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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | May 18, 2012 at 8:50 am | 2,085 views | 102 Comments

Artomatic Starts Tonight — Artomatic, described as “the D.C. area’s biggest unjuried arts extravaganza,” will kick off in Crystal City tonight. The five-week event is being held in a former Department of Defense office building at 1851 S. Bell Street, and will feature 10 floors of work by local artists. Artomatic was last held in the District in 2009. [Express]

Affordable Housing Push — A coalition of Arlington affordable housing advocates are preparing a public relations push to make the case for more affordable housing in Arlington. Supporters will be attending community events over the next six month to educate residents about the loss of affordable housing in the county. Currently, affordable housing initiatives are about 5 percent of Arlington County’s $1 billion budget. [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Company Makes Bomb-Proof Underwear — An Arlington company called Secure Planet is manufacturing tens of thousands of pairs of “shrapnel shorts,” which are designed to protect the pelvic region of military service members in the event of a bomb blast. [WJLA]

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  • ArlingtonWay

    Again with the obsession with “affordale housing” by politicians and activists. Do you think they ever think how some of their own policies are the very ones which make it unaffordable for many to live here?

    • MarceyRd

      Of course they think about it. They are forced into back-filling affordable enclaves into Arlington to mollify the low income residents who would be displaced if Arlington remained a totally open market for housing. The backlash of doing nothing could potentially end up in litigation over civil rights violations.

      • Ben

        I think what ArlingtonWay is trying to say: the zoning and various other restrictions imposed by local politicians and local activist results in artificially low housing volume and pushes prices up.

        If the area was a “totally open market” as you put it – a lot more building would be taking place and prices would fall.

        • drax

          So he’s saying the Board is restricting development too much?

        • John Fontain

          What’s un-open about our market?

          • Corey

            Ever noticed how dense building stops abruptly 1 block off Wilson/Clarendon? You think that’s the result of a market?

          • drax

            Pretty much all cities have zoning. Nobody wants a completely free market.

        • Corey

          Yep, precisely

          • CW

            Hmm, a density-lover and cylist-hater. You must be a developer, because you’re certainly not a smart-growther.

          • Corey

            hint: i wasn’t being serious in the bike thread

          • CW

            Had me fooled.

        • Lucifer

          There is a middle way. Could the land use plan be more accommodating to development in the right places. For example consider that there is a metro stop at East Falls Church. During a recent study there was a very strong contingent insistent on keeping all housing around the subway small single family homes. Should this give way to dense development immediately around the subway stop tapering down to single family height?

    • drax

      Details please.

    • DSS10

      You level of empathy borders on being psychopathic(1).

      (1)Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights and welfare of others and the rules of society.

      Go move to Mexico, you’d be happy there.

      • ArlingtonWay

        Rights? Rule? Hilarious. Now people have a RIGHT to live in Arlington subsidized by me? I’m going have to go ahead and kind of disagree with you on that.

        • DSS10

          There are rights and rules here that are both societal and legal. I guess you have never been anywhere else in your life where there are none. I would love to drop you off in a nice neighborhood in Cote De’ivory or let you have a nice unescorted stroll in Sinola Mexico after midnight.

          You don’t subsidize anyone, these are the people who are subsidizing your lifestyle by not earning wages that would allow them to afford the least expensive housing in this area. It’s because of these people that you do not pay $10.00 for a hamburger at McDonalds or $25.00 to get a suit dry cleaned.

          Your a real asset to the community (and this country).

          • John Fontain

            No offense DSS, but this is one of the nuttiest viewpoints I’ve ever heard. You would benefit by reading about markets and specifically about marginal buyers and sellers. Consumers pay as little for something as they can and sellers charge as much as they can and there is nothing wrong with either side doing this. It’s how markets work.

          • KalashniKEV

            But would it be so much *nicer* if it was each according to his own need? Peace, Land, and Bread, Tovarish! Hope and Change! Si se puede!

          • SomeGuy

            It’s not often that I agree with John Fontain, but DSS10… really?

            The scary part is that in other Arlnow threads, DSS10 argues on behalf of fair market pricing and claims to have a PhD in economics.

          • John Fontain

            “It’s not often that I agree with John Fontain”

            Yeah, but you’re smart so I know you’ll come around.

          • SomeGuy

            I think you have it backwards… bra’.

          • ArlingtonNow

            I’m originally from Mexico. But I’m really happy to have you explain my home country to me anyway. As for your prattle about how people on Section 8 paid for by my tax dollars are subsidizing my lifestyle, what can anyone say? Perhaps if we bring in enough poor people our hamburgers will be free!

        • marie antoinette

          +10

  • meh..

    hmmm…interesting that Artomatic isn’t being held somewhere else in Arlington…somewhere like..I dunno…Artisphere maybe??

    • drax

      Artomatic is probably too big, and I think Artomatic is free admission – doesn’t help Artisphere.

    • WeiQiang

      It takes up 10 floors in an office building, which is way beyond the capacity of the Artisphere. This is a collaborative effort with the sponsors, Crys City BID and Vornado that Artomatic has used before to take advantage of empty office buildings in Crystal City.

      I think it’s a great use of temporarily availabe space for artists that might not otherwise be exposed.

  • Taxpayer

    As long as affordable housing is cramped on Columbia Pike and not allocated in large chunks elsewhere in the County, Arlington is not providing the “diverse” community that “everyone wants to raise their children in”.

    As long as affordable housing is over allocated to Columbia Pike, there’s no sense in helping the County Board accomplish anything.

    • SoArl

      +1

      • Tired.

        I haven’t noticed an ‘over allocation’ of affordable housing on Columbia Pike, and I am not aware that any buildings are solely devoted to low income housing or that the majority of units are afforable units.

        Or is it poor people & foreigners that you are complaining about, and you are assuming that all of their dwellings are low-income level units? Do you work for the county in the housing program? Or just watch a lot of Fox News and enjoy making sweeping generalizations where no one knows enough about to argue with you?

        Many places with affordable units have waiting lists that are years long.

        http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/cphd/housing/CPHDHousingHousingDivision.aspx

        • SoArl

          Are you serious? After the two huge complexes that are being planned in Columbia Heights West, the neighborhood will have the largest number of CAFs in the county. Do your homework. Is it so awful that we want it spread around the county instead of concentrated in a small area?

          • South Awwlington

            SoArl – I agree with you 100%. People who don’t live in these neighborhoods have no way of knowing.

          • Josh S

            No way of knowing what?

          • South Awwlington

            Pardon. I should have been more clear. Building densities and locations of Affordable Housing are readily available on the County website. Anyone who pretends that Columbia Pike is not overly targeted for reallocation of Affordable Units is either illiterate or incapable of having a discussion of this issue due to political affiliation.

            If you think Columbia Heights West is going to just “clean itself up” due to Affordable Housing rather than mixed development, I would invite you to explore the Buckingham Neighborhood on Glebe Road, just north of Rt 50. We can do better than this. Better is not excluding Affordable Housing entirely but it surely isn’t isolating it in it’s own enclaves so it can fester.

        • Arlington Mill

          is 100% affordable. Perhaps it is easier to judge from Williamsburg or Chain Bridge or Military Road.

          This county needs a lot of services and infrastructure upgrades. Dolling out free money so they can live wherever their heart desires shouldn’t be a priority.

        • Taxpayer

          I have no problem with any demographic or ethnic background. But it’s silly to sit in your quasi-gated community north of the Orange Line and say that diversity is great, as long as those kids go to Wakefield and certainly not to Yorktown, W&L, etc. and their family lives along Columbia Pike.

          How about, instead of a $1.7 million dog park in Clarendon, we used that lot for a 40-50% AMI 13-story highrise?

          I have no problem with affordable housing, unless you cram development after development of it together or dedicate a whole stretch of road to it. Affordable housing works when it’s part of the whole community and not when you declare that South of 50 is ARLSection 8.

          • SoArl

            I love you, Taxpayer.

          • Win-Win-Win

            So why don’t they build it there and put a dog park on the roof? Then the developer pays for the dog park and the county can use the $1.7 m to shore up the bulkheads in Donaldson Run instead.

          • http://Mone@none.com ArlingtonWay

            But you are getting the trolley!! Isn’t that good enough for you?

          • South Awwlington

            If we were getting a Blue Line extension, then we could talk.

          • Trev

            We need a Bro Line extension, brah.

          • South Awwlington

            “The D_Bag line”

          • WeiQiang

            … and lots of nice sidewalks made of pavers with cool old-fashioned street lights.

          • ArlngtonNow

            They put some of these silly old fashioned street lights in my neighborhood a few years back. They look so out of place with the home styles. More appropriate for London or an Arthur Treacher’s parking lot.

          • South Awwlington

            The street lights look much better than the old ones which seem to list to the right atop cement posts.

          • dk

            No argument here.

  • JamesE

    Donaldson Run is a prime location for affordable boat houses

  • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

    Anyone know if those underpants can contain explosions from within?

    • mrh5028

      If they do, Chipotle can probably sell them and turn a decent profit.

    • drax

      Gee, didn’t see that joke coming a mile away.

      Didn’t consider posting it myself either. Nope, not at all.

    • Tabs

      In our current wars, a lot of service members have suffered catastrophic injuries (including loss) to their genitals.

      I hope it’s comfortable enough that they’ll want to wear them.

  • KalashniKEV

    All housing is already affordable… to those who can afford it.

    • Josh S

      Ahh so…..

      • South Awwlington

        Is there something unclear about Kev’s statement? It seems pretty straightforward to me.

  • Bender

    Let’s be truthful here — there was no “loss” of afforable housing, there was the intentional destruction and elimination of affordable housing by developers with the prompting and blessing of the County government and its urban villlage smart growth hyperdensity policies.

    • Bender

      And this to go along with the intentional destruction and elimination of affordable business rents, in favor of new construction with unaffordable rents, in ever-increasing areas of the County.

      • Lee-n-Glebe

        So . . . “intentional destruction of affordable rents” or whatever is a bad thing? If you own a commercial property, you probably do so for income – and for “profit”. Which, as far as I can tell, is still legal to create. If you get the opportunity to legally put something in or on your property (or even redevelop it) that allows you to charge more rent and thereby increases your income (and theoretically your “profit”, I don’t see how there can be even a moral objection to your doing so. It’s progress. If you want to live in an area where there is no economic incentive to moving a property to an economically higher and better use, the Arlington isn’t for you.

        I don’t think there’s a lot of development going on in Detroit right now, for example, and plenty of “affordable” residential and commercial space to be had – without the need for initiatives! And it will stay that way until the Eeeevil Developers start replacing the “affordable” stuff with improved, less affordable stuff. Which will probably happen when their economy improves, so someht say that’s a “good thing.” Some.

    • Corey

      Can you please explain your logic here? How on earth could adding additional units to the county housing stock lead to higher housing prices?

      • drax

        And how could it be stopped, if we wanted to stop it?

      • Bender

        By tearing down existing affordable housing and then building new housing on those spots. With all of the high cost of that development — which pre-existing housing does not have — being added into the rent. All of those multi-millions to construct these buildings gets passed on to the tenants.

        Why do you think that so many of these new units are passed off as “luxury”? It is to justify the high rents they come with.

        • Corey

          Relative luxury is only a determinant of rents at the margin. As I’ve said before, you can find “luxury” units identical to the ones in Rosslyn/Ballston in Baltimore, that rent for a third of the price. Why? “Luxury” isn’t that important in setting rents; demand for the area is.

      • Bender

        Ask all of those thriving ethnic businesses in Clarendon how all of this “smart growth” increases costs to unaffordable levels. Oh, wait, you can’t ask them because they have been priced out of the market and they are no longer there. Instead, they have been replaced by various new establishments that also soon go out of business because they can’t afford the rents.

        • Corey

          They weren’t priced out because of the smart growth, they were priced out in spite of it.

          Think about it: Manhattan and Brooklyn are super-dense and feature an endless list of low-rent ethnic businesses. Density doesn’t lead to higher rents, higher demand does. Density along the Orange Line hasn’t (and may never, with current policies) caught up with demand.

        • drax

          Bender, you’re blaming smart growth for growth. Growth happens whether you like it or not. You can only make it smart, or not.

    • ArlingtonWay

      + 1 million. The point I hoped to make above which you make much better. The Board whines constantly about the lack of affordable housing. Gee, I wonder why that is? I grew up in Arlington and there used to be plenty. They refuse to see the relationship between the destruction of affordable housing and the fact that they are in thrall to developers.

      • drax

        There used to be plenty of cows in Arlington too. So what?

        • ArlingtonNow

          The “what” is that they are not spending tax money to bring in cows, genius.

    • South Awwlington

      Bender – I agree. There is no brain surgery about this. The board entered into redevelopment (beginning with the RCB corridor). They became addicted to the higher tax revenues associated with this. –> People become displaced due to redevelopment and gentrification. –> Board needs to give something back to displaced, both for moral and political reasons. –> Developers, realizing a downtown or a crowding in traditional development markets, coin the term “Affordable Housing” and find yet another way to make a buck all the while doing for the “little people.”

      • South Awwlington

        *downturn not downtown*

        Can we please edit our comments?

  • John Fontain

    5% is already enough!

  • Ballston Resident

    How many more housing units does Arlington need to add to bring the true market rates down to not exceed 30% of a household’s income that is at 60% of the AMI?

    • CW

      THAT is the question that should be answered.

    • WeiQiang

      I suspect that those lines on a graph will never cross … unlessssss, ArlCo dedicates new development near EFC Metro to focus on affordable housing.

      • Ballston Resident

        I don’t know. Has anybody ever stopped to do the math to see what that monthly rent burden would be? AMI is a known number, the rest is just simple math.

        And FYI, the 30% of income burden is a HUD standard for determining when housing becomes “non-affordable” to someone.

    • Josh S

      I’ll just take a WAG and say 10,000. (I would not be surprised if it is far north of that number.)

      Now what?

      It’s like arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

      • SoArl

        So, having actual data just isn’t important? A random guess is okay? (I was wondering when you were going to show up, Josh S.)

        • Corey

          No, I think the point is that there’s a ton of uncertainty in such data (measurement isn’t great, reality changes all the time) and even an “informed” “calculation” is likely to be a WAG in the first place.

          Re-zone residential neighborhoods along the metro corridors, let developers do their thing, and we’ll see equilibrium in a few years.

          • SoArl

            I take issue with your assumption that the calculations can’t be at least give you a guideline (I work with economists so I know they can to a point) but I like your suggestion. A lot.

          • Sterling

            A few years???? With all due respect, Poppycock. Just the accumulation phase of SFH lots to build something could take a generation, until the inevitable last holdouts are out of the pictures.

          • Corey

            I’d be shocked. Rents are high enough along the R-B corridor that you’d have developers offering people much more than the value of their houses. And we’re at a relatively high water mark for real estate in the area, people would be crazy not to sell.

          • Ballston Resident

            Your ideas are very simple and straight forward; just simple supply and demand 101. But I have to wonder when you say things like that whether you have any practical experience in development.

            Do you think developers are just sitting around on piles and piles of cash that they can throw at large groups of individual property owners? Everything is financed, and before financing gets locked in the lenders need to believe in the future cash flow. Do you know how tight construction finance lending is now? We are not in a frothy speculating environment anymore.

            Also, do you see the problem with using high rents as an incentive to developers to do something that you believe will result in lower rents? Lenders think those types of consequences through.

            I don’t know, maybe you’re just pulling my leg.

          • Corey

            No, I’m being quite serious. I’m aware that developers are not sitting on piles of cash and that financing is tight but, if you’re a bank, you’d be a fool not to finance an apartment/condo building in the R/B corridor. In fact I’m not sure I can think of a better real estate investment in the area, maybe even in the entire country. Endless demand, sharply limited supply, spiking rents (not scientific, but in my own search I’ve noted that rents have risen ~25-30% in about the last year). If I had a few million I’d give it to a R/B developer in a heartbeat.

            And yes, I also know that lenders can extrapolate a market to a certain degree. But they’ll want to get in early on additional building, and eventually we’ll reach an equilibrium where prices are lower.

          • Ballston Resident

            Well, it’s too nice a day to stay in here theorizing. But one last thing you said I wanted to mention: “Endless demand” throws your conventional supply/demand curve right in the waste basket.

          • WeiQiang

            Didn’t Fairfax County essentially re-develop a whole 325 SFH neighborhood out by WFC or Vienna Metro? I think everyone [ok, ok ... most people] wound up happy and it has been a successful transition to high-density development … and there are a bunch of SFH owners that pocketed a lot of money.

      • Ballston Resident

        OK, well that’s a start for a number.

        Now go through the GLUP and real estate records and determine how many units are “unbuilt”, for lack of a better term. Meaning if all parcels are developed to their fullest allowable density and FAR under the current zoning, how many housing units would be added.

        That is a lot of work, granted. My guess though is that it’s something that County staff probably has a pretty good grasp of.

        • SoArl

          I kind of doubt it. The reports from the county that I’ve looked at just have a bunch of feel-good buzzwords and some massaged numbers presented in such a way as to support their vague housing goals. I would LOVE to see someone actual work this out.

      • South Awwlington

        This comment points to the real issue here and it’s not about providing housing for those that truly need it and what it would take to accomplish this task.

        It’s about being to brag about self-imposed diversity. Rather than allowing the community to grow as a relation to workforce and labor market of the region, Arlington (the new Takoma Park) needs to be able to claim diversity. To do this, they need the housing. Diversity is a great and wonderful thing when it happens organically. When it is imposed by policy, you are always going to have people resenting others for “perceived special treatment.”

    • Corey

      I agree with this in principle, but why bother getting super-precise about it? Let developers figure that out. Open up Colonial Village, Lyon Village and Lyon Park to higher-density development and we’ll find out how many additional units we need soon enough.

      • CW

        The question is what will it take for developers to let their prices come down? They’re going to want to put units on the market for what comps are selling for elsewhere, and the demand could probably swallow up a good bit of new supply. I honestly do wonder what it would take before we had downware price pressure. They’d also play the flipping between apts and condos game depending on which market was hotter.

        • Corey

          Well, I mean, developers can “set” prices all they want, but eventually they have to adjust to supply/demand (or find their units vacant). They can command the prices they want right now because potential for further development is (artificially) limited.

          But if we allowed SFH/residential areas along the corridor to be redeveloped? That’s real downward price pressure. Maybe it would just slow the growth in rents or maybe it would reverse it, but the result would be quality-of-life gains for just about everyone in the county (since Ros-Bal corridor housing prices drive prices throughout adjacent areas)

        • Ballston Resident

          You bring up another very good point, which is that all this talk about how to bring rent down leaves out the buyers. People who actually invest in property for the long term.

          It’s so much more complicated than just “let’s loosen up the reg’s and see what happens”. This ain’t Sim City. You can’t hit F5 and you can’t go back to your last auto-save.

          • Corey

            It doesn’t leave out buyers, at all. Renting and buying are substitute goods, and housing is housing.

          • Ballston Resident

            Yes it does, in the context of a parallel effort from Arlington to provide publicly funded affordable housing, which is a rental-market-targeted program.

            They tried the purchase option with Buckingham recently and the economics collapsed that concept.

          • Corey

            See, I think where we differ is that you’re thinking of a “renters” market and a “buyers” market. They’re actually the same thing, a “housing” market, and people choose between renting and buying as a way to acquire that housing. Bring down the cost of renting, and more people will choose to rent, lowering demand for buying, which in turn brings down the cost of buying. (You could do the reverse, too, but incentivizing buying is not as flexible of a policy tool, and doesn’t reflect the actual wishes of most people along the corridors)

            As it stands, “affordable housing” – as in Section 8, subsidized rents – is a drop in the bucket. It hasn’t (and likely never will) exert serious price pressure on non-subsidized housing in the rest of the county.

          • CW

            The economics of your statement, Corey, is sound, however I think you’re leaving out a key sociological aspect which is that in this country we have been programmed for generations to believe that owning is the superior form of existence and that renting is for second-class citizens and the poor. My generation (20-30 year olds) is starting to break with that having seen the devastation of the housing bubble and the perils of being tied into 30 years worth of debt. However, I think ownership being preferred is still the status quo for the time being for most.

            Also, I still really am curious about any significant downward price pressure. I think this area can absorb a LOT more demand yet before you start seeing vacancies go up.

          • Corey

            Hey CW, I think that’s right, but I also think you might be underrating the economic landscape’s ability to drive social/cultural norms. I mean, the only reason owning COULD become such a rite of passage to adulthood is the fact that the US government pursued a variety of policies that enabled homeownership.

          • CW

            Anybody will do anything for a price, so I absolutely agree.

      • South Awwlington

        Can you even imagine? Their heads would EXPLODE.

  • South Awwlington

    I would love to know the overhead, revenue and expenses of the Affordable Housing developers. I would better my bottom schilling that they aren’t in this merely for the love of people. Their fortunes are CLOSELY linked to the increase in Affordable Housing expenditures. The whole thing is way too murky and way too reliable on other people’s money.

    • SoArl

      This should be available. Assuming they are a 501c3, they are required to make their 990s public and might even be on guidestar.
      I always thought that relationship with the board was a bit weird too. AHC just asks for money, the board hands it over, no questions asked.

  • KalashniKEV

    I think people get confused when discussing this topic because “affordable housing” sounds like it means “housing that is affordable” which is a defined by a person’s level of income and how much they are comfortable with paying.

    It’s time to take back control of the lexicon from these Section 8 activists.

  • Mc

    The essential problem with County spending on so-called affordable housing is that it requires County taxpayers to subsidize people who likely work in DC but don’t want to live there because of crime, poor schools and high taxes. But why is housing such DC employed people the responisbity of Arlington taxpayers, especially when housing is cheaper in PG county with no subsidies?

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