By Neil Williamson, President
Last Wednesday (11/4), the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors received a briefing titled “Survey of DIA Personnel Moving to Rivanna Station”. The survey, conducted by the Center For Regional Economic Competitiveness, a non-profit research organization affiliated with George Mason University, provides interesting analysis of the jobs (and some of the individuals) who will be relocating to the expanded Rivanna Station in Albemarle County. The Free Enterprise Forum has posted the full report (pdf) on our website.
The first question most folks were interested in are how many of the current employees are going to relocate when their jobs move to Rivanna Station. It is important to note this does not mean they will be moving the residence. 39% of those surveyed indicated they would be Definitely Moving, while an additional 9% indicated they would probably be moving.
This indicates a higher acceptance of moving than the September 2008 survey, it is also important to note these civilian employees must make their decision by May 2010, so the deadline is fast approaching.
As the report succinctly describes:
This suggests that when personnel receive more information about the move and as more imminent without alternative options, personnel that were once reluctant to move become more willing to accept the relocation plan.
The report also includes a good deal of demographic information about the DIA employees. The household income of DIA employees with two earners in the household is between $100K – $200K annually. The majority of the survey respondents indicate they will have one or more children in the home in 2010. Those families with school aged children seem to have a slight preference to moving to Rivanna Station (55%).
As the respondents have not yet made their final decisions about the move several factors were identified in the report that impact their decision:
Interestingly more than 2/3rds of respondents indicated they would be looking at purchasing a single family home during the two year time allowed for housing assistance.
The report indicates:
Only 10 percent of respondents indicated that they plan to rent a single family home, townhouse, or apartment. The remaining respondents (22 percent) are uncertain of their ultimate housing choice. As for where they are most interested in buying or renting a home, most reported that Albemarle County would be their first choice, followed by Greene County and Charlottesville. Respondents indicated that several factors are likely to influence their housing choice: high school options for their children, potential job opportunities for their spouses, the commuting distance to work, and more general quality of life amenities
Many of the survey respondents are expressing a concern regarding their estimated 7% drop in income (they receive a cost of living increase in the DC Market) will not be met with an equal drop in their cost of living.
Many respondents expressed skepticism about DIA’s current relocation incentive packages which will cover expenses of moving and logistics and one house hunting trip for up to 10 days as well as provide allowance for temporary housing in the Washington DC and Charlottesville areas. Their concern centers on the perception that the offered incentives will not make up for the loss of income and the potential loss from depressed home sale prices if they were to move to Charlottesville. Furthermore, many respondents believe that their overall income will significantly decline if they were to relocate to Rivanna Stations. Washington area residents currently receive a locality pay adjustment to account for cost of living differences. DIA workers moving to Charlottesville can expect their salaries to be adjusted downward by 7 percent below their current pay to reflect the loss of the locality pay adjustment.
Issues related to the pay scale and the concern about affordable housing seem to suggest that many DIA employees are not convinced that the difference in the cost of living in Charlottesville will make up for the lost wages, especially those seeking to sell their house in areas of Washington where housing prices have declined during the past two years
 Source: 2008 General Schedule (GS) Locality Pay Tables at http://www.opm.gov/oca/09tables/locdef.asp
As one would anticipate, the current state of the Housing Market in the Washington DC area is also a concern to those looking to relocate.
This report and the tables included should be required reading for anyone looking to understand the potential impact of the Rivanna Station Relocation on our region.