currently sits at 8.2%.

The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service announced that more detailed data, including information on age, gender, family type, and homeownership, will not be released until 2022. The Weldon Cooper Center also cautions that there are significant data reliability concerns with Census 2020 data. Every data element has been injected with “noise” through a new method called “differential privacy” – which involves artificially increasing or decreasing numbers. Additionally, the pandemic negatively impacted Census participation and results. The CSPDC will monitor the Census website for any updates regarding future data releases.

Request for Proposals – Now Open

The Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (CSPDC) is seeking proposals from qualified firms interested in being included on an on-call list for the CSPDC’s On-Call Consultant Program. The CSPDC represents a five-county area in the central portion of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, including the Cities of Harrisonburg, Lexington, Buena Vista, Staunton, and Waynesboro; the counties of Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge, Rockingham, and the towns within.

The On-Call Consultant Program facilitates quick delivery of planning, architectural, engineering, and other services for local and regional projects. Other entities, including the CSPDC’s member jurisdictions, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham MPO, and the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro MPO, may purchase services through the On-Call Consultant Program. Additional information regarding proposal guidelines and requirements is listed in the Request for Proposal.

Proposals will be accepted until June 9, 2021, at 2:00 P.M.