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Morning Poll: Increase Density to Improve Affordability?

by ARLnow.com December 9, 2011 at 9:31 am 4,537 270 Comments

(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) During a panel discussion on Wednesday, some local employers expressed concern that Arlington County’s economy might be negatively impacted by the continued rise in rents and housing prices.

“Panelists described a scenario that could leave Arlington with housing options only for those at the top end of the economic spectrum, and those lucky enough to win access to subsidized rental units,” the Sun Gazette reported. That scenario, some say, could make it harder for Arlington employers to fill working class jobs.

One potential solution to spiking housing prices, as proposed by a George Mason University study and reported by the Sun Gazette, is to add “between 9,000 and 34,000 new residential units in coming years.”

Do you support adding housing density in order to improve housing affordability?


  • CW

    Yes, I support this in theory. It’s a nice little theoretical exercise. But what incentive would developers have to ever do this? They’ve got the market right where they want it.

    300 units @ $2,000 a month = $600,000 per month.

    400 units @ $1,500 a month = $600,000 per month, but the incremental cost of added maintenance, insurance, etc. on the extra 100 units.

    Why would they ever let this happen when, instead, they can let the existing stock rise to stratospheric heights, increasing their cash flow with no marginal cost to themselves?

    • NArlingtonManhattan

      I don’t see the issue here. Just as Manhattan is a very expensive place to live (lots of people want to live there, the supply of housing is inherently limited), so it is in North Arlington. I’m against artificial, taxpayer-funded, unsustainable schemes to try to thwart this basic law of nature.

      • Southeast Jerome

        Yes- but I did not see where this would be “taxpayer funded”

        Its simple math. The land is too expensive. One of the reasons for the slow buildout of new apartments is that the firms have a hard time justifying it (and getting financing for construction) when the sunk costs are so high.

        • NArlingtonManhattan

          Taxpayer funded = such things as requirements for “affordable” housing units. Sure, the develop has to commit to x number of “affordable” units — which simply denies to the county the full tax value of these units in years to come.

          • NArlingtonManhattan

            develop = developer

          • Southeast Jerome

            Right but thats is assuming the county would have just allowed the development to go ahead with all units being market rate. Its not taxpayer funded if the county is still getting the marginal tax revenue from the development.

            Its one thing if the county forces an existing market rate unit to convert to subsidized housing, but the argument does not work for new developments It is a win because county tax revenue goes up.

          • NArlingtonManhattan

            “Its one thing if the county forces an existing market rate unit to convert to subsidized housing, but the argument does not work for new developments It is a win because county tax revenue goes up.”

            But county revenue would go up MORE if ALL of the housing units were market rate. When that possibility is not achieved because some units are required to be “affordable,” the taxpayers have to dig deeper to fund everything in the Arlington County budget.

          • Southeast Jerome

            If there is no affordable units, Marginal Revenue is Zero to the county.

            If there are affordable units, Marginal Revenue is greater than zero to the county.

            Is that simple enough?

          • Southeast Jerome

            If there are**

      • Suzie

        But leave it to Arlington to find a way. They’ve kicked out hard-working teachers, firemen, etc. who work in the county, paid their taxes, etc. in order to make their building “affordable housing.” So where are those they kicked out supposed to go?!

      • Josh S

        “Basic laws of nature?” Wow, that’s quite a stretch.

        There is very little, if anything, that humans do at this point that is not influenced, altered, subsidized, encouraged, shaped or directed by the society all around us. And government is one of the most important shapers. So to argue that Manhattan is “natural” while Arlington is not is just absurd.

    • madisonmanor

      You addressed the rental market. For the housing, market the converse is true:

      300 units @$600,000 = $180M
      400 units @$600,000 = $240M

      That works until the condo market gets saturated, in which case the housing prices should theoretically stabilize or drop (this was a theoretical exercise, after all).

      So if I’m a developer, I WANT to push for more condos vice rental units to maximize return. So if I could get 34,000 units at $600,000, I’d be reeeealllly happy. Except that there might not be 34,000 people who would want to (or could afford to) buy. Or that the units are now so far off the Orange Line to be less attractive.

      I would think the more appropriate question would be what should the mix be between owners and renters for those units.

      • CW

        No, I agree with you. What you wrote applies to rentals too, assuming that the landlord or seller can continue to charge the same. But the point of this article was that they wanted to move past saturation to where you get downward pressure on prices. So I was showing why no one who is in the position to make this happen (the builders/developers) would ever want to do this. The only way this would happen would be if the county started building units themselves to flood the market.

  • NoVapologist

    Yes – because Arlington definitely needs more cheaply built high rises.

    • Shan

      LOL

      • Southeast Jerome

        You mean the Archstone buildings with $2000/1 bedrooms arent Luxury??

        Shocked doesnt even apply. I feel like a kitten being sprayed with a hose.

      • Thes

        There is another way to increase density without building high-rises: further loosen restrictions on accessory dwelling units. The entire County of Arlington is located inside the beltway and has relatively outstanding transportation access (in some cases even when it’s by car, yes) to close to a million job sites.

        The problem with increasing density this way? Politics. There are no rich developers who can make millions in a single project that way, and people in the neighborhoods with stand-alone houses don’t want anything to change one bit. (Although they are often happy to advocate for highrise density somewhere farther from where they live.)

        There are, what? 50,000 detached houses in Arlington? If one fifth of them got an accessory dwelling unit we would have 10,000 more units of affordable housing right there.

        • Vinh An Nguyen

          Excellent point.

        • John Fontain

          “we would have 10,000 more units of affordable housing right there.”

          How do you know those units would be affordable and how do you define affordable? Are you suggesting that the owners of these SFHs who incur considerable time and cost to add ADUs would offer them up at less than market rents?

          • Thes

            Well we could turn to the evidence that shows this happens in reality. Or we could also use our common sense. Accessory dwelling units are inherently smaller than the main home, and with less square footage, they will cost less to build and demand less rent to maintain. Even if rented on a cost-recovery basis, they will increase the supply of housing overall, as those rich developers and many on this blog thread are proposing. Except the profit would go to thousands of existing homeowners instead of a few bankers and lucky commercial landowners.

          • John Fontain

            Yes, we should indeed use common sense. Those in the building industry know there is a rule of thumb with regard to building costs: larger projects have larger absolute costs, but lower per square foot costs. Since the ADUs you seek are smaller projects, they will be definition have higher per square foot costs than average. And yet you take this to translate into the ability of the owner (let’s put aside the wants of the owner for a moment) to rent such properties for less than average costs?

            More common sense: Look at the illegal ADUs currently for rent (lots on craigslist). How many of those property owners are offering up their properties at what would be considered “affordable housing” levels?

            Finally, the report to which you link did not provide any facts to substantiate it’s vague assertion that ADUs provide affordable housing. In example after example, there is no reference to ADU pricing vs. market pricing.

            I am happy to continue this discussion as long as you’d like.

        • Burger

          While an interesting point I doubt the 50K houses in Arlington all have the necessary area on the lot to accomplish this.

          I believe when this cam up about 4 years ago there were only 10000 detached house that could meet the right land necessary

          • Pragmatist

            And of course the sanitary system can support all these additional structures. And the electrical grid. And Verizon. And Comcast. Just plug-and-play, no problems, no infrastructure upgrades in the neighborhoods needed. Plenty of on street parking too.

          • Vinh An Nguyen

            Wait…you mean capacity on the Orange Line isn’t limitless?

          • Pragmatist

            I think it shows that scattering 10000 new housing units around the least dense areas of the county is the most inefficient way to add housing capacity. And that’s the polite version of what I think about the idea.

            There is a reason we have built-up cores and low density SFH neighborhoods. Where else are we going to keep our egg-laying hens?

          • Thes

            The “least dense” parts of Arlington are denser than most of the United States. Do our electric/water/sewer/transportation networks have 20% more capacity than they’re now using in those areas? I’d guess they do. If not, those McMansions are going to have to use a lot of solar-powered well water.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Thes,

            What I wonder about is how much energy these McMansions use and how much it costs. Surely by size alone it takes more to heat or cool these McMansions than my 70 year old Cape Cod.

            You wrote: “Do our electric/water/sewer/transportation networks have 20% more capacity than they’re now using in those areas? I’d guess they do. If not, those McMansions are going to have to use a lot of solar-powered well water.”

            They may very well have to use a lot of solar-powered well water the way they keep popping up like mushrooms after a rain.

          • No to McMansions

            I agree with you Bluemont, but the builders of the McMansions claim that as new construction they are more energy efficient than the older houses, so they don’t really use that much more energy. Whether or not this is really true, I couldn’t say.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Hey No to McMansions,

            I’ve seen/heard builders claim the same thing. Those same builders probably also believe that Santa’s sled is pulled by six purple hippos. To me, builders claiming their Hindenburgs on postage stamps are more “efficient” than a much smaller home is like Cadillac trying to claim their cars get the same MPG as a Honda Civic.

            I believe those developers/builders the same way I believe Congress (both parties) genuinely give a flip about the interests and concerns of folks like you and I.

          • Pragmatist

            If you want to turn this into an argument of accessory units vs McMansions you really have to include the economics of property and improvement values into the discussion.

            Look at the majority of SFH assessments in the county. The land is probably far more valuable than the structure, unless the house was built within the last 10 to 15 years. It can be as high as a 5:1 ratio. What does adding an accessory dwelling to that type of property do for the value, vs razing the older house and building a modern one? A new house pays back the County substantially better than a tiny house in the side yard of an old house. So blaming this on neighbors and developers as a “political” problem is ignoring the very real economic problem.

            And on the whole issue of McMansions, to me that term only applies when lots are divided up for more houses than were previously allowed. That may not be here nor there to this conversation, but to me a new house is a new house, not necessarily a McMansion. So yes, subdividing lots has an impact on infrastructure, but just building a modern house has much less, and you get a substantial tax revenue increase for the county.

          • John Fontain

            Many older houses in Arlington have little to know insulation in the walls. You might be surprised at how much energy they consume compared to the larger new ones.

          • South Awwwlington

            It amazes me the way no one ever comments on this. Yes, Arlington did smart development right. We get it. But what is going to happen when those Silver Line trains come rolling through, already packed to capacity from the outer burbs and not allowing for any RBC corridor folks to board. Then what happens when they try to ram additional trains through an already overload Potomac River tunnel. Something has to give…

        • Charlie

          Good point. So why is the ACcesory unit ordinance so painful to use? Because of meddling by citizens who think too much. I don’t have extra parking and can’t have a uni. Stupid. Thevillegal units on my block aren’t a problem.

  • Charlie

    We don’t have enough housing. Which is why prices are absurd.
    Increase supply to decrease prices.

    • John Fontain

      “We don’t have enough housing.”

      Really? Are people living in hotels or on the street because of a lack of housing units?

      Craigslist alone shows hundreds of rental and sale units available right now.

      • Burger

        Apparently, they live right in Courthouse right next to the Woodberry Condo’s.

        But, I agree with your point.

      • Nodice

        I think the point is that there are more people who WANT to live in Arlington, because they work here or grew up here or like the community values. Nurses, teachers, police officers, public servants….. all those folks who work for the greater good but could never afford the expensive rentals on Craigslist. This demographic is really lacking in Arlington, and it shows.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          Totally agree, Nodice. My neighbor is an APS teacher, and her family can only afford to live in Arlington because her husband works, too. Back when I was growing up in Arlington (in the “dark ages”), all my teachers from elementary through high school lived in Arlington and many of them were either single with no family or were single income families.

          • Econ

            Well guess what. Most people in the country can’t afford to live anywhere if both spouses don’t work.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            I was tying to point out that Nodice was correct – many people who are nurses, teachers, police, etc. make decent money but cannot afford to live in Arlington, many of them can’t do so even if they have two income families. I’m fully aware that most people everywhere in the USA these days can’t afford to live unless both spouses work. That is a shame and it is a shame that many people who work in Arlington and make decent money cannot afford to live here, unlike when I was growing up. It shouldn’t be that way.

            Sorry my observation on a free forum got your snarky sarcastic self in a knot.

          • Milton Friedman

            Thirty years of ‘free-market’ economic policies have come home to roost.

          • Josh S

            Why is it a shame that it takes two working spouses to make the household work?

            It’s sort of strange that we cling to the Leave It To Beaver nuclear family ideal, since that arrangement was only common for a very small part of history.

        • John Fontain

          I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but are you suggesting that everyone should have the right to live wherever they want?

          • Southeast Jerome

            Yes- thats the basis for the Occupy movement.

          • Northeast Shiniquewa

            Oh, so it’s the Occupy movement that wants more development along the Orange Line. Now I get it!

          • Southeast Jerome

            They should have the right to live where they want at the price they think is fair. Occupy pee drinkers dont understand what a “market” is.

            Thats why they were protesting on wall street when they should be protesting in front of Congress.

          • Nodice

            I’m saying a community benefits from having room for those who power it. In most places this happens organically, with economic diversity at the street or neighborhood or town level, but all present within the governmental boundaries and part of the fabric of the community.

            But thanks to unique political, economic and geographic forces, Arlington is tracked to become the “elite downtown zone” for all of NOVA, where high rent is an accepted admission price. And being so tiny, how long before that’s all this self-governing county has space to be?

            Service employers can’t attract or keep staff, county staff don’t live here and thus make bad decisions on our behalf, our kids only interact with other kids just like them….

            So yeah, I’d support our county board balancing this phenomenon with density controls and other regulation, to ensure that Arlington operates as a full community ecosystem within its boundaries.

          • John Fontain

            This may strike you as counterintuitive, but you should be pushing hard for the removal or reduction of the mortgage interest deduction for federal tax purposes. Subsidies like that effectively tranfer a large portion of middle-class America’s income/wealth to financial institutions. Removing or reducing the loophole would result in lower overall housing prices, thus achieving what you desire (and what we should all desire).

          • If you really want nobody to buy, go do it. Then corporations can own all the property and charge whatever they want in rent. There won’t be an adequate ownership market to keep the balance.

          • John Fontain

            OB, I don’t think you’ve thought this through enough.

          • I have.

            A change will not make me change my ownership status currently because I’m on the tail end of the interest now anyway. But, I would only buy again as an investor in an investment property to cash in on the higher rent I”ll be able to charge.

            The fact is, I can take out a mortgage on a home and pay all the expenses and taxes on it, for less than I can rent currently. If you take the interest deduction away that will no longer be true so there is little incentive to buy. What happens? Yeah, house prices drop because of less people buying for their own home. But, investors will snatch them up cheap (much to what is going on right now). If your theory is the current system transfers middle-class wealth to financial institutions, then your proposed solution will transfer wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. The wealthy will own all the property while everyone else pays them to squat there for their whole life.

          • John Fontain

            “The fact is, I can take out a mortgage on a home and pay all the expenses and taxes on it, for less than I can rent currently. If you take the interest deduction away that will no longer be true so there is little incentive to buy. What happens? Yeah, house prices drop because of less people buying for their own home.”

            You say that less people will buy because the cost of buying won’t be cheaper than renting but then you also say that house prices will drop . If prices drop, the lower prices offset the inability to deduct interest. And we pay less for houses.

            The MID allows everyone to pay more to own shelter than they otherwise would without the MID. Get rid of the MID, people can afford to pay less, and prices decline as a result.

            What you argued above is that less people will buy even though house prices will be cheaper. I don’t agree with this reasoning.

          • House prices may go down a little, but people are going to borrow money to buy them. And, without the tax break, that much less of their disposable income is available to pay the mortgage each month. I guess the question is, how much will home prices drop and how much can you realistically borrow?

            The market currently limits borrowers and home prices have dropped. Yet, we don’t see people flocking to buy homes. We see investors buying up the homes cheap enough. So, while the 99% rent and deal with depressed house values, the 1% are snatching the bargains up as investments and renting what they already own at premium rents.

            Looking at today’s real-life activity is the perfect model for what happens when you depress the housing market.

      • Charlie

        Yes, we don’t have enough. That is why rents are so high and people have to commute so far.

  • jussayin

    There seem to be an awful lot of lonely lots in the Clarendon-Courthouse section (e.g., behind Whole Foods, behind Liberty Tavern). Isn’t there some way to incentivize the owners by taxing empty land more heavily than built land? Otherwise those sad empty lots are both useless and ugly.

    • Zoning Victim

      That would be a very unfair use of government power.

      • Zoning Proponent

        How so?

        • Zoning Victim

          Hi Drax, because unfairly taxing someone on something simply to get the result the government wants is just a backdoor fine for not doing what the government wants. They might as well just pass a law that criminalizes owning an empty lot, which would never fly.

      • Josh S

        Bad news, Victim – it’s already commonplace – called a blight tax. Although, to be fair, it’s usually placed on property where the improvements have been allowed to fall into a dilapidated state. In some cases, it’s quite punitive – I’ve seen property taxes at seven times the standard rate for properties deemed to be “blighted.”

        You seem to have a problem accepting the fact that “what the government wants” is actually usually translated as – in the public’s interest.

    • John Fontain

      The purpose of taxing is to collect revenue. The purpose is not to punish those who don’t do as you would wish.

      • LGRooney

        The purpose of collecting revenue is to improve the services provided to commercial and residential tenants and if a whole lot is unproductive then it is denying services to those tenants. So, it would make sense to collect something from someone producing a negative impact (denial of productive assets a/o material detraction of valuations on other properties in the vicinity) on other residents within the municipality.

        • John Fontain

          Where to begin?

          “if a whole lot is unproductive then it is denying services to those tenants.”

          If a lot is vacant, the owner doesn’t have tenants to ‘deny services’ to.

          “The purpose of collecting revenue is to improve the services provided”

          Sorry, the purpose of taxing isn’t to improve anything. It’s to provide services period. There is no notion of an obligation on the part of government to continually improve the quality and quantity of cheese it doles out.

          “denial of productive assets”

          People other than the owners of a property have the right to the benefits of that property? The right?

          • Milton Friedman

            It’s called “negative externalities”.

          • John Fontain

            Sorry, this doesn’t meet that definition.

          • Evan

            Tax policy is unbelievably complicated, but one thing is for certain: taxes are not merely a tool to collect revenue.

            Using deductions and credits, for example, the federal tax code incentivizes a vast array of outcomes that the government has deemed beneficial. The most obvious example is the deduction for mortgage interest.

          • Zoning Victim

            Which is largely responsible for the gigantic mess that is our economy.

          • Freddy Engels

            If only the rich paid less, all would be well.

    • SomeGuy

      Your intentions are good, and probably even legal. However, the developers would find a way to game it by making land minimally useful just to skirt the tax burden.

      It’s kinda like a story I recently read in which San Francisco (or some other municipality in CA) passed a rule thinly veiled to target McDonald’s Happy Meals. The rule was that restaurants couldn’t provide free toys with meals that didn’t meet certain health guidelines, in a clear effort to push McD’s to offer healthier options. McD’s subsequently offered Happy Meals with the option to buy an accompanying toy for a measly 10¢. Now that the customer is PURCHASING the toy, problem solved!

      It would be nearly impossible to write a law for real estate development that wouldn’t find a similar loophole to skirt the language. Unless, of course, the county dictated specifically and strictly how land must be used, but I don’t think you’re suggesting that.

      • Southeast Jerome

        That McDonalds story is a perfect example of how the private sector almost always has the more talented workforce compared with the public sector.

        • Northeast Shiniquewa

          Could your opinions be any more trite?

      • Jerry

        Oh, for the love of . . .

        When someone else does it it’s “skirting the law” or a “loophole.” When you do it, it’s just “following the rules and doing what you’re allowed to do.”

        • SomeGuy

          Jerry, what are you talking about? When did I do any of the above? Or even pass judgement on anyone who did something mentioned above?

  • clarendon

    Density should not adjusted expecting it to have much effect on affordability. Pick the density one is comfortable with and that transportation, parks and other infrastructure can support. I think where we are is a pretty good spot, a little more or a little less (than the planned amount, not the currrent amount) would be OK with me too.

    The only proper way to get naturally affordable housing is to have a mix of housing types, and more importantly a mix of housing stock age. New construction is unlikely to ever be ‘affordable’. It takes time to get this. Buildings built today should be high construction quality so they will last a long time and of a high urban and building design quality so people in the future will *want* them around when they get old.

    • John Fontain

      I agree completely. Trying to adjust density for the sake of achieving certain prices will NOT work and will only increase density.

    • Burger

      I believe a couple of those “empty” lots have buildings planned for them but have been put on hold due to the economy. You can just say build something on a lot if it doesn’t make economic sense.

      A couple of lots are also owned by several embassies – South Korea (the one behind Papa John’s) and Nigeria come to mind for some reason and they likely do not pay taxes on those lots so good luck forcing them to sell by increasing the taxes on empty lots if it was constitutionally allowed.

      • Southeast Jerome

        Yes- however I have heard from those in the local commercial real estate business that building new residential developments directly on the orange line prime land is very tricky to do because of the land cost. Most of those empty lots will end up being commercial offices rather than apartments or condos.

        Really just what these “employers” need to do is give their employees a higher salary to justify the high cost of living here.

        They give their employees “cost of living” raises based on the national cost of living, when in fact the local “cost of living” is indeed, much higher. Very shrot sighted on the part of business.

        • Newt ’12

          Higher wages for workers? What are you, some sort of Marxist?

          • brian

            re: higher wages for workers

            haha that is funny

            way to increase rents/costs EVEN further !!

        • Charlie

          Actually it is the cash payments that developers make to Arlington county as a part of their community benefit that is making it so cosltly. A building in allston has $100/sq ft in payments to Arlington. If those condos sell for $600/sq ft, almost 20% of the purchase price is a bribe paid, legally, to Arlington ….

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Hey Charlie,

            Maybe that explains why the “developer” that build the five McMansions at the end of my street, who totally broke his promises to our Civic Association, never got a tap on the wrist for breaking his word and also breaking building code/regulations (something a former neighbor found when researching when he saw the houses were way too large and too high). The Board/whoever in the Arl Gov’t got their…um….take, percentage….”processing fee” and that was all that mattered.

          • Charlie

            My coments are more about the big high density projects.
            I don’t know which project is on your street… But I bet I know the story… Where are the new houses?

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Hey Charlie,

            There were 5 McMansions built at the end of North Kensington just before 9th st and another 4 built on Jacksonville at the crest of the hill on Jacksonville. The old stone house that was originally on the large wooded lot was kept, but gutted and remodeled on the inside. I think Barrett (the developer) left two trees left on the lot and cut down all the rest. Some of the homeowners have planted small ornamental trees to try and break up the vacant look.

    • Lou

      Agree, and developers like Silverwood are at the bottom of the list of people we should be consulting for advice about this. This sounds like they have proposed a solution and now need to find a way to present a matching problem.

      Developers are profit driven and nothing else. They want to boost the stock simply because it is a numbers game to them. No matter what the rents are, they just want more units to multiply by. Their financing costs for construction will float right along with inflation and average wages, so no matter it we’re at a peak or trough in personal income, their margins on projects stay relatively the same.

      Also, their is a major typo in the linked article. It says that only a small percentage of VHC’s employees work in Arlington. I’m sure they mean “live”. Kind of messes up the premise.

  • KalashniKEV

    I think we’ve already established in the other thread that the best way to depress property values is to increase crime and vagrancy.

    Plus, after we’re done bankrolling hobos and “subsidizing units,” where are we going to get money to spend on ourselves?

    • OX4

      Well, I think *you’ve* established that.

      • Josh S

        I’m not sure he established it, either. “Asserted” it, to be sure.

    • Southeast Jerome

      Its also pretty clear from Europe that a socialist society does not work. It provides incentives to freeride and loaf. The 1% cannot carry the load for everyone. Eventually- they will stop.

      • Northeast Shiniquewa

        Yes, that is why Sweden and Norway are broke. Oh, wait a minute…

        • Southeast Jerome

          Sweden uses the Krona, not the Euro.
          Norway uses the Krone., not the Euro.

          Those are both more “Nordic” countries than European countries.

          Please examine the finances of Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Ireland, Greece. They are all in great shape right?? Pay attention to the world before commenting, please.

          • Northeast Shiniquewa

            And you think Euro = Socialist? LOL

            Where does Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland fit? Some use Euro, some do not, all are “Socialist” (or should I put it in all CAPS) by your definition, and are better off than the US is.

            If anyone needs to pay attention, it’s you.

          • Southeast Jerome

            Niquewa- I do pay attention, which is why I know the European economy is on the verge of falling apart.

            I would hardly say those countries are better off than the US. If you really feel that way..
            http://www.lufthansa.com/us/en/homepage

            Dont let the flag hit you on the way out

          • Josh S

            You’re hilarious. A little Washington Examiner in the morning and you think you’re an expert.

            You might want to stop and reflect on what Michelle Bachmann is saying before just spouting it yourself.

            There are no, repeat no socialist countries in Europe. There are countries where the government attempts to provide public services / benefits at a much higher level than we do here. That doesn’t make them socialist. It does mean that they tax at a much higher rate. Again, that doesn’t make them socialist.

            At this point “socialist” is nothing more than a buzzword, a code phrase, an epithet spewed by those who don’t really understand it but it sounds good and it sounds anti-American so it must be good for use against those you don’t like / disagree with.

            There are several countries in Europe that are now facing severe budgetary issues, primarily having to do with demographics. Population growth has shrunk to close to zero, the population is aging and older people require more government-provided services. They will likely have to start trimming the services / benefits provided to their citizens. This will likely reduce the standard of living for the average person there. In some cases, these standards of living may begin to fall enough so as to approach the average standard of living in this country, which tends to be lower than certain countries located in the continent known as Europe, including, for example Sweden and Norway.

            You mentioned earlier that “it is pretty clear from Europe that a socialist society does not work.” Well, leaving aside the question about what is and what is not a “socialist society” I really don’t understand how you could conclude that Europe has not been “working.” In terms of standard of living, there is very little to distinguish the US from Europe.

      • OX4

        What planet do you live on? The U.S. inequality index is one of the highest in the OECD. The 1% would be silly to leave our country.

  • Reverse Commuter

    Yes, we need to build more and increase density. Especially around the metro. There are quite some abandoned parking lots in between Clarendon and Courthouse for example, which really does not make sense to me.

    By building more along the Rosslyn-Falls Church corridor we may be able to get housing for the true middle class without having to defer to unsustainable and unfair “affordable housing”, which leaves the middle high and dry.

    Arlington, being in between of DC and other job centers such as the Dulles corridor, Tyson (and even Arlington itself), must provide housing near (preferably public) transportation hubs.

    Plus, it will increase the value of my Ashton heights single family property. 🙂

    • clarendon

      As was pointed out, those abandoned lots in Clarendon are not planned to be abandoned lots, but are planned/allowed to be high-rise apartments, condos and office with retail. The land ownership and/or the economy is keeping them empty. I agree they should be developed. This survey should make clear that what people are asking is if the *planned* density should be increased – not whether empty lots should be filled in. To answer that intelligently, one first needs to be aware of what the planned density allows currently.

      • jussayin

        I’ve taken a look through the plan around the Clarendon metro section and I think that level of density looks great. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re only 1/2 way there, right? So it would be hard to gauge whether or not we need more density beyond the planned density when the planned density isn’t nearly met yet.

        (FWIW, I love SFHs, I grew up in one, and I think there are many lovely houses around Arlington that I’m sure are appreciated by great families. I think that diversity is what makes the county such a great place to live. I can live in my apartment practically on top of the Metro station, but then enjoy the parks and neighborhoods several blocks out. I wouldn’t want to start tearing them down by any means.)

        • clarendon

          For Clarendon, about half way to full plan build-out seems about right. I think many of the lots left are more difficult to develop for various reasons. Silverwood and the county proposed to build an apartment building with mostly or all affordable housing on top of the power substation in Clarendon but several single family homeowners in the area threw a caniption fit and the proposal was withdrawn. I thought it was a pretty good spot for some density and now it will be ironic if the net result will be to push more density into the SFH areas.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          Jussayin,

          I live in the Cape Cod house in Bluemont that my parents bought in 1961, and I inherited it after my father died two years ago. My neighborhood has a lot of great houses that were built around 1939-46 (except for five oversized McMansions built at the end of my street when the original homeowner had to go into assisted living and sold their house that was on a very large lot). I very much appreciate my house. Most of the people in my neighborhood are families with young children and they love it and the houses – we’re two blocks from Bon Air and Bluemont Parks and one block or less from Wilson Blvd. for those that take metro bus and the train.

          • jussayin

            And I’m sure it’s a lovely home! I have really enjoyed walking around the neighborhoods in Arlington and I aspire to maybe 10-15 years from now actually get to settle down in there. But for now, apartment living it is, with one person in our household working in Fairfax and the other in DC.

            So going back to my original comment in this whole thing, I’m just curious if there’s a way to get the already-planned, already- “baked in” density to be actually developed. This is something that the county has already agreed upon, and yet it does not seem to be going forward in Clarendon nearly as quickly as further down in Rosslyn, nor as quickly as many of the townhouse developments I see out in Fairfax.

            Yes, I understand the economy tanked shortly after the plan was made, and no, we as a country haven’t recovered yet. So it is understandable that there have been delays. Having read these forums for the past couple of months, I should have known better than to dip a toe in with what seemed, to me, to be an innocent question. But really, can’t we all band together to at least finish the first plan before griping about any future plans? 🙂

          • Burger

            How do you propose you force some to develop a property if there is no demand. Just take the land and give it to someone else willing to take a great risk.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Jussasyin wrote: “So going back to my original comment in this whole thing, I’m just curious if there’s a way to get the already-planned, already- “baked in” density to be actually developed. This is something that the county has already agreed upon, and yet it does not seem to be going forward in Clarendon nearly as quickly as further down in Rosslyn, nor as quickly as many of the townhouse developments I see out in Fairfax.”

            I honestly don’t know. It seems that any new development or trying to move forward with existing “baked in” density to actually be developed brings for controversy. My personal opinion is that some, perhaps quite a few Arlingtonians may believe that parts of Arlington have been overdeveloped, or that development has been out of control – at least in some areas of Arlington.

  • Juanita de Talmas

    So we should tear down exisiting single-family homes and build townhouses, and tear down existing townhouses to build high-rises.

    What will this do to the price of SFHs in Arlington? Won’t that make for fewer choices on what kind of housing suits you?

  • KalashniKEV

    Also, for my curiosity… what’s this WINNING about? Can we turn it into a gameshow on public access so residents can actually tune in and watch?

    I think it would go a long way towards alleviating their Guilt if they could actually see the money they are pumping out, and it’s effect. I feel like the way their minds work, after the commitment is made, it’s soon forgotten and they’re onto the next “progressive” endeavor… forgetting that they’re still flushing money into the first.

    • Justin Russo

      What on earth are you talking about? Winning what?

    • Grammatical Radical

      Possessive of it = its, just like his and hers:

      He/his
      She/hers
      It/its

      Contraction of “it is” = it’s. This is never possessive.

      I know–seems off topic and petty, but I’m so tired of seeing it the wrong way.

      • KalashniKEV

        If you had a gameshow, no one would watch it.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          LOL!

  • novasteve

    What with super high rises? I think people keep forgetting like something like 20% of the county’s land area is a cemetary. There’s not that much room here.

  • dogwood

    The new heated bus shelters on Columbia Pike should help the housing density in that area.

    • The Gov..

      Damn Canadians!!

  • captain obvious

    When people move into Arlington they dont want diversity….unless its serving them coffee in the morning and calls em massstttuh! I mean its arlington whrrre black neighborhoods “renovate” and raise the rent to Whatever makes it white,

    • Reverse Commuter

      It’s not about race or culture to may, but class and income. I make a good salary and I like to live somewhere where other people live that make a comparable amount, that don’t party all night and that don’t rob me.

      I feel very lucky that I can afford to live in such a great neighborhood where my wife can walk to the metro without being accosted or robbed. What do you want me to do, move to PG county? Does it make me a bad person that I want to live where it is safe and clean?

      • Southeast Jerome

        Yes- same with me. Your reasoning is precisely why I can never live in Maryland. Ugh.

        Arlington is a perfect little bubble of educated, well-off, high-earning, hardworking people that deserve what they have. People want to be associated with class and talent. Employers need class and talent. Thats what makes this area so desirable.

        Let supply and demand figure the market out. You cant “plan” an economy. Most of those are SOCIALISTS.

        • Thes

          Has the word “Socialist” ever been typed into a blog anywhere without being in all-caps?

          There are plenty of highly-regulated industries (meaning the government partly controls price or supply) in this country by the way. Electric power, communications services, airlines, taxis, towing, water, sewer, garbage collection, transportation, and mail delivery, for example. As a result, we have very few people who can’t afford those basic services.

          • CW

            I wonder if SE Jerome knows how many of his “educated, well-off, high-earning, hardworking people” can afford to live in that “perfect little bubble” because they are earning their money off of government regulation, public administration, and other SOCIALIST ventures?

          • dk

            +1

          • SE Jerome

            *fingers in ears*

            LA LA LA I CAN”T HEAR YOU LA LA LA

        • DSS10

          I bet you have never lived anywhere else but the US. You want a free market move to Mexico or Pakistan….

          • Zoning Victim

            Those countries are definitely not free markets and well known to have some of the most corrupt governments on the planet.

          • Been There

            The more unfettered the so-called free markets are, the more likely they are to corrupt the government.

            That is why our orgy of “deregulation” over the last 30 years has resulted in the best government money can buy.

          • DSS10

            Actually Haiti is a better example….They are totally free markets, no laws no regulations, no barriers to commerce. There are also a lot of very rich people who live very well due to the fact that they can deploy capital, and manage costs with out their rights being infringed upon. No offence intended, but I bet you have never lived outside the county either…… If you ever do, I don’t mean living on an army post or in an expat compound, you will truly start to value america, until then it’s all philosophical masturbation.

          • CW

            What is the difference between a “corrupt government” and “the free market”? If “the market” determines that someone gets to be in office, and then they shop their services on “the market” and cater their behavior towards those actions which result in the greatest incentive to them, isn’t that perfectly in line with free market theory?

    • Hattie McDaniel

      I always find it amusing when people think “diverse” somehow means percentage of African-American residents.

      • SomeGuy

        Same here, Hattie M. The word “diverse” has somehow become socially acceptable code for “non-white.”

    • ArlingtonWay

      Oooh! How provocative!! Its the Black Panthers! Wow, do I feel guilty as a white person! Godamned my lack of melonin. Grow up. The color that matters in Arlington and everywhere else is green. You have green you do very well. You don’t, doesn’t much matter what color your skin is. Free to go back to reading Frantz Fanon now.

  • Burger

    Yes, we should increase density but not for the reason cited. If you increase density specifically for affordability reasons you’ll get huge push back – see the thread on the homeless shelter – but if the market builds to meet needs then there is less so.

  • DSS10

    If the county want to increase affordability, they might start to look at their zoning practices which allow to these terrible Million + dollar 3,000+ sqft homes to be built on lots sized for two bed room bungalows. Every “affordable” free standing home in the county is priced on the basis that it can be torn down and have a speculative structure built with 3X the square footage and a master bath that is bigger than the kitchen with no consideration for either its impact on the neighborhood or the existing stock of affordable housing. If there was affordable houses then this would force down apartment prices and rentals and would increase the rental stock of single family homes. As long as the entry price for a small house in a ok neighborhood is in excess of 700K apartment rents will be stay high. Adding additional rental stock will only encourage additional congestion and development.

    On another note, I have been driving past a apartment building under construction on washington bvld near 10th street. Its being built with stick construction (wood) and I didn’t see any fire walls or protected stair wells. Is that legal here under the building code.

    • Reverse Commuter

      It’s made out of Popsicle sticks, plaster and chicken wire!

    • Bluemontsince1961

      +10, DSS10

    • MikeT

      Amen, DSS10.

      The County actually did make things more affordable for families right after WWII, when many, many small, affordable single family homes were built. Arlington became known as the place to go for folks just starting out. Now the county government seems to care about, in priority order: 1. developers 2. illegal immigrants 3. young wealthy singles who want luxury condos and 4. homeless people from other areas.

      I am convinced they view families with children who live in houses as a burden to their long-range goals.

      Someday maybe we can change the makeup of the county board, but that won’t happen until we have district representation and elections that are not staggered.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        You nailed it, Mike T

      • John Fontain

        “The County actually did make things more affordable for families right after WWII, when many, many small, affordable single family homes were built.”

        Did the County do this or did the free market do this?

        • Bluemontsince1961

          John,

          It may have been a combination of both. After World War II, I believe GIs had assistance from the Government in buying homes – I believe it was part of the GI Bill. There was also a great demand for housing at that time and loans via the GI Bill were easy to obtain. The County might have had a hand in it to encourage WWII vets and their families to move here to live.

          • Burger

            the GI Bill had nothing to do with the County.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            I know the GI Bill didn’t have anything do with the County in itself. DSS10’s comment immediately below clarified what I was trying to say.

        • DSS10

          No, it was a combination the GI Bill for SFH and and some government subsidized construction (Tax abatement’s and land grants) (Fairlington, that big development across 395 from shirlington, Arlington hall, and other developments) to support the both war effort and housing for pentagon and DoD employees.

      • Josh S

        Well, yeah. But that’s when there was lots of vacant land for the small, affordable single family homes to be built on.

        I just don’t see the relevance. Yes, those things happened then. And the landscape changed. But then people kept moving in and jobs kept being created. And so now there are way more people who want to live here than can live here. And so those small, affordable single family homes built in the 40s now sell for $500,000+. They are no longer affordable. And they are nearing the end of their expected life.

        How to manage what happens next?

    • John Fontain

      In other words, you don’t want a free market.

      • DSS10

        A free market is based on equal access, information for buyers and sellers. Its is also assumed that it is a “liquid” market where there is a lot of transactions and no barrier to sales or purchases. Yes the market will sort this out, but not in your life time. Once an apartment building is built it that land will never revert to single family housing, the cost of demolition is too high and only another large building can be built economically in its place. The only place I have seen high density housing give way to low density is in Detroit and the South Bronx in New York. That’s the market at work with arson and the government condemning and seizing abandoned property.

        The real problem is that both the county government and the developers have interests that are at odds with the residents. The county government wants to increase tax roles which is best accomplished by increasing real estate taxes through higher valuations, so the county would much rater have 1 million dollar homes as opposed to 500K homes. It is also much easier for the county to deal with corporate developers, especially apartment and commercial developers because they really don’t care about schools, public services, or the quality of the neighborhood due to the fact that they only care if their investment is performing and they do not live in the areas that they develop (one notable exception was Charles E Smith who had an apartment in Crystal City). I bet most of the city employees do not live in Arlington too. If I remember correctly the former zoning/permitting official who was profiled in ARLnow was from Chantilly or some where out that way.

        I think that all Arlington officials should have to live in the county and have to “dog food” there own policies and have some financial skin in the game (own a home or have a kid in school).

        • Zoning Victim

          I believe the former zoning administrator lived in Centerville, and even the county manager, who makes $235K a year and is akin to a mayor other than the fact that she’s not elected, lives outside of Arlington County.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          DSS10 wrote:

          “The real problem is that both the county government and the developers have interests that are at odds with the residents. The county government wants to increase tax roles which is best accomplished by increasing real estate taxes through higher valuations, so the county would much rater have 1 million dollar homes as opposed to 500K homes. It is also much easier for the county to deal with corporate developers, especially apartment and commercial developers because they really don’t care about schools, public services, or the quality of the neighborhood due to the fact that they only care if their investment is performing and they do not live in the areas that they develop (one notable exception was Charles E Smith who had an apartment in Crystal City).”

          Exactly! Especially the first sentence!

          • Pragmatist

            Ah, another great point. How about the County put a moratorium on adding population until they fix the school capacity crisis?

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Ask DSS10, who wrote the comment that I quoted above. I merely agreed with him/her.

          • DSS10

            If you are referring to the quoted text in your post @ 12:11 I wrote that in a meeting this morning on my laptop….. The free market stuff is from Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations.”

          • Bluemontsince1961

            TY, DSS10. I was refering Pragmatist to your earlier comment and that was the one.

        • Josh S

          What makes you say that the county government has interests that are at odds with the residents? I understand clearly that you percieve that your interests are at odds with those of the government, but how do you then extrapolate to “residents” as a whole?

          And aren’t you putting the cart before the horse? The county’s interest in tax revenue is to meet the expenses associated with planned services, isn’t it? And who demands the services? The residents, isn’t it?

          I’m just looking for a reason why you say what you do.

      • Zoning Victim

        Do you? In an earlier post, it seemed like you were lobbying for the zoning regulations to continue to prevent density. In a free market, shouldn’t a land owner be able to build to whatever density that they wish? I’m not saying this because I’m against a free market, quite the contrary, but simply because it seems that you’re asking for a free market in one post and asking for regulation of the market in another.

        • John Fontain

          Maybe you could guide me to the contradiction you see, as I am not sure what earlier post you are referring to.

          • Zoning Victim

            Sure, it’s this:

            “I agree completely. Trying to adjust density for the sake of achieving certain prices will NOT work and will only increase density.”

            Density is adjusted by changing the zoning regulations, which actually act to restrict the free market. In a free market, builders would be allowed to build to whatever density they felt the market would bear.

          • John Fontain

            Both posts I responded to were discussing the manipulation of current regulations to achieve a desired effect, which in my opinion is unlikely to work as intended. My position is that property rights shouldn’t be further restricted or enhanced. In other words, let the free market take care of things within current regulations rather than try to further manipulate regulations to achieve a certain result.

          • Zoning Victim

            Gotcha, I can certainly agree that the last thing we need is more government manipulation of the markets.

          • DSS10

            When you talk of property rights how would it affect your rights if a homeless shelter was built across the street from your house, or maybe a halfway house for newly released sex offenders. Although these are extreme examples I bet you might find your property rights infringed if you next door neighbor built a 4 story mcmansion that blocked out the sun and came with in 6″ of your lot line and had windows that lined up with all of yours. Your investment in your home would be damaged and the time spent in your home would have diminished value.

            If you lived in a condo, imagine if your next door neighbor started one of those non-regulated massage businesses and decided to address the “low end of the market” and since she lives in a studio, she decides to have her customers wait in the hall way.

            Who’s rights are infringed when these things happen?

        • DSS10

          I was trying to point out that housing is not a “free-competitive market” in that is neither liquid ie: you can not reasonably move at will (there is either a transaction cost (Real estate fee’s, yanking your kid out of school, having to put in silly granite counter tops because your real estate agent told you so and her brother in law just happens to own a company that will give you a “good” deal) and you cant just go over to the house you like, show them an appraisal write them a check and tell them to leave because you are moving in). The free market works, some what, for trading soy bean futures and hog bellies but trying to apply it to housing markets or better yet the job market is both is nieve and foolish. You should read you’re Adam Smith first before you use the term

    • DSS10

      You know I was thinking about this and one example of relatively affordable housing in Arlington county is Fairlington. With the historical district certification there has been no teardowns or massive additions made to any of the town houses or apartments and the rents (and prices) for both apartments and townhouses are a lot more affordable than most of the rents (and prices) for similar town houses and apartments in other parts of the county.

      • Josh S

        That might have something to do with its relatively remote location. I have often been tempted to rent or buy down there but always rule it out in the end because it is so far away from the places I want / need / like to go.

    • Zoning Victim

      The zoning regulations were already changed to take buildable land away from us, thereby devaluing our property; how much is enough? The only reason it’s so expensive to live in Arlington is because of its close proximity to Washington, D.C. and the convenience it offers to all of the major highways in the area. People built big houses here because it’s a convenient place to live, not the other way around. If your reasoning held water, we could make any area on the map unaffordable by simply taking a small percentage of the properties and building big houses out of them. Go ask Woodbridge how that worked out for them. This country is littered with pockets of big, new houses that are relatively cheap and have nobody living in them.

      The real problem here is that people think that Arlington needs to be affordable. Arlington is tiny, and as someone has already pointed out, a lot of it is a giant cemetery. It makes no sense to attempt to treat it like a large county covering a significantly sized geographical region. Arlington is basically the downtown of NOVA, and it’s nearly impossible to keep affordable housing in downtown areas. Let the outer lying suburbs be the affordable housing areas of NOVA; it’s not like they’re far away areas.

      • MikeT

        You are half right; yes, the value lies in proximity to DC, and yes, the county is small, so that limits the availability of land.

        Yet as someone pointed out, the ability to subdivide properties and to put McMansions on them drives up the value of the land so that prices are higher. In Fairlington, the fact that this is not legally possible means the land values aren’t artificially inflated.

        It’s really too bad we don’t have more stringent zoning. The idea of an R6 neighborhood is that all the lots have to be 6000 square feet. R8 is 8000, etc. And yet the county allows the developers to violate this. Not sure how they do this, but it should be illegal.

        • Southeast Jerome

          If I have a painting that I bought for $100. Ten years later I sell it for $1MM, is it not worth the $1MM I sold it for?

          So how are land values artificially inflated if there is a willing buyer and a willing seller?

          • KD

            You could be a TBTF bank and claim all the “assets” on your books are still worth what they were in 2006.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          “It’s really too bad we don’t have more stringent zoning. The idea of an R6 neighborhood is that all the lots have to be 6000 square feet. R8 is 8000, etc. And yet the county allows the developers to violate this. Not sure how they do this, but it should be illegal.”

          I agree, MikeT. Supposedly there are zoning restrictions, but developers seem to routinely violate them with little, if any, consequences. The developer that built the five McMansions on the end of my street promised our neighborhood civic association (and, he claimed, the County), that he would not build the houses so their windows would face directly into neighboring homes’ windows, would not cut down all the trees, yada, yada, yada. Guess what? He built them so the windows all look into the neighbor’s windows, cut down all but a couple of trees, etc., etc. SOB lied like a musty old rug. He never got even a tap on the wrist from the County. That is one reason my I and many of my neighbors are anti-Developer and also unhappy with the Country Board that apparently let him get away scott free.

          • Freddy Engels

            Did the houses sell? If so, then the free market worked.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Whatever, I’m not an economist. Yes they sold (about $1.25 million to $1.5 million) about four years before the housing bubble crashed. One of them has gone through four owners since the first one in 2004.

        • Josh S

          I believe you have that backwards. R8 means 8 units per acre. R6 means 6 units per acre, etc.

  • jussayin

    I don’t think anyone here has suggested tearing down townhouses or SFHs to build more high rises. Reverse Commuter and I both pointed out that there’s currently lots of undeveloped land right along the Metro corridor. Developing those (as I understand it several of them are in the master plan for Arlington, but I haven’t seen any movement in the past 3 years I have been around here) would both increase the amount of housing AND alleviate pressure on the more traditional neighborhoods farther out from the Metro. That’s a win-win, isn’t it?

    • MikeT

      Those lots used to have SFHs, before developers tore them down.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        Exactly, MikeT.

        • Ballstonian

          And there were farms there before developers developed them into SFHs. And it was woodland before farmers moved in. Back to nature!

    • Juanita de Talmas

      And as ‘clarendon’ pointes out, the potential density of building on these vacant lots is already baked into the the cake. If we are going to increase density above what is currently zoned for, it will involve removing less dense housing and replacing it with more dense housing.

      • Zoning Victim

        That’s not really true; you can just build taller on the hi-rises that are already planned. That said, adding density has to stop somewhere if you want any single family homes.

  • Will the throughput of the metrorail increase with increased density? It does not seem they have the infrastructure or funding currently to support added throughput.

    • Vinh An Nguyen

      They don’t. It is going to be a disaster once the Silver Line opens.

      • OX4

        Actually they’ve been planning for this for years and will go in effect soon.

        http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/board_of_directors/board_docs/070810_BlueLineRealignment782010.pdf

        • Vinh An Nguyen

          If that’s all they’ve got, it’s gonna be worse than I thought.

          • OX4

            Three more Orange trains per hour isn’t enough for you? You want your own train car or something?

          • Vinh An Nguyen

            Well, Metro claims the Rosslyn tunnel is already handling the maximum maximum number of trains — 26 per hour at peak periods. Seems to me adding the Silver Line to mix is not really going to add any capacity…just more back-ups.

          • Nick

            Silver line will not add capacity through the Rossyln tunnel.

            The Blue line realignment, however, will. By taking fewer Blue trains through the tunnel, it allows more Orange (and later, Orange and Silver) trains through the tunnel and thus along the R-B corridor.

            Beyond that, the only reasonable way to add capacity along there is to run more 8-car trains. But apparently that requires upgraded power infrastructure for the system and better maintenance of Metro cars so that enough are available.

    • jussayin

      I think this is a great counterpoint, my fiance comes home with horror stories about how crowded it is (I go out to Fairfax instead of into the city). I wonder if better bus options (in addition to the Metro) would ease some of the crowding? Right now there aren’t too many busses that go from Ballston all the way into DC, are there?

      • Ballstonian

        The 38 goes from Ballston Mall to Farragut Square.

        • jussayin

          Right, I knew that, in fact I’m taking it tonight to Georgetown for a performance. But that’s the only one, right? All the other busses go around Arlington (e.g., down to Columbia Pike, over to Crystal City).

          • Nope

            Metrobus 3Y goes down Lee Highway, over the TR Bridge, up the E Street ramp, down E Street NW, and then makes a left to go north up 19th St NW before continuing past Farragut and McPherson Squares.

          • Southeast Jerome

            I have never done the 3Y, whats the crowding situation on that? Does everyone stand? Are there seats? I assume traffic isnt bad until the bridge…

          • Nope

            It gets crowded as you go east on Lee. Depends on the day, though. Traffic varies. Not bad on Lee, though there are a lot of stops. Once you hit downtown, might as well get out and walk because of the traffic.

  • Nodice

    If increasing density will make Arlington more affordable, I am all for it. Why does every new building around here have to be “luxury”? As a public servant in the lower-middle class, I’m looking for “well-made-but-basic”. I’m exactly the demographic willing to shop locally, go car-free, and give back to my community, but my family is basically classed out of the R-B corridor. Not to mention we’ll need more density if all the new businesses in Clarendon are to survive.

    • Vinh An Nguyen

      They aren’t “luxury” they just market them as such. They are the same cheap-ass building methods you’d find in Woodbridge.

      • Lou

        And it’s the same level of construction you are going to see in all the new residential towers that are on the boards for the Tysons area.

        This is jurisdictional competition, plain and simple. Arlington wants as many residential units going up as they can get, to offset the Silver Line expansion opportunities.

        • John Fontain

          The only luxury condos I’ve ever seen in the Orange line corridor are Lyon Hill at Lee and Highland. Those condos are nice enough that they should demand high prices, but only the prices that the junk at 1021 command.

          • OX4

            And the new condos going up at Clarendon and Pierce, where owners will get their own private elevator. That’s what I would consider luxury.

          • Choogirl

            I just recently bought a condo in North Arlington with a “luxury” condo in mind. The only ones I could find were Turnberry Tower and Waterview in Rosslyn. I wanted to move to Clarendon but bought at Turnberry Tower since all the condos in Clarendon were smaller and not very nice. Incidentally, I love Rosslyn and its distance from the 20-somethings in Clarendon. But no, not many luxury condos here.

          • Ross Lynn

            I heard Turnberry is half empty. True?

          • Choogirl

            Actually we are almost full. When we bought this year, we got the last unit left with a city view that wasn’t a penthouse unit.

          • OX4

            You’re a 20-something living in Turnberry Tower?

          • Reading is Fundamental

            She said she wants distance from them, not that she is one.

      • John Fontain

        I was thinking the same thing. Every developer slaps the word luxury on their units. Consumers see the word, get excited, don’t pay attention to the fact that the units aren’t luxury, and go ahead and pay a luxury price just because the developer called the unit luxury. It’s really a great racket.

      • demonfafa

        But the “luxury” moniker ramps up the price. While not in Arlington, I went by one of the garden apartment communities in 7 Corners (you know the ones I’m talking about. The crappy, concrete, ugly ones that were mostly built in the 40’s) and they actually had the “luxury apartments” sign up.

        Granted, a lot of the new buildings on the Pike are nicer than say, Dominion Plaza, but that’s part of the problem – if density increases, but everything is unaffordable, then it’s missing the entire point of the proposal.

        • Josh S

          I wonder if having that one word – luxury – in your marketing materials really makes any difference in the sales prices. It would be an interesting experiment to do – compare two identical units one with luxury in the marketing one without.

          I can’t imagine it makes much difference, but I’m always amazed at the power of words like “New” in advertising.

    • Burger

      Here’s a thought, maybe you shouldn’t be looking at high-end new buildings but those built ten years ago.

      And, those are expensive because there is high demand. Lots of people that are not public servants want to live in the area too. thus, demand drives the cost up.

      I am certainly happy you elected to be a public servant but that doesn’t entitle you to anything beyond that.

  • VA^2

    Great way to kill the equity people have in their condos now. Horrible idea. Let the market dictate what is the appropriate density.

    • Justin Russo

      The same ‘market’ that decided we needed millions of McMansions built in the exurbs that are now sitting empty?

  • MikeT

    The problem with increasing the density and thus the supply of units is that the units are never affordable. That’s because developers make more money building luxury apartments than cheap ones. The only remaining apts even close to affordable in Arlington are along Lee Highway and on Columbia Pike on the western end, plus a few left in Rosslyn that are soon to be torn down.

    That’s the problem–the older, plain-looking apartments that actually rent for a reasonable amount get torn down, replaced by ones that rent for 2000 a month.

    And the county subsidized affordable housing is not available to most folks with jobs, who end up making too much to live there even if they can barely make ends meet renting anywhere else.

    • Nodice

      Exactly, well said.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      Bingo, MikeT. Back when I was growing up in Arlington (in the “dark ages”), there seemed – seemed – to be far greater diversity and variety of housing available in Arlington. There was a variety of “luxury” and “non-luxury” apartments and a great variety of houses (no Hindenburg sized McMansions on postage stamps back then). All my teachers from elementary school through high school lived in Arlington; they could afford to live here, even if they were single (whether in marital status and/or family income). From other topics and comments I’ve seen the past few months on ARLNow, it would appear that most teachers working in APS cannot afford to live in Arlington, unless they are like my neighbors – a two income family.

      • Choogirl

        I believe this problem is not unique to Arlington. Since home prices have increased significantly over the past 10 years but incomes have not, many communities have this very problem. This is a societal problem, not an Arlington County problem.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          I agree, Choogirl, it is not just Arlington. While to a fair degree it is a County problem, it is also a societal problem.

          • Southeast Jerome

            Yes- its because employers have been giving cost of living raises based on the national cost of living changes, not localized. This helps maintain profit margins.

            Employers have all the power. They can give 2% raises and justify it by saying inflation is only 2% and there is 9% unemployment. While true, that isnt true here…..

            This is forcing younger professionals to hold off having children because they cannot afford to live in places like Arlington and have children. It thus has the horrible effect of the people that should be having children not doing it because they know they cant afford it, while those that should not be having children, having 5 or 6 and living in Manassas on welfare

          • Freddy Engels

            Fortunately, Virginia makes it exceedingly difficult for those workers to band together to put pressure on said employers. After all, if they were really worth more, the free market would ensure that they were paid more.

          • Choogirl

            Actually I know quite a few people with six figure salaries who move to places like Manassas with their children because you can’t live in Arlington on just $150K a year. Unless that qualifies as a welfare recipient to you…

          • Working Parent

            I make half that and live here just fine, sending my kids to the much higher rated Arlington Public Scools.

          • dk

            You can’t live in Arlington on $150k a year?????

            This is exactly why a community needs economic diversity. So that bozos making three times the nation’s median household income don’t suffer from the delusions of poverty.

          • Josh S

            Where DO you get your information?

  • 1%

    Absolutely. We’re talking south Arlington, right?

  • OB

    Isn’t this basically pitting renters against home owners? A home owner isn’t going to want to see more supply, theoretically lowering the value of their home. While a renter would theoretically be in favor of any solution that lowers the cost of buying a home.

    • jussayin

      I believe that most people in the financial sector now agree that for people 35 and younger, owning a home is actually going to decrease their overall worth in the long run. This means that many, including myself, are unlikely to start shopping for homes and instead will simply save whatever money that might have gone towards a down payment into a retirement account instead. In addition, the prices in most of Arlington are SO far out of reach for some of us, that it would take a very large drop in pricing to even make it an option.

      And I’m not a financial whiz by any means, but it doesn’t seem to me that building more apartments should affect the price of homes (assuming you’re not building a monster high rise right next door to your house). Those two categories seem like apples and oranges.

      • VA^2

        jussayin…unfortunatly, the article talks about both rental apartments and privately owned condos:

        Donnellan suggested that the focus needed to be on multi-family apartments and condominiums to accommodate the growth, for the simple fact that “we don’t have a lot of space for single-family development.”

        So, those of us who own condos would be hurt by this. I’m all for more affordable apartments, but don’t build more condos so those of us who have them now aren’t hurt by artificially inflated supply.

        • jussayin

          VA^2 – I tend to lump condos in with SFHs. Yes, I realize they are very different beasts, but owning is owning. I know that at least one of the planned, but not yet developed buildings is an apartment building (Zumi? Zom? Something like that?). That’s what I’m hoping for. I agree that building more condos is not going to help anything for anyone, really.

          • Southeast Jerome

            Jussayin-
            “I believe that most people in the financial sector now agree that for people 35 and younger, owning a home is actually going to decrease their overall worth in the long run.”

            I work in the financial sector and I cant quite say I have heard this before. If you pay $2000/month in rent, over 30 years thats $720K and you will have nothing to show for it, nor can you deduct anything on your income taxes.

            For a majority of married-dual income couples, the tax benefits alone make it very worthwhile to own.

            I think the statement you made above is too broad of a stroke to paint, especially if you are facing rents as high as they are in this area.

          • Northeast Shiniquewa

            I work in the financial sector

            Let me guess…MF Global?

        • CW

          Great point jussayin. What’s going to be interesting is in about 5-10 years when every 25-30 year old in Arlington realizes they can have five times the purchasing power anywhere else in the country except NYC, LA, SF, and CHI while making 2/3 the money. There is likely to be a mass exodus unless the current twenty-somethings somehow come up with $1M+ for a SFH or feel like being lifelong apartment dwellers.

          • For Real Estate

            Yeah, but when they try to sell their $600,000 “luxury” condo so they can move to one of those other places, who’s going to buy it?

          • CW

            Oh, those people will absolutely be shackled to those condos. I’m talking about the people who jussaying referenced; the ones who have not yet shopped for homes and instead are just saving their cash.

          • Southeast Jerome

            CW- Yes but if there are only jobs in those cities you referenced, are they just going to feel secure enough to pack up and go somewhere like Omaha or San Antonio where the employment isnt as plentiful?

            I think the DC area real estate market, while very expensive, is difficult to compare to other parts of the country, due to the Govt providing a bubble..

          • Josh S

            I think you left out Boston.

            Oh, and I think I heard something about San Diego being expensive.

            Oops, I’m sorry, but I can’t leave without mentioning that I think Seattle is kind of expensive.

            You know, come to think of it, I heard that Denver was cheaper, but certainly not 5 times cheaper.

            And I know you’re not going to believe this, but Miami still has some pretty expensive real estate.

            Sooooo, I guess that leaves, what – Indianapolis?

        • Josh S

          What is this “artificially” you keep talking about? As opposed to what? What is “natural?” Please elaborate / illuminate.

    • Juanita de Talmas

      Or established home-owners against first-time buyers.

      • DSS10

        +100

  • Jim

    Basic economics suggests that if you increase supply enough you will decrease price.

    Another reason housing is so expensive in arlington is because the cost of low income housing subsidizes get built into the cost of housing through various government taxes and programs. This artificially raises the cost for everyone who does not qualify for a subsidy.

    • novasteve

      Small price to pay for imposed diversity!

    • CourthouseChris

      Jim I’d like to see any support you have that housing subsidies drive up the housing cost in an appreciable way. I’d suggest the other half of your simple economics argument – the demand – is what is driving up prices.

      • Zoning Victim

        You just answered your own question, didn’t you? If demand is driving up prices and subsidies allow more people to purchase homes increasing demand (and more demand = higher prices), then subsidies have to raise prices, right?

        The entire housing bubble was created by subsidies. Special loans for first time home buyers, government guaranteed loans to keep the risk (and thereby cost) down, the mortgage interest tax deduction; all of these things are subsidies of one type or the other.

      • Burger

        You are kidding right?

        If I want to build 1000 unit building for 100,000,000. I need X in rent out of each unit to make it economically workable to invest that $100,000,000 to build the apartment. Let’s say X is 100 for simplicity.

        Now, the county board agrees but says you need to set aside 100 apartments as affordable which is 1/2 of X or 50. You now have 900 units available to make the numbers work on your invest. Thus, instead of needing 100 out of each market-price unit, you need to charge 106. See the price of the apartment has already increased 6% and priced some people out of it.

    • Choogirl

      Actually I just bought a place in Arlington and paid the high price because of the location. Plain and simple. When you are located within walking distance of a city and have public transportation, the real estate prices will reflect it.

      • CW

        No, you paid the high price because you had the money. Duh. You must be very proud of yourself. Unfortunately, most people can’t even get close to the barrier to entry.

        • Or she paid the high price because she was willing to take on that level of debt. While I don’t know, I would bet she didn’t pay cash for the place.

        • Choogirl

          Bottom line, if you want to be in a popular location, it will cost more. Simple. Location dictates price, not necessarily supply. If you want to find affordable housing, I can assure you there is a large supply of it in Loudoun County. 2 hours from the location without affordable housing.

          • Yet a location with a higher household income.

          • Pragmatist

            Fact

  • ARLisHome

    Wish the issue were as simple as “Yes” and “No”. In theory, more housing means less rental amounts, in the real world that may not work here. I have yet to meet an owner who will take significantly less than they think the rental is worth. My guess a corporate entity is even less likely to do so.

    So instead of 20,000 lower-priced, truly-affordable units, you get 20,000 extra units with the same price. And the needle doesn’t move. We’re basically trying to reverse “the highest and best use” principle while maintaining property values. No one’s figured that out yet.

    • DJAnyReason

      Couple of counter-points:

      When I was last apartment shopping, one of the places I looked at was a Condo in Courthouse. Super-super nice, but at the very top of my price range, and didn’t really fit my personal idiosyncrasies. The owner, as you suggest, wasn’t really willing to negotiate on price, so I passed. And, as I kept looking, I watched the place continue to be advertised on Craigslist for a couple of months, the price continuously dropping. So it would seem that condo owners, renting out their places, are willing – at least in this case – to take less than they feel its worth, rather than leaving it idle. And, of course, the plural of anecdote is not data, but instinct should suggest that an owner of a potential income stream would want to see it used, and lower his price to meet demand – I would want to see data to refute this, rather than anecdata that confirm it.

      Second, I would think corporate renters would be, in general, far less stubborn and far more willing to meet the market than individual condo renters. After all, for the individual renter its a supplemental income stream, but for the corporate renter its their job. If they don’t rent, they go under. My personal experiences dealing with corporate renters in the Clarendon and Courthouse areas, and the frequency of finding rental concessions on apartments that have been available for an extended period, would seem to confirm this as well.

  • NoVapologist

    I would be interested to see some data on Arlington today versus 25 years ago. My sense is that density was much much lower and prices were much more affordable. Higher density does not necessarily equal greater affordability.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      NoVapologist,

      I’m not sure where you can find the data (though I’m sure it is out there somewhere), but I can tell you as a someone who has lived in Arlington since the late 1950s, density was lower and prices were more affordable. Arlington was always more expensive than further out in Fairfax County, for example – most metro areas are more expensive to live the closer to the city. But there was a greater variety of housing available and genuine middle income persons and families could afford to live in quite decent housing, whether apartment, duplex, or single-family homes. I was fortunate enough to inherit the house where I grew up when my father died two years ago. I make a decent income, but if the house hadn’t already been paid off years ago, then at today’s prices, I would not be able to afford to buy that house.

      • The real problem is that household income in Arlington is not keeping pace with the cost to live here. Take a look at this link:

        http://www.elitemovinglabor.com/blog/view/27-virginia-maryland-and-the-washington-dc-area-rank-highest-in-richest-counties

        Arlington is the 11th highest county in the nation for median income. Yet, there are five other DC-area counties ahead of them on that list. Fairfax and Loudoun are ahead of Arlington and I’d be willing to be the cost to live there is less too. Higher income, lower cost to live. Salaries are not keeping up. Compare most any Arlington County job to the same one in one of these outer county governements. They pay more.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          Thanks for the link, Overgrown Bush. Interesting that Arlington is 11th, I thought it would be higher. I’m not sure that Fairfax costs less than Arlington to live, Loudoun might be less. I doubt Falls Church city is cheaper to live in than Arlington. I would bet that salaries for Arlington County jobs have not kept pace with the cost of living in Arlington. As I’ve said in other comments for this topic, when I was growing up all my teachers lived in Arlington. Some were single, some were single family one income, others were double income. These days, if any APS teachers do live in Arlington, they are like my neighbors – a two income family. I doubt that the salaries for ARL teachers, police, firefighters, paramedics, etc. are enough for a single income person or family to live in Arlington.

          • Southeast Jerome

            Yea look at Reston Town Center rents versus Arlington rents. They are marginally different.

            And for the income issues, I think because there are more SFH in Loudoun/Fairfax counties as a percentage of housing stock than condos/apartments, it lends itself to higher incomes.

            Arlington I would wager has more single earner households (single people in condos or apartments) which pulls down the median income levels slightly.

  • KalashniKEV

    It’s very curious that these two topics would follow one another… I wonder if there is some plan out there to splash our property values in an attempt to increase “vibrancy.”

    Quite curious, indeed!

  • JHK

    Whatever you do, don’t repeat the mistakes of the past !

    http://kunstlercast.com/shows/kunstlercast_119_the_projects.html

    • MC 703

      Kunstlercast is obviously a socialist organization that is trying to suppress our freedom to wantonly pollute and use fossil fuels to the last drop. I hope the Cato Institute knows about them.

      • Punctuation Queen

        You forgot to put SOCIALIST in all caps.

  • Village Genius

    I agree that a “yes or no” response is too simplistic.

    It is not clear that building more apartments would meet the unfulfilled demand for teachers, police, nurses, etc. to have homes in Arlington. A big problem is lack of single family homes that are affordable. In 1997 when I was home shopping, I was glad that there were so many expensive townhouses and condos under development that relieved some pressure on the single family home market — that is, I was relieved that the townhouse and condo buyers were not also competing for the single family homes.

    Although I have some doubts that more housing units would help the teachers, police, nurses, etc., such building would likely help with a vast majority of the 99%. Please go look at the new construction in Buckingham (George Mason & Pershing) and compare it with the “historic” garden apartments around that area. What’s better, the old building housing few people in small units, or the new buildings housing many more people in much nicer units?

    • DJAnyReason

      Why to Teachers, Police, Nurses, etc. have to live in SFH’s? Are SFH’s magical places that middle-class public employees must necessarily own?

      I also wonder why we must bring Teachers, Police, and Nurses to North Arlington. I don’t have anything against such fine upstanding people, but I don’t have anything against any fine upstanding people. If we build a ton more apartments in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and they’re filled by yuppies who had been living in further flung areas, that allows the Teachers, Police, and Nurses to move into the now-vacated areas, rather than the (presumably) less desirable locations they used to live in.

      Arlington is a desirable place to live. If we allow more people of any stripe to live here, then that will enable everyone to move into a more desirable place. The only losers are exurb commuter communities in WV and central VA. And considering communities are made up of people, and those people have hellish commutes that would be alleviated in part, that’s hardly a loss.

      • NoVapologist

        “Teachers, Police, and Nurses” are the new “Widows and Orphans.”

        They are a great sub-group for pushing any political agenda because if you object to something that may benefit them then you are simply an evil, selfish person.

        • Hattie McDaniel

          You forgot “firefighters”.

  • JamesE

    NYC is very dense and look at the cheap housing there, this plan will absolutely work.

    • Burger

      I am going to assume this is tongue and cheek but NYC – particularly Manhattan would be infinitely cheaper if they removed rent control and allowed market forces to build new units.

  • I agree that the rents are too high, but adding apartments is not the answer. This area is already quite congested and more apartments would just take away from the feel of the place.

    But I do have to say, I just turned down a job offer in the area because of the high cost of living.

  • Craigie

    Almost everywhere in North Arlington is within a convenient bus ride, Metrorail ride, taxicab ride, or personal automobile ride of the Central Business District (downtown DC). In a free-market situation, ZIP 22207 could look like mid-town Manhattan — with comparably-high tax revenues — and the County planning committee has admitted this in the past. At the very least, 22207 should be dotted with eight-story mid-rise development similar to that which the County’s powers-that-be have imposed on “R-B corridor” neighborhoods which are far from Metrorail stations.

  • Do you really think any current homeowner who paid current market prices want the density increased and market values to decrease? Can you say short sale or foreclosure as property values fall! Get real!!

  • tom smart

    the premise is meaningless as there are insufficient details in the statement to support any postion.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    The problem here is it’s not purely about $. Most of the discussion above ignores the Non-$ costs to everyone already living in ArlCo. When they plop a huge density project between me and the highway – costing me 15 min on my commute because they think everyone will use public transport. The high retail rents required by the county levies that force out small businesses leaving to a bevy of cookie cutter pricy chain ops.

    The second issue ignored is that, as unpopular as it is to say – there is an intrinsic difference between the renting community and the owning community Owners tend to invest and create ties where they live – renters not so much.

  • ArlUrb

    Interesting point made earlier about the Buckingham developments…the development has introduced mixed-density housing- THs (ranging in size to up to 3000 sq ft) to large apt complexes. So now you have THs selling as high as the 800s sitting next to protected garden complexes. All this is walking distance to a metro zone. If the garden units were upgraded and rented out at market value they would no doubt fill up w/ many professionals etc. but at present overwhelmingly low-income households dominate. It somehow doesn’t seem fair to me that middle-income or even upper-middle income folks (teachers, municipal workers to lower-end lawyers etc.) are priced out of this area but yet it is accessible to day laborers etc. Where is the fairness and equity in that? Doesn’t seem like a sustainable “affordable housing” strategy….the Buckingham area is also one of the last corners of N Arlington with high density areas of low-income HH even with the displacement of the new developments….

  • Never_Check_Responses

    Let the market work itself out. No urban plan has ever succeeded in any city ever. Waste of time and a waste of money.

    Hubris and NIMBY do-gooders.

  • Tim

    How about getting rid of the “affordable housing” requirements and let the market balance it out with the additions of that housing for the middle class.

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