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Ask Me (Almost) Anything: Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing

by ARLnow.com — August 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm 3,929 85 Comments

Today we debut a new periodic feature called Ask Me (Almost) Anything. Intended to be a local, community-oriented derivation of Reddit’s Ask Me Anything discussion threads, Ask Me (Almost) Anything allows readers to discuss important and interesting topics with local community, government and business leaders. See below for discussion guidelines.

Founded by four local families, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is an award-winning, community-based nonprofit that has been working to develop and preserve affordable housing in Arlington County since 1989.

APAH currently provides affordable housing to 1,000 Arlington households earning between $20,000 and $64,000 per year. Since Arlington doesn’t have a public housing agency, nonprofits like APAH are an integral component of the county’s drive for more affordable housing.

In addition to developing and owning affordable housing for the long-term, APAH provides a number of services to residents of its communities.

“APAH’s mission is to enhance the Arlington community by developing, preserving and owning quality affordable housing,” the organization said in a statement. “Through resident services APAH is changing lives by helping individuals and families in crisis to access services and providing programs to improve workplace skills, health and well-being and build community.”

Among the projects APAH is currently working on, this month the organization expects to complete a major renovation of the 111-unit Buchanan Gardens Apartments (pictured, below) at 926 S. Buchanan Street, just off Columbia Pike. APAH is also set to begin construction on the 122-unit Arlington Mill Residences (pictured, above) at 901 S. Dinwidde Street — also off Columbia Pike — by the end of the month.

Nina Janopaul has been President and CEO of APAH since 2007. She was previously a principal at Capital Strategies Consulting, Inc. and the National Director of Development for Hostelling International USA. Janopaul graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University and has been an Arlington resident since 1983.

Nina Janopaul will be taking your questions about APAH and affordable housing in general in the comments section through 5:30 p.m. today (Monday). Please note that she may not be able to answer every question asked. Also please note that in addition to our normal comment policy, we ask that questions and comments be of a civil tone. We welcome tough questions and critical comments, but anything of a mean-spirited nature will be removed.

 

  • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

    We’ll get the ball rolling:

    Nina,
    We mention in the write-up that APAH is key to Arlington’s affordable housing efforts since the county doesn’t have a public housing agency.

    What are the pros and cons of having nonprofits develop affordable housing, as opposed to having government more directly involved?

    And with multiple organizations developing affordable housing in Arlington, are there times where there is competition among them? Is that a good or a bad thing?

    • APAH4hsg

      There are several advantages to for having non-profits involved in affordable housing–having strong non-profit partners is today considered a best practice. APAH can leverage resources in the community, such as private capital, individual contributions, philanthropic grants and volunteerism better than a government agency. We are governed by a local board of folks who live and work in Arlington, including residents, which keeps us close to our mission and community. The con is that we don’t have the resources of a government agency behind us, but we have a strong partnership with Arlington County and they have helped us with grants, loans and partnerships to be more financially robust and able to undertake major projects. Yes, there are several non-profits providing affordable housing in Arlington. While APAH is the only one solely focused on Arlington, we cooperate with our peers and encourage their successes as well. The competition helps to motivate us all to do our work better, more efficiently and effectively.

  • Caroline

    Hello. I make 45K a year, have great credit, but unfortunately cannot afford to save much each paycheck (almost none). Is it really possible to be a homeowner? Or do I need a large down payment?

    • Former Arlingtonian

      Along the same lines of Caroline’s sentiment, is anything being done to ensure that middle income earners can afford to live (or stay) in Arlington? As it stands, it seems like only the very well-off or those with housing assistance can afford to stay as their family expands.

      I used to own a condo in Arlington, but when it came time to move up, my wife and I were priced out and moved to Fairfax County.

      • APAH4hsg

        I would like to see Arlington County provide more support to our older condominium properties, such as technical assistance and HOA support. I think these are an important part of our income diversity, where condos sell for $100,000 to $250,000. Many County employees live in these complexes

        • Bon Air

          Where can you get a condo for $100k in Arlington??

    • APAH4hsg

      Caroline,
      You are at a tough income level to afford homeownership, especially in today’s current mortgage climate. In response to the loose days of mortage financing pre-2008, mortgages are harder to get and require more downpayment than ever before. I suggest you contact AHOME, http://www.ahomeinc.org for homeownership classes and look into Arlington County’s MIPAP homeownership program.

  • Arlington Homeowner

    Is there any system in place to ensure that those receiving housing assistance or being placed in County-supported affordable housing are in the country legally, as either citizens or legal residents (green-card holders)?

    In additinon (separate question): Are residents vetted for criminal records?

    • AW

      I’d like to second this question.

    • APAH4hsg

      Residents who lack documentation of their residency are ineligible for rental housing assistance through Arlington’s Housing Grants or the federal Housing Choice Vouchers. We screen residents for credit, income and criminal background.

  • AW

    What are the prices like for these units? I’ve noticed that many “affordable” units for those making under 50k still charge $1200 a month before utilities, which is more than 1/3 of monthly wages (which is the recommended standard by most financial experts for how much you should spend on housing). This seems ludicrous. Are there any units under the $1000 range?

    • APAH4hsg

      Good question. I wish we could offer lower rents. We do have properties, like our Marbella Apartments near Rosslyn, that have rents as low as $750/month. But the lower rents require more subsidies, so typically a property will only offer 10 – 30% targeted to these lower income households.

  • PikeRyan

    Along with the the Arlington Homeowner question above, what kind of background checks are done on these individuals? Are we purposefully inviting crime into our neighborhoods? If I make $70K, it’s still difficult to buy a house in Arlington. Why is someone who makes $20K now more privileged then me?

    • Agree

      While I don’t agree that ALL low income families bring crime, I do have to agree with the rest of the statement. Someone bringing in a slightly higher, but still below “market value”, income, will pump more money into the local economy. It also will allow those people on the margin to save a bit more for a down payment later on, increasing those who stay in the county.

      Seems silly to stretch people to their absolute max just to be able to live in ArlCo, while those on the cusp of making Arlington profitable and revenue-generating, are being singled out and forced out to the suburbs….

      • APAH4hsg

        I think we need a range of housing and housing tools to support a range of housing needs. Historically, the market has addresed the 80% AMI household need ($65 – $85,000/year for a family of four). Arlington County’s annual housing reports show that the number of market affordable apartments in this range have actually increased over the last decade–from 8500 to 11,500. If the market doesn’t keep meeting this need, we may need to address it with more pro-active tools, as we have been doing for the lower income households.

  • Thes

    About fourteen percent (or one in seven) of Arlington apartments is a committed affordable unit, if you divide the numbers the County publishes. That’s a huge fraction of our total housing stock. Do you think having such a large proportion of rent-controlled units in Arlington affects the housing market overall? Are there any social implications of having such a big proportion of our housing being run by non-profit groups?

    • APAH4hsg

      14% of Arlington’s multifamily rental housing stock is today Committed Affordable–or about 6000 units. 12% is market affordable–about 5300 units. This does not include our single family homes and townhomes. However, in 2000, 57% of our multifamily housing stock was affordable to low income households. The numbers of market affordable units have dropped from 17,500 to 5300. This is a change in how the properties are owned and managed, but not in the housing affordability. Expensive cites like New York similarly find they can only provide affordable housing through committed affordable programs.

      • Thes

        Thank you for responding to my question. That’s a huge drop in market-rate affordable housing stock.

        It sounds like we are on a long-term path to end up just like NYC — where the only affordable units are committed affordable units. Would you agree? Doesn’t that put organizations like APAH in the powerful position of deciding what kinds of low-income residents will live in our community (for example, by the mix of unit types that do or do not attract low-income families with children, or low-income seniors, etc.)?

        • Middle-Class

          What about singles trying to get started in life that have middle-class income? Will it only be the poor and rich, not those in the middle with technical 8-6ers grinding away each day?

        • APAH4hsg

          Yes, I agree that Arlington, like NYC, is in the enviable position of having great jobs, great transportation and attractive urban amenities (plus strong schools). So, like NYC, we may eventually serve lower income folks only with some form of committed affordable housing programs.

          Does this make APAH especially powerful in deciding the future of our housing stock? Not really, since everything we do involves subsidy from federal, state and/or local sources and involves extensive public engagement.

          All of our projects are scrutinized in how well they meet the County’s and the state’s housing goals. That transparency, and, honestly, the competition from our peers, will ensure that we develop based on real data and community needs, and that we bring best practices to our work. Otherwise, we won’t get our funding and approvals.

  • IP678

    Considering that the number of market rate affordable housing units (many of which are cheaper than what you offer) continues to erode, what is the long term plan of your organization, or by-proxy Arlington County, to keep up the inventory? And in setting long-term strategic policy like that, how much influence does the county have in directing your organization?

    • APAH4hsg

      The recently approved Columbia PIke Neighborhoods Plan addressed the issue of disappearing market affordable units directly by targeting to replace 100% of existing low rent apartments using a combination of on-site committed affordable units provided in redeveloped properties plus new tools for affordable housing. The goals are ambitious–6000 units to preserve or replace. I think APAH and the County and other partners will all need to keep increasing our capacity to meet this need.

  • Thes

    Do you think that Arlington has planned for too little housing density? In other words, do you think Arlington’s land use plans should be revised to allow substantially more apartments to be built? If so, where should the additional housing density be located?

    • APAH4hsg

      The new Pike plan increased density by 50% over the existing capacity. This was a direct and deliberate response to the threat of losing affordable housing. I think Arlington has done a great job of planning for more density along the R-B corridor and if it continues to plan effectively, and to include affordable housing as part of new density, we should see the County grow in a smart and visionary way. Maybe the next corridors could be Lee Highway, or Arlington Blvd/Route 50?

    • bemused bystander

      If additional density is eventually planned along other transportation corridors, starting with Lee Highway, what should be done to encourage a range of housing costs and options instead of just more small, expensive units? Theoretically, increases in density should ease market pressures and help hold down increases in rents. So far, added density has added more high-end options but market prices keep going up.

      • Bender

        Tearing down existing housing costs money. Constructing new housing costs more money. All of these construction costs must necessarily be added into the rent charged in all of this new housing.

        Existing housing does not have such added costs, and lower rents are possible.

        If you have a $500 unit in a WWII-era building, and then you go and tear down that building and construct a new one, they are not going to charge only $500 per unit, they are going to charge more to account for those construction costs.

        That is one reason why all of this increased density is actually driving up rents against what one would usually expect by the law of supply and demand.

  • JimPB

    Are there changes in the amount of rent as resident income increases or decreases?

    Do residents have to “move on” to other housing when their income increases above the APAH upper limit? Are there apartment opportunities in ARLCo for such individuals/families? viable avenues and homes in ARLCo for such residents to become 1st time home owners?

    What is the “cost” to ARLCo taxpayers of APAH affordable housing? For example, property taxes from which APAH properties are exempt by virtue of APAH being a non-profit? ARLCo government direct or indirect (required of developers) appropriations for APAH? ARLCo rent assistance to APAH residents?

    How large a APAH housing operation would be required to meet the need in ARLCo for affordable housing such as that provided by APAH?

    Are there churches and perhaps other property owners in ARLCo that are engaged with APAH about “duplicating” the initiative of the First Baptist Church of Clarendon (now the Church at Clarendon) in which the old church building was replaced with a mixed use building that houses the church and “The Point,” with its combination of affordable and market rate apartments?

    • APAH4hsg

      Wow, lots of questions here Jim! I’ll try to respond faster:

      Yes, rent increases annually in response to federal income limits, but not individual household incomes. When a resident becomes over income, we generally allow them to stay until their income is 140% of the qualifying income for their household. We have a mix of lower and higher tiered apartments in our properties, which sometimes allows residents to move on to another unit/level.

      APAH properties are NOT exempt from property tax–in fact, we paid $1.5 million this year for our taxes!

      We try to limit our subsidy to an upfront, one-time capital subsidy, which allows us to operate without ongoing support. Typical AHIF subsidies have average $85,000/unit. Additional subsidy may come to individual residents who are very low income and cannot meet our affordable rents.

      We are talking to others in the faith community about looking at their real estate assets and whether partnering to provide affordable housing would meet their mission and the community’s, possibly like the Church at Claredon

      • Middle-Class

        Hmmm…140% of lower income for some puts them at middle class ranges. Why not just increase the selection to all?

        • APAH4hsg

          We have strict rules on what we can accept based on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program (LIHTC). The 140% rule is part of the regulations for that program. However, 30% of our units serve households above 60% AMI, so we have some ability to move folks within our portfolio.

          By the way, I must mention that the LIHTC program is the MOST effective and cost efficient housing program in the nation’s history. If and when tax reform begins next year in Congress, I hope Arlington can support retaining this important program to our nation’s housing security.

  • DarkHeart

    Are the names of APAH’s four founding families anonymous?

    • APAH4hsg

      Joe and Midge Wholey, Rhoda (and Bill) Nary, Jack and Jean Sweeney, Dolores (and Tom) Leckey. Bill and Tom passed away. The others have remained engaged and are some of our best supporters!

  • Ralph

    Why do we want affordable housing in a community?

    This is not meant to be mean, but prices in Arlington are high. Why would we subsidize housing for people who make less money?

    Affordable housing takes housing away from the free market — thus reduces the amount of high-end apartments etc that are available. What is the benefit of this?

    • Middle-Class

      Agreed. Giving lesser incomes slightly reduced rent, that often accounts for a significant chunk of their income, doesn’t teach very good money-management lessons…

    • APAH4hsg

      Good question. Unfortunately, the real estate market skews development incentives such that it is much more profitable to build towards the top end of our market. Without housing subsidies, we could not house all the people in our communities, including lower wage workers but also people with disabilities, elderly and other limitations. I’m often deeply impressed with APAH’s residents. Many work hard at low wage jobs–construction, retail, housekeeping–often 50 – 60 hours per week. Many have barriers that keep them from earning enough to afford market rents, e.g. learning disabilities, single mothers, limited education. Look at the clerk at McDonald’s or your housekeeper or your taxi driver or nurse’s aide. Where do they live? Do they have children to support? Affordable housing is a way we can keep them housed in our community where they work and give their children the opportunity to return to rent a high end apartment if they choose!

      • Ralph

        Thank you for your reply.

  • Autoexec.bat

    Affordable housing programs are often touted as programs that help public servants remain close to the communities they serve. Most often cited are police, firefighters, teachers and so on.

    Do you have statistics that show what percentage of affordable housing units are occupied by police, firefighters, teachers, etc.? Is occupation taken into consideration when assistance is sought?

    • South Awwlington

      I too would like to know the answer to this as it is often touted by Affordable Housing developers when meeting with Civic Associations and by the Arlington County Board yet I have yet to see data presented on this.

      Of all the professions, I would think that having our teachers and firefighters living in our communities would provide the greatest ROI and nurture community strength.

  • JH

    This may not fall totally into your domain, but perhaps with links to the county you may have insight.

    I’ve grown up in Arlington, and have seen owning a single family home (or even a townhome) become completely out of reach. With all of the $1.5 million dollar new-construction single-family homes being built (knocking down older, smaller, semi-affordable in-need-of-re-hab houses to build new).

    While they look grand, those $1.5 million dollar homes look huge. Has Arlington ever considered encouraging developers to build multi-family housing in those spots (like 2-3 units that would fit into one of those grand-homes – either one unit per floor, or semi-detached housing)? Similar to what cities like Chicago (and some large houses in DC) have done when regenerating neighborhoods?

    As a way to meet the needs of those that fall in a middle-income range. There’s no way that my family or many that I know can afford the $700,000+ home range in Arlington but maybe I could if I could buy a smaller unit that was within one of the larger homes (while the developer could still meet their bottom line). It would be nice if there were ways to encourage developers to build for a range of incomes.

    It just seems to me like Arlington is fast becoming out of reach for many middle-income earners and losing economic diversity quickly.

    • APAH4hsg

      Aah, you raise a touchy question here. Some communities have sought to create more affordability by encouraging Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), otherwise called a Granny Suite or in law apartment. It is a way to create at least a few more affordable units, e.g. a couple with grown kids can share their house with another family. But alas, this proved very threatening to Arlington and the final ADU ordinance was so restrictive that only a couple of folks have applied for approval. I have lived in Arlington a long time and certainly couldn’t afford our house if we were to buy it today. Diverse housing stock can keep Arlington the lively place we all value.

  • Jacob

    Could you define exactly what affordable housing means? Specifically, what precise kind of housing is deemed unaffordable, and what income and price assumptions are used in the calculation.

    Furthermore, in your view what is the cause of housing “unaffordability” in Arlington?

  • Thes

    APAH has several properties that are within walking distance of a Metro station. Is there a way for residents in those buildings to get a reduction in their rent if they do not have (or cannot afford) a car and therefore don’t use the parking spaces? This study (pdf)suggests that a parking space adds $100 to $300 per month to the cost of an urban dwelling.

    • APAH4hsg

      On average, 40% of our residents do not have a car. We are trying to size our future properties appropriately for that need.

      I would also like us to work more closely with the groups supporting alternatives to cars, like biking, public transit, Car Sharing, etc. to see if we can make those alternatives more affordable for our residents.

  • ARL99875

    I hope it is okay, if I chime in with a response to some of the question.
    AW, the 30% rule is also the standard HUD and other housing programs use, not just financial planners. Yet, there are times even with affordable housing that rents will be outside of the 30% range for a household. Thus, the extremely low income households general get additional support by living in affordable apartments with a housing grant or section 8 voucher. But, the low income people, people that are working more substantially get stuck paying 40% or a little more. My questions: Why does Arlington focus so heavily on extremely low income individuals? Why does it reduce the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing eligibility level to include only extremely low income households when other areas such as Fairfax and Washington DC assist a broader range of incomes? Would it really burden the county to assist low income parties with housing grants? After all, the additional subsidy of the housing grant would be less due to higher incomes and would encourage more self sufficiency rather than indolence. Why is permanent supportive housing also limited to extremely low income? Section 8 in Arlington assists some low income but also favors extremely low incomes.
    I think the other two Arlington related posted questions simple display ignorance.

    There is a term called legal presence. Legal presence means that a person is either a U.S. citizen or is legally authorized to be in the United States. To get housing assistance such as housing grants, you have to be able to prove a legal presence. Usually a photo ID and other documents standard to applying for an apartment are reviewed.

    A lot of people that get housing grants, and the grants are generally limited to affordable apts/units, have been homeless. Thus, the majority are going to have criminal records. As with most apartments, affordable apartments also conduct background checks. I do not think it is right to deny a person that has a trespass in their background from being homeless, the opportunity to have an apartment.

    I also want to know what can be done to ensure that affordable apartment complexes have accurate information about their affordable offerings, application process, process for filling apartments etc. I have found most agents know very little information about the program. They often deflect to the county that deflects to the apartment complex. All affordable units do not require the same information in the application process. Some seem to require tax returns and other do not ask. Some require bank statements no matter what and others only if it over $5,000. Why can’t affordable apts just shoot it to you straight and let you know what is expected? They will tell you that you have to wait 6 mon to a year then turn around and call you 2 mon later with an opening.

  • JnA

    Arlington doesn’t need a dozen inefficient non-profits creating affordable housing that isn’t affordable. We need one efficient housing agency, like Fairfax County and other Virginia counties.

    We have also reached the ludicrous situation where only a few apartment units at Arlington Mill (which the County owns) will be affordable for the Pike’s retail and restaurant workers. How Smart Growth is it when restaurant and retail workers have to drive 40 miles to work on the Pike from Prince William County?

    • APAH4hsg

      Arlington MIll will be 99% affordable, with 13 units affordable to 40% AMI households ($30,000 for a single person, $49,000 for a family of four); 13 units affordable to 50% AMI and 95 units to 60% AMI. This is a very efficient project. The prior development planned to produce 60 affordable and the balance of market units and was not paying any net ground rent to Arlington County. APAH is paying $1.5 million in ground rent with double the affordable units. I would compare our work favorably to the Fairfax Redevelopment and Housing Authority any day.

    • Thes

      FYI, in the last 40 years, Arlington voters were twice presented with the option to create a housing agency, and both times voted it down.

  • Ron Ryan

    How do you make sure that the utilities are affordable too? I hear LEED certification doesn’t mean anything anymore (no energy or water savings). Is that true?

  • APAH4hsg

    I have ambivalent feelings about LEED, although APAH is proud to have Arlington’s first Silver LEED certified multifamily building in the County!

    After serving on Arlington’s Energy Task Force I learned how important it is to focus on energy consumption and, yes, LEED buildings are not always more efficient.

    We work hard to keep our energy costs down. We have replaced 100% of our toilets, shower and faucets to be low flow. We just installed Solar Thermal hot water system at one of our buildings, Columbia Grove. At Arlington MIll, we will be District Energy Ready. With ARRA funds, we installed additional insulation in several buildings. It is an ongoing challenge in our older properties to keep utility costs down.

    • darsasx

      “LEED buildings are not always more efficient” Wait – what??!! We have LEED ‘experts’ on here all the time and they would vehemently disagree with you – multiple times – even without facts – even though you served on the Energy Task Force and have more direct knowledge.

      “LEED buildings are not always more efficient” – but the County touts it all the time as a good thing. Certainly you aren’t implying that people would mislead us about LEED buildings always offering improvements in efficiency.

      • drax

        LEED isn’t just about energy efficiency, and never claimed to be. Energy efficiency is not the only way for a building to be “green.”

        You live up to the hidden part of your name btw.

  • JimPB

    Are APNH projects smoke-free?

  • Pro-Affordable Housing

    Thanks so much for being available. I’ve heard unsubstantiated claims that much of the affordable units in new high-rise developments are occupied by new college graduates, whose income qualifies them for a year or two, until their salary is commensurate with their education, background, etc. There is some logic to this possibility, since even the subsidized units in high-rise buildings are quite expensive, as one of the questions above notes. Are basic statistics on occupants kept, such that county leaders can determine what kind of people are availing themselves of affordable units in these new, often luxury high rise developments?

    • APAH4hsg

      We do keep rent rolls for all our residents and copies of their income certifications. This is part of our extensive reporting requirements.

      We cannot accept current students, so that is not a conflict for our housing, but sure, I expect some of our lower income singles may someday become higher income.

      But in keeping with Arlington County’s goals and targets, we focus whenever we can on family-sized units. 80% of the apartments at Arlington MIll are 2 or 3 bedroom. We bumped out the buildings at Buchanan Gardens to convert it from 80% 1 bedroom to 50% 1 bedroom.

      • Pro-Affordable Housing

        Thank you for your reply. I’m glad to hear of APAH’s focus on family-sized units. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the units in new high-rise developments are serving upwardly mobile residents instead of the working poor.

        • Middle-Class

          These “upward mobile residents” are the ones working as aides in the government, low-level researchers, and entry business-developers. These people are the root to the future. Shutting these people out will put a dent in their savings (when they’ll be your typical homeowner one day), lowering the amount of money they’ll put back in the community, and degrading the mix of people to only super rich and the poor.

  • Taylor

    Maybe I’m too skeptical here, but it seems that the County’s policy of permitting houses to be torn down and replaced by mansions greatly increases the cost of living for everyone in Arlington.

    This process drives up the cost of single-family houses, which in turn leads to townhouse and condo price increases as well, and this hits all but the very top income brackets very hard. For example, I couldn’t even remotely afford to buy my own house today, and I know I’m not alone in saying that.

    Has your group, or anyone else, looked at this topic as potential relief for the housing affordability crisis – for example, changing zoning regulations to protect the character of existing neighborhoods that were built with more modest homes? I’m sure the top housing developers are all very friendly with the County Board members, so chances are such a discussion would go nowhere, but I’m curious if the topic has ever come up.

    • veeta

      That’s a really good point, though I don’t think what you are suggesting is possible or even directly related to the low-income housing problem. My husband and I were looking for a townhouse or duplex in Alexandria, but we were able to buy a single family home in a close-in Arlington neighborhood only because it was a tiny and un-renovated 1950s home. For some (dual-income) professionals who want a house, I feel there are still houses and neighborhoods available, but only if they relax their standards. And hurry–these houses are being bulldozed and rebuilt 4x bigger at an alarming rate!

      • APAH4hsg

        You make a good point about the bargains still available in Arlington–they are mostly older homes that may be fixer uppers and the older condos. Many folks can afford homes in that price range–I’ve seen condos $100,000 – $250,000 and single family homes at $400 – $500,000 in some Columbia Pike neighborhoods. But that requires some commitment to maintaining an older home.

        Is there a zoning opportunity to preserve more modest homes? Arlington toyed with some regulations a few years ago limiting so-called “McMansions”, but got significant public opposition. Civic associations may have an opportunity to bring that concept back, if only one neighborhood at a time.

    • cj

      This topic has come up repeatedly in response to concerns such as yours. Regrettably, in Virginia about the only way to prevent by-right demolitions is to designate an older neighborhood as a local historic district. That imposes many constraints on exterior changes to contributing properties, which is why Arlington has only one local neighborhood district (Maywood) so far.

      After much debate, the county did adopt somewhat tighter limits on lot coverage for single-family homes several years ago. Unfortunately some builders have responded by erecting taller houses instead of wider and longer ones.

      • TuesdaysChild

        Agreed. Many of the new houses are too tall compared to other houses in the neighborhood and what is reasonably appropriate for the lot size and neighborhood. Why can’t the Board fix this?

  • Mitt Romney

    How about prefab or manufactured housing in Arlington. They have one in Chantilly that was up for Neighborhood of the year, this year, by WTOP radio,

    • APAH4hsg

      Mitt? You should be on the campaign trail today!

  • AW

    What I’m getting from all of this is “yeah, Arlington doesn’t have much housing for anyone making between “affordable” levels and 100k, too bad, so sad.” I was hoping that there would at least be talk about advocacy for greater density to bring down those prices. Guess I was wrong. Guess it wouldn’t give the county the sort of residents they want: wealthy ones, plus some poorer ones so they can pat themselves on the back.

    • bemused bystander

      Where would you propose putting enough additional density to start bringing prices down? Have you any idea how much that would take, given all the upward pressures on the housing market in this area?

    • CH

      I think your tone is a unnecessarily snipe-y, but I share your dismay. It feels like there’s a donut hole when it comes to housing and housing discussions in Arlington. My husband and I just bought in Alexandria – and we were incredibly sad to leave Arlington. (Perhaps why I still read ArlNow…) Even at 100k+ income, there was just nothing for us in Arlington. We found a great place – and it would’ve cost at least twice as much, probably even more, were it located in Arl Co. Arl prices really are astronomical. Still sad about it, and can’t imagine it will bode well for the county in the next 10-20 years.

    • Middle-Class

      Not the best way to put it, but I agree. Apparently the county is more focused on put a family of 4 with a $80k income in a nice Arlington condo, leaving them little to save, rather than supporting those who will be future homeowners and the root of the economy one day.

      It’s always been “living above your means”….

  • Mitt Romney

    There are landowners in Middleburg that built a trailer park on the outskirts of Middleburg, to house the newly arrived Latina horse groomers. Weren’t they nice to do that?

  • JimPB

    When family size changes, e.g., an addition from a child birth or taking in a child in need of a place (could be the family’s grown child who is without a job), or a decrease, when a youth/young adult moves on, does APAH require a change in apartment to a larger or smaller unit?

    (I know of one affordable housing project (not in ARLCo) where children have moved on and husbands have died and the surviving widow continues to reside in the long-time 3 or (in one case) 4 bedroom apartment that would better serve a family with children.)

    • APAH

      Arlington County’s requires at least one person per bedroom to prevent this from happening. Household sizes are confirmed annually when the lease is renewed.

  • Mitt

    Does qualifying for affordable housing subsidies involve more than showing ‘income’ level? For example are assets and various trusts that a person might have considered ?

    • APAH

      Mitt, thanks for your question. Residents must provide proof of all income including wages, interest income and assets.

  • JimPB

    Our extraordinary expenses taken into account in determining eligibility?

    (Extraordinary: for example, a large outstanding financial obligation for medical care.)

    • APAH

      We cannot make adjustments to income based on extraordinary circumstances. We do perform a credit check on all applicants, but entries related to medical expenses do not adversely affect eligibility.

  • Mary-Austin

    Buchanan Gardens is located in my Neighborhood, Barcroft, and while the renovations have been taking place traffic and parking problems from the apartments have been much calmer.
    There used to be quite a lot of headaches from parking from the apartments on Buchanan as well as cut through traffic throughout the neighborhood. I think a lot of this stemmed from the fact that many of the apartments were overcrowded with multiple unrelated people or families living in them.
    Is your organization doing anything to ensure the apartments will not become overcrowded again and to make sure there is enough parking for residents on the site?

    • APAH

      Thank you for your comment. We take overcrowding very seriously. Our funds require that we not only monitor income but also household size. At Buchanan Gardens, we knew that family were living in very crowded conditions and for this reason inceased apartment sizes during renovation to add more two and three bedroom units.

      We are closely monitoring parking and right it seems we have more than adequate parking for the number of cars.

      We are also very excited that the Grand Opening for Buchanan Garedens will be on September 10, with an official ribbon cutting. The community and residents have been very supportive.

  • Nonprofit Employee

    I work for a local non-profit and make about 25K a year. I haven’t been able to find any dog-friendly housing in Arlington that will accept me as a resident making that little, despite having fair credit, a solid job history and good references. Any suggestions?

    • APAH

      Some APAH properties permit dogs and all our properties permit cats. There are fees involved. Lack of availability is the very reason we are passionate about providing more affordable housing in Arlington.

  • South Awwlington

    Ms. Janopaul,

    Thank you for taking the time to answer questions today. Many of us have concerns about this issue and aren’t necessarily pro or con but rather concerned about over-crowding on neighborhoods and even within the buildings.

    What kind of controls are in place to ensure that units are being used to house more folks than they are designed for? I have seen firsthand (lived below it) what happens when a living room is converted to a third bedroom. How can we make sure the units are being used for the audience they were intended and are not being abused?

    Can you staff enter a unit at any time and can they evict if warranted immediately?

    Thank you!

    • APAH

      See comment above about monitoring household size in committed affordable properties. Regarding entering units, we abide by the same Virginia laws governing all properties and that is we must give 24 hours notice before entering an apartment, unless it is an emergency.

      Over crowding is a lease violation and something that we can cause eviction if notice is given and the situation is not corrected.

  • Thes

    I just want to say thank you to APAH and ArlNow for hosting this forum and participating in it. It is nice to have multiple non-profits competing in Arlington to preserve and create affordable housing. There is another major group in Arlington that gives the impression of being basically a developer that happens to do affordable housing, while APAH is more of a housing group that happens to do some development. So, it doesn’t surprise me that you are willing to try this innovative communication. Great job.

    • JimPB

      Thes writes my mind, too.

  • South Arl

    I live on the West end of Columbia Pike. It seems like there are more committed affordable units here than elsewhere in the county. Why so many in one area? Doesn’t it make more sense to spread out the affordable units rather than having pockets of concentrated poverty (for example, why allow the Abingdon school district to have 65% free and reduced lunch… wouldn’t those kids be better served in a more diverse neighborhood?)

    • SoArl

      I have the same question. I’ve seen studies that say smaller buildings that are dispersed over a larger area and mixed developments have less crime, smaller drop in property values for neighbors, etc. So what is the benefit to putting it all in one area?

  • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

    Thank you for a great discussion. The session has ended and we’re now closing the comments.

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