The Trouble With Building Houses
A comment by Joe Keating in the Blue Ridge Leader, August 2005
In 1969 I bought my house in Waterford in Loudoun County because it was affordable to me as it cost $13,500 and the taxes the year I bought it were $29. Of course it was in the tradition of old Virginia houses having no plumbing, running water, central heating or the other facilities I left behind in Arlington. It did have fireplaces, one with a crane for large pots, a nearby stream and a privy. Over the years I made a few improvements but now I could not afford to buy it and the taxes are about 25% of what I paid for the house, every year.
I am not complaining because I love Loudoun and it is my home and I had hoped to stay here until I die. Also I know Loudoun and have become quit expert at using the county services.
I used just about the full length of roads commuting until I retired and my wife JoEllen and I still use the libraries more heavily than most (currently having two books overdue). We use the Parks and Recreation facilities more than most. Our kids have chewed up acres of ground playing baseball and soccer and my wife still does her best to wear out tennis courts. We have used all the county services more than most except the jail, so far. We have, however, used the other aspects of the legal system more than average.
We even had a fire once and got rescued twice, again so far.
We have had six kids, all of whom have been substantially educated in Loudoun. One of our children was handicapped and in special Ed and most of the others tended to overuse the schools as students who took a lot of AP classes or went to Thomas Jefferson in Fairfax but just the average cost of education for them was a bargain.
If you take today's cost of almost $10,000 times 12 you get 120,000 per kid. If you multiply that by 6 you get $720,000.
Long before my youngest child graduated from Loudoun Valley High school I know that my presence in Loudoun County has cost the taxpayers well over a million dollars in today's money. Even if I had paid the county every thing I had earned they still will come up way short.
We are trying to hang on long enough to pay enough taxes to make up some of the difference since we no longer have any children in county schools. I have been fighting the temptation to have more children or to sell our house to someone who has children and needs good schools for them. We now even have indoor plumbing and central heat but now the house, in spite of being possibly the cheapest house in Waterford, is no longer affordable.
If we did sell our house we would then have to move some unfamiliar place that has affordable housing and Loudoun is centrally located between all our children. None of our grandchildren are living in Loudoun, so far. Given the remarks made by one of our supervisors, I think that most of Loudoun's residents could not afford their own house if they did not already own it.
Even most unaffordable houses are not going to make up for my shortfall because they usually come with their own 2.2 kids that cost $22,000 to educate and they only pay about $10,000 per million when the taxes are held down. Not many of the unaffordable houses are over the $2.2 million break-even point.
I keep telling our Board of Supervisors the trouble with building houses in Loudoun is that for every new house that gets built the county has a good chance of getting someone just like me, or even worse, and they are having terrible time just trying to afford just me, not to mention grandchildren.