County Board Revises Affordable Housing Goals

by ARLnow.com March 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm 4,839 36 Comments

On Saturday, the County Board unanimously approved a series of affordable housing goals for 2015, with an eye toward preventing and ending homelessness.

The board formally set the goal of creating a comprehensive, year-round homeless shelter — a long-standing local priority that’s currently in the early stages of implementation. At the moment, Arlington County is only served by an emergency winter shelter. By building a new year-round shelter, the board hopes to cut the number of unsheltered homeless in the county by half.

The board also set the goal of finding permanent housing for 95 percent of all homeless families and elderly homeless individuals. Five years ago the board set essentially the same goal for 2010, but was only able to find housing for 44 percent of homeless families. Factors cited for the failure of meeting the 2010 goal included “poor credit history; limited number of slots in transitional programs; mental health and/or substance abuse issues; underemployment/ unemployment and lack of job skills or readiness.”

In terms of the county’s broader housing goals, the board voted to continue striving toward the creation of 400 new committed affordable housing units each year, with 25 percent of those units reserved for households in “serious housing need” (defined as those who earn below 40 percent of the local median income or who pay more than 40 percent of their income as rent).

“Arlington has been, and will continue to be, a regional leader in preserving and expanding the pool of committed affordable units as market rate units become increasingly unaffordable for working people,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “Today’s action by the Board further strengthens the County’s long-term efforts to ensure that Arlington remains a diverse community with homes affordable to persons with low-to-moderate incomes.”

Currently, 14 percent of rental units in the county — 6,000 units total — are committed affordable housing, and 67 percent of those units are in North Arlington (above Route 50). Most of the county’s dwindling stock of market rate affordable housing units, on the other hand, are in South Arlington.

The new goals specify that, compared to the affordable additions over the past decade, a greater portion of the additions be made in the north and northwestern parts of the county, while fewer additions be made along the Columbia Pike corridor in South Arlington.

In addition to bolstering the committed affordable housing stock, the board wants newly-acquired committed units that are being renovated to be made more energy and resource efficient. The board set the goal of reducing energy use by 15 percent and water use by 10 percent in committed affordable units.

When renovating new committed affordable units, the board specified that efforts should be made to minimize the involuntary displacement of low- and moderate-income households. That goal comes one month after the board approved the renovation of the Howard Manor apartments, which residents said would result in the displacement of school teachers and working moms who make just above the income cut-off for affordable housing (60 percent of the local median income).

One other change of note concerns the way in which Arlington County tries to add units to its committed stock. The board removed a previous goal of making sure that most affordable housing additions are made in projects that contain a mix of affordable and market rate units. The board will continue “exploring” mixed-income developments, but it will no longer be a stated priority.

  • Jason S.

    95% seems like an admirable goal, even if it is not a great use of tax money when the county already has over $1B in debt. The problem to me would be that if you do too well for homeless, you’ll attract more, making the problem worse.

    • Josh S

      By the same logic, I guess hospitals shouldn’t really be worrying too much about preventing infections among their patients. After all, if you do too well in treating them, you’ll only attract more, making the problem worse.

      • Come on…

        Josh, have you had your coffee this morning? The difference is you get no perks from having an infection, so purposely acquiring one to get the “perk” of being treated in a successful hospital doesn’t get you too much. On the other hand, someone could quit their boring, bad-paying job, be homeless, and get a great deal from the government, based on what they seem to want to provide. Unfortunately, there are people out there who would take advantage of the system, and claiming there’s not is naive.

        • borf

          “someone could quit their boring, bad-paying job, be homeless, and get a great deal from the government, based on what they seem to want to provide.”

          Come on, Come on. Get real.

          • Come on…

            Really, you think everyone’s as rational as you might be? You get real.


            If I was a drug addict working in a low-paying job and living in a crappy apartment, you don’t think a nice government-funded affordable housing unit in North Arlington would appeal more than keeping my job and apartment?

  • Easton

    More than likely, if the County creates a year-round homeless shelter, we’ll just become a big magnet for homeless people from around the DC region. Gee, that’ll really make Arlington a great place to be.

    • Lou

      Berkeley East.

    • DD

      I work with some of the homeless in D.C. and we have some willing to come to the Virginia side to stay the night. Why? They say it’s “a lot better than the holes in DC.” I don’t blame them……

      Build it and they will come.

  • John Fontain

    Where might this year round homeless shelter go?

    • O.C.

      Lyon Village.

      • Not a Villagian

        Fat chance of NIMBY Villagio taking the homeless shelter – they just got rid of the indigent clients of the HHS department moved to the middle of nowhere known as Sequoia Plaza. And Barb and Mary just got their two Villagio tennis courts resurfaced and dark sky lighting installed for the benefit of the privileged few Villagians instead of using that money to renovate Lubber Run Amphitheater for the benefit of many. Now they plead no more money is avaible for Lubber Run! It’s more likely that the new shelter will be placed in or near the Buckingham projects where the County is currently massing its poor and homeless problems. This Board needs a serious message from voters this year. Let’s work to get rid of Mary and Walter this year.

        • Josh S

          Good luck with that.

    • Ballston Mall.

  • Adios

    Affordable is an interesting term. Seems to me that it is now going to be just the middle class (taxpayers) who will be priced out of the market. When a house in a good school district (Yorktown, for example) with 3 bedrooms pushes $700k relatively easily, where is a middle-class family with kids to go? On another subject, if we have enough beds to house Arlington’s homeless, won’t we just be attracting homeless from other jurisdictions?

    • South Arlington

      You could live somewhere within your means maybe? Like maybe not expect the Government to manipulate the real estate market so you can live in the best school district in a single family home. In this case, living in the Yorktown school district certainly isn’t a right. I guess a middle class family with kids shouldn’t be looking at houses in the most expensive part of one of the most expensive counties/municipalities in the region – just like when I lived in San Diego I didn’t expect there to be a house I could afford in La Jolla, or in Los Angeles I didn’t complain that there was no middle class housing in the 90210 zip code.

      Wakefield isn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things.

      • BallstonDude

        There are many examples where “middle” class are being priced out in Arlington. Arlington middle class is probably one two earners each at 50-60k. I don’t know how you would expect them to afford a 700k house.

        Look at the recent developments for the apartment building at Lee / Spout Run. Currently affordable for middle class — and its turned into affordable housing, where anyone who makes over a certain amount will no longer be able to live there.

        That’s called pricing out the middle class.

        Seems like the county wants either wealthy or poor persons living in Arlington County.

        • South Arlington

          Right I wouldn’t expect them to buy a $700K house. I also wouldn’t be shopping near Lee Highway or Spout Run for a house if I was earning $50-60K a year. There is no right for someone to live in the toniest neighborhoods. I don’t make enough money to buy a home in Georgetown, I don’t then go complain that the Govenrment is pricing me out of that area. The market did. There are plenty of single family homes in far flung parts of Arlington like Westover, Penrose, Arlington Heights, Nauck, etc. that have homes that dual earner middle class families can purchase.

          • BallstonDude

            But I’m talking about apartments. There are current market rate 1 bedroom apartments that those who earn that much can afford. These apartments which middle class income earners are soon to become “affordable” housing only.

  • Local1

    I live next to the Courthouse metro where the emergency shelter is. Just down the hill where Courthouse Road hits Route 50, I hear they are building a 12 story building for low income housing. Is my super-expensive neighborhood going to become a slum, could my condo value go *even* lower??? Should I sell now???

    • Curious George

      Try living next to the feedlot at Oakland mini-park. I think every homeless person in Arlington shows up there. At least the people passing out the food live in the neighborhood.[SARCASM].

      • CW

        I lived in a building bordering Oakland Park and the homeless crowd sure as hell didn’t drive my rent down, I’ll tell you that much… 😛

    • BiArlington

      Wow, you really are clueless. If you are at 50 and Courthouse Road you are already surrounded by affordable housing, but in your challenged little mind you think that affordable housing looks like govnerment run projects. If you were dumb enough to buy in Courthouse (which has been an overpriced concrete slum for years) don’t expect sympathy for your own stupidity when you condo value goes down.

    • AllenB

      I live VERY close to the Courthouse metro too and I have no idea what you are complaining about regarding your condo price. Mine has recovered to just about where it was pre-housing crash. You’re either joking, in which case I apologize for calling you out, or you are absolutely clueless about what your condo is worth. Or you live in that craphouse called Woodbury Heights, where your values are already below the rest of the market.

    • Josh S

      It does sound like a tongue-in-cheek posting, but…
      Who is “they?”
      No private developer is building twelve stories worth of low-income housing. Not in Arlington, not in Prince William, not anywhere. It’s not feasible.
      The county certainly is not building a twelve story low-income housing building. They are not in the business of doing so, they don’t have the money to do so, etc.
      It may be that a private developer is building a twelve story building and, in exchange for property tax cuts or the right to build twelve stories where normally eight or ten would be the maximum, they are going to offer 10-20% of the units as affordable. Even then, you have to ask how are they defining “affordable?” Affordable to whom? People making 80% of AMI? 60% of AMI? Etc. In any case, because it’s such a small percentage, there will be zero perceptible impact on your precious condo value. As if society should care, particularly, about your condo value when deciding whether or not to support affordable housing and where to locate such housing.

      • Arlwhenever

        You right about no 12 story affordable housing going up; but totally wrong about the reasons. The Arlington Mill affordable housing project will likely be six stories, but that is only because that’s the maximum the form based code allows. The developer would be happy to go up to 12 stories and double the number of units if the zoning permits that density. Looking more and more like Robert Taylor homes on the Pike.

  • Arrrrrlington

    Bring on the homeless. They work for cheap. I have been needing a new human ottoman.

  • Piquent

    Use the building at Lee and Harrison to refurbish into a homeless sanctuary. It is near Harris Teeter, Safeway and a host of other fine establishments which might be able to use the new help in the neighborhood. The new influx of shoppers will be appreciated. I am sure the DC folks will flock to the shopping center too.

  • Skeptical

    I would like people here to remember that mental illness is not a crime, even if it makes people difficult and unmanageable, and that homelessness due to mental illness and poverty — and sometimes age — is tragic.

    The homeless are not all idle or drunken bums, people, even if those are the ones you notice most.

  • dave schutz

    “Chris Zimmerman said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “Today’s action by the Board further strengthens the County’s long-term efforts to ensure that Arlington remains a diverse community with homes affordable to persons with low-to-moderate incomes.””

    Zimmerman is doing his damnedest to diminish the stock of affordable housing in the County, with his crusade to make Columbia Pike into Little Bethesda.

    • Bringmetheyuppies

      Little Bethesda, CAN’T WAIT!

      • CW

        It would be really little then. Bethesda isn’t that big.

        • borf

          Tiny Bethesda.

  • Too Easy

    Great just when all of the right wing nuts are moving out we invite a buch of freeloaders to take up the space.

  • DT

    There’s a perfect place for affordable housing in Northern Virginia. Its called Prince William County.

  • Marvin

    Ever wonder what that monstrosity of a development is that sits on the corner of N. George Mason Drive and N. Henderson Road? It is The Madison at Ballston Station residential development http://madisonatballstonstation.com/. The actual address is 4400 N. 4th Street (within the Buckingham Civic Association dominion). I looked up the development as the Director of Barrett Elementary School brought it up to the Barrett Elementary School Open House attendees as the increased number of units may or may not impact the number of future students at Barrett Elementary School.

    I called the Arlington County Affordable Units and Rental Assistance Office to find out if any of the units are set aside for subsidized housing. They told me there were no units set aside for that development. So, I googled a few more sites to find the contrary to be true. I called Norma Romero, Assistant Property Manager of the Madison at Ballson Station. She told me that of the 234 units 100 are set aside for subsidized housing. A 2 bedroom requirement has a 2 year wait. A combined family income must be a minimum of $42,000 and not exceed $58,000. The development lists itself as luxury apartment homes in Ballston. I don’t really think you can call them luxury apartment homes with 100 subsidized housing units, *granite countertops or not.


  • Marvin

    Its funny how the County pushes for affordable housing like its a moral mandate, until they realize that buying homes for people is too expensive, too much for the taxpayer to put up with. Either way the low income person loses because Arlington County doesn’t really care for the people as much as the idea of grooming future voters. Pretty dumb to try and tell people they will get a sunsidized home then threaten home owners with higher tax bills and reduced services. To heck with you Arlington County, you be county executive until you actually run into real problems.



Subscribe to our mailing list