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County Panel to Consider Colonial Village Renovations

by ARLnow.com September 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm 2,557 12 Comments

A county panel could approve major renovations to part of a historic housing complex as soon as tomorrow night.

The Arlington Tenant-Landlord Commission is scheduled to hear arguments for a plan to renovate the 162 Colonial Village apartment units owned by Wesley Housing Development Corporation. The hearing will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Azalea Room (lobby level) of 2100 Clarendon Boulevard.

The plan calls for major upgrades and configuration changes, including new windows, kitchens, bathrooms and insulation. The grounds will also be improved, with new walkways and lighting.

Currently, there 109 one-bedroom and 53 two-bedroom apartments among Wesley’s Colonial Village portfolio. The non-profit expects the post-construction mix of units to be 90 one-bedrooms, 57 two-bedrooms and 14 three bedrooms. Seventeen apartments would be constructed to be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility specifications.

If approved by the commission, Wesley hopes to begin renovating small batches of apartments starting in April 2011. Affected residents would be moved to either a vacant unit or to another apartment complex, with the moving costs at least partially paid for by Wesley. The entire renovation process is expected to take about a year.

Some tenants will not be allowed to move back in after renovations, however. All but 33 of the new apartments will be placed into the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.  This fall, Wesley will begin interviewing tenants to determine whether their household income is low enough to qualify for the program. Tenants who don’t qualify may be able to move into one of the 33 market rate apartments, or may be forced to move elsewhere.

The income threshold for an individual is $43,500 or below. For a five-person household, it’s $67,080 or below.

The apartment buildings set to be renovated are 1702-34 North Troy Street and 2101, 2103, 2105, 2107, 2109, 2113 and 2115 North 18th Street.

Wesley, which is based in Alexandria, receives part of its funding from Arlington County.

  • Molly

    Kicking people out is ridiculous. If they lived there before the renovations, they should be able to live there after the renovations.

  • ArlRes

    That sounds like bullshit that people will be kicked out for making *too* much.

  • jen

    have the people who own condos in this development chimed in on this debate?

    • TGEoA

      There are no condos in that development.

      • Sure there are. Just not in the buildings owned by Wesley. There are a couple different condominium associations there that cover other buildings. I think most of the original project is now condo.

  • MC

    I can’t tell if this is a good thing or not. It seems that the owner of the units is getting a big subsidy from the government for converting the units to low income housing (NB: the credit is called the low-income tax credit housing credit). However, to qualify the units as being eligible for the low income housing subsidy, they need to meet certain quality standards, one of which seems to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities) compliance. Existing tenants are moved out while these “renovations” are made so the owner meets the legal requirements to get the tax credit. In the process of getting the subsidy the unit owners is evicting existing tenants because they don’t meet the government guidelines for being low income. The owner’s calculation is the low income tenants are more profitable with the government subsidy that market-rate paying tenants without the subsidy. Market-rate paying tenants have an option to go to other market-rate units (not necessarily similarly priced) if available, at least until they might be converted into subsidized low-income units.

    Whatever the intended benefits regarding the availability of housing for prospective low-income residents, this is a zero-sum process that makes housing less affordable for people already living there. We aren’t building new units here, and some people are getting displaced. While that often happens to tenants — newly all renters face the concern that their rent will rise faster than their ability to pay — rarely does this happen in the name of promoting affordability.

  • Janel

    Could someone clarify – I thought these units were already for low-income housing: http://www.wesleyhousing.org/Properties/interior/colonialvillage.htm

  • cj

    To clarify the process: the Landlord-Tenant Commission is just the first of several public reviews of this project. If county funds are involved, it will also go to the Housing Commission. Because Colonial Village is a local historic district, the Historic Affairs & Landmarks Review Board will also have to grant its okay. Finally, the project, as a site plan amendment, has been advertised for hearing by the County Board at its next meeting, September 25 or the carryover session September 28. By then, enough information should be out to answer everyone’s questions.

  • As I understand it, the Tenant Landlord’s role is to review the relocation plan for the tenants that has been proposed. This is to help ensure that tenants are provided payments and assistance for any temporary or permanent moves they must make. The Housing Commission deals with the affordable housing aspects of the project. In either case, the Commissions review and offer recommendations to the County Board. The Board makes the final official decision on the project.

  • Ooh, another thing. I heard that the meeting is at 7PM, not 7:30, this evening, in the County Board Room.

  • Tracy Kellum

    A very similar renovation occurred at the Westover Apartments in the last couple years. Prior to the renovation, some 70% of the units were market-rate, with 30% as “affordable housing.” After the renovation, that percentage effectively flip-flopped.

    I lived there at the time, I moved in before the renovations actually began but after the plan was in place (and they were quite honest upfront about the plans). I have to say I was pretty impressed with the way it was handled. Westover provided relocation payments and moving supplies to everyone affected to cover the costs associated with moving, and I believe they were able to accomodate most residents onsite during the renovations.

    The renovation involved replacing everything in the units, from plumbing to electrical — basically the units were gutted to the studs and rebuilt. After the reno all the units had individually controlled central air and heat, as well as brand new kitchens and bathrooms.

    Even though I was just about dead last on the priority list as a single, non-disabled person with no kids, who didn’t meet the income restrictions and had only lived there for a couple months (priority was given to tenants based on tenure, family size, disability, and income), I could have stayed there (in a market rate unit) if I’d chosen to. But since I had planned to move anyway, I took my relocation payment (which was pretty generous, IMO) and left.

    I didn’t feel I was being “evicted,” the renovations were absolutely necessary (it was an old complex and many of the units were suffering ceiling collapses, leaks and other major issues) and there was pretty much no other way for AHC to finance the needed renovations except by making the switch to primarily “affordable housing.” The rent on the market rate units was a couple hundred dollars more than the non-market rate units, but they also were end units (the community is townhouse-style garden apartments) that included in-unit washers & dryers, so not really a bad deal.

    And they ARE creating more units at Colonial Village, in a sense… there will be 14 rare, hard-to-find and highly coveted three-bedroom units (good for families) that didn’t exist before.

    Full disclosure: I work for the County, but not in any department or division remotely related to affordable housing, or housing in general.

  • CV Renter

    The whole idea of low income designated housing sounds great on paper, but has great consequences. By designating units for gov’t subsidization, this reduces the # of available market-rate apartments. This reduction in supply causes an increase in the price which creates more dichotomy between the social classes of the county. The only ones who can afford the low income houses are in the lower class and eventually the only ones who can afford the market rate apartments are the wealthy. This is how the middle class looses the opportunity to live in such desirable urban (relatively) locations like Arlington. Anyone with a middle class income who has tried to search for a rental property in Arlington County in the last 3 years has seen a dramatic rise in price of “market-rate” apartments.

    If Wesley can make more money by making a majority of the apartments for low income gov’t. subsidized housing, then there is something seriously wrong with the system. The high taxes of Arlington meant to help those in need are going directly to the profits of this property management and ownership group. Because the county will always cut them a check, no questions asked, Wesley has zero incentive to maintain the property for these low income families. This big renovation is the last you will see for years at these units. If all the apartments were “market-rate”, then Wesley would be forced to maintain the property in order to be competitive in the Arlington rental market. This would also keep rental prices lower in the area.

    Designated low income housing sounds all well and good, but it ultimately creates more socio-economic dichotomy and removes any incentive for property ownership groups like Wesley to properly maintain it’s units.

    I am a Colonial Village renter. I rent from a unit owned by a private landlord. This change is going to raise my monthly rent while the surrounding units go to shit, and (full disclosure) it seriously pisses me off.

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