County Nixes Condo Plan for Buckingham Village

by ARLnow.com March 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm 5,513 55 Comments

The original plan, as approved in 2009, was to take 48 units of the 140-apartment Buckingham Village 3 affordable housing community and sell them as condos to moderate-income households. Last night, that plan was officially scrapped after the Arlington County Board was told that the condos would be a tough sell.

Buckingham Village 3, a series of 16 low-rise apartment buildings along the 300 block of block of N. George Mason Drive, was purchased by the county for $34.5 million in March 2009 as part of its ongoing effort to increase the supply of committed affordable housing in Arlington.

The initial goal for the community was to renovate the buildings, lease 92 apartments to households earning below 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), and sell the remaining 48 units to households making 60 to 80 percent AMI. The condo component was part of a county initiative to increase home ownership among moderate income households.

The condo plan, however, eventually became the victim of grim market realities, according to a staff report. As determined by two market studies commissioned at the request of the county, selling the condos to households in the target income range would have required “significant price reductions” due in part to the onerous affordability restrictions that would come with such a purchase. Also hurting sales: the difficulty in securing a mortgage for households in the income range. In the end, the market research suggested it could have taken up to four years to sell all 48 units, with a county subsidy of nearly $230,000 per unit.

Last night, the County Board reluctantly but unanimously voted to keep the 48 would-be condos as committed affordable rental apartments.

“This is not the outcome the Board had hoped for when we set this project in motion in 2009,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “However, the Board’s action today ensures that these 48 Buckingham 3 units will be preserved as affordable rentals for decades to come.”

The Board also directed staff to find new ways to help lower-income residents to buy a home.

“We also have given staff clear direction to devise a funding strategy to help qualified, low- and moderate-income, first-time vested Buckingham home buyers the chance to buy — either in the Buckingham neighborhood, or elsewhere in Arlington,” Hynes said.

  • dallynd

    They conditioned the entire project on maintaining some percentage of affordable housing in that area and now they scrap it ? Shame on you.

    • FrenchyB

      Those units will still be affordable housing, but rentals instead of condos:

      “Last night, the County Board reluctantly voted unanimously to keep the 48 would-be condos as committed affordable rental apartments.”

  • novasteve

    Why on earth should taxpayer subsidize the housing for people who can’t afford to live here? Why don’t I get a subsidy? It’s kind of a sign of common sense you don’t live in an area where you can’t afford. I would surely have loved living in the upper west side when I was in law school, but no, I couldn’t afford it, so I had to live on Long island. Where were my handouts?

    • do you like anything?

      Maybe you just didn’t look hard enough. There are lots of moderate income subsidized apartments in Manhattan. My sister lived in a Mitchell-Lama subsidized apartment just after she graduated med school at NYU. East side near Gramercy.

      • Burger

        Of course, the NYC rent control rules nearly ensure the need for subsidies.

      • novasteve

        I wasn’t a NY resident because I was a student. do you honestly think they’d give me handouts when I cannot even legally vote? oh wait.. oh wait again, I’m a legal citizen, so that wouldn’t happen.

        • dk

          Wait, did you not qualify for a subsidy in NYC because you didn’t meet income requirements? or was it because you were a non-resident student?

          Non-resident students wouldn’t qualify for subsidies in Arlington, either, so unless you are arguing that we shouldn’t discriminate against college students, this is a non-issue.

    • Calling him on it

      Or maybe he lived on Long Island because he went to Hofstra, which is on Long Island.

      • Glebe Roader

        Or Nassau Community College.

        • novasteve

          Why not Suffolk?

  • VotersForChange


  • Me

    The County screwed up the whole Buckingham issue. Maybe worse than any issue in recent memory.

    Take a look at the monstrosity that replaced the garden apartments at the corner of George Mason and Pershing. It’s sickening that the County was so blinded by preserving Buckingham that they allowed that thing to be built.

    • Josh S

      It looks like a 19th century insane assylum. Just awful.

      • 19th century loonie

        I like it!

        • Missing the Obvious

          Good one !!

    • Village Genius

      The new buildings look a lot better than the old run-down, junky buildings. And, my amigos, the new buildings provide a LOT more housing for moderate income levels.

      More housing, nicer units, more energy efficient, better parking, better security — what’s not to love?

  • yup

    Are tax dollars going to pay for people staff the leasing office to rent and maintain those old apartments for “decades to come”?

    Or how does that work?

    also, $230,000 county subsidy X 48 condos? That is bulls–t.

  • Burger

    Gotta love how the County Board plays with numbers when it releases news to the press.

    –sell all 48 units, with a county subsidy of nearly $230,000 per unit.–

    Do a little math and that works out to a little over 11 MILLION DOLLARS in subsidies.

    • Josh S


      These are subsidies that WON’T happen. They voted AGAINST them.

      So what’s your point?

      • Lloyd

        Maybe the point is they should not have spent the $34.5 million in the first place to buy crappy ancient apartments that they would then spend millions to renovate and then subsidize the purchase/rent of the units.

        Perhaps just let the land get developed and draw the rents or sales prices appropriate for the market.

        • DCBuff


      • Patrick

        What’s the subsidy per apartment? This is still costing the country money.

  • Arlingtonian

    whoa … not me making this comment (although I do sometimes make comments when logged out). i should’ve gotten a less generic user name

    • Arlingtonian

      nevermind, the offensive comment that i didn’t make was deleted as i was replying to it.

  • I think the shooting at this complex a couple of days ago is what is really driving this. ArlNow covered this and here is the link: http://www.arlnow.com/2012/03/09/man-shot-in-arlington/

    Issue as I see it is that this is a dangerous neighborhood. There is gang activity and trying to sell condos here is unrealistic.

    How is the person that was shot doing. Is he still alive, he took two bullets. Last I heard he was in critical condition. Anyone have an update and what happened in this incident? What are the particulars?

    • Just a Hunch

      I think he must be alive if the Arlington Police are saying there hasn’t been a homicide in the past two years…

  • Jennifer

    You don’t decide where your tax dollars go. This is not an a la carte system. I don’t have children but am glad to have my money go to good schools so both the rich kids and poor kids get a decent education and don’t grow up to be morons. If you want to eat fast food and have a quadruple bypass, I’m still paying for your health insurance. And I don’t think fast food is healthy, but I’m not going to tell you what to eat. If you get into a car accident, I’m probably paying for your car repairs. Maybe it was your fault, does that mean I don’t have to pay?

    When did the dialogue shift to blame and who is ‘deserving’ and who is ‘lazy?’ What do you think a community is, anyway? Everyone contributes, everyone benefits. Do you even know the circumstances of anyone eligible for affordable housing, or what the process requires? And when people talk about their tax dollars, are they aware of how much goes towards what? What if $0.10 of your tax dollars went to social programs, would that be ok?

    The “I wish I could afford to live in a mansion, where’s my money” argument doesn’t apply here, because everyone who makes that argument makes enough money to have SOME kind of option. These are the same people that complain about affordable housing being near public transporation. “Geez, just get a car already!” One of my friends complained about Admin Professionals Day. “Where’s my special day?” she asked. “Your special day is payday,” I told her.

    Totally. Out. Of. Touch.

    • Jennifer,

      There are gangs in this area.

      Most people don’t like them.

    • Patrick

      I gain no benefit from any affordable housing.

    • RK

      I’m with you, Jennifer.

      • RK,

        Are you and Jennifer ignoring the gangs and the recent shooting in this area?

        We have a problem in this area that needs to be fixed. I’m trying to understand your point of view, but I just don’t think you get it. This is a bad area of town that needs to be cleaned up.

    • CMo

      Great Post Jennifer – the concept of community is completely lost in the divisive mud-slinging. Reminds me of the line from a David Bowie song – bang, bang, I got mine. We are all better off when we make an effort to help the least among us.

    • Burger


      your last sentence, pretty much describes your post. You fail to realize the cost-benefit of the unintended consequences of public actors in the space.

      There is nothing wrong with the argument of “community” but what does that mean? You examples are almost entirely positions of insurance to prevent some other action or mitigate damages. Every single one of your examples is based on protecting yourself but that also results in protections for secondary actors. Affordable housing is generally not the same.

      Further, by creating affordable housing requirements (just like rent control) all that does is drive up costs for those that might be on the edge of buying that condo. It won’t impact some one well off but it will effect the middle class.

      It also drives people to take actions to defer income by not working to remain under the affordability caps

      As for schools, just rent then you are not directly impacted by RE taxes. Further, those with kids will eventually be paying for your retirement, you can thank us parents in your nursing home.

    • Alex

      I agree with you Jennifer. Nothing is ever perfect. If you let “the market” just take over, then mob mentality will lead to resegregation of the poor and minorities into slums. It’s basically just NIMBY-ism at work here.

      On the flip side, we all know Arlington is a liberal abberation compared to the rest of Virginia. No one is forcing anyone to live in this county. Obviously a majority of residents here don’t have an issue with the leadership, otherwise they would have been voted out. Whoever is not happy here can always move (which is what the rest of Virginia tells me when I complain about “defense of marriage” and anti-gay legislation — I sure don’t like my tax dollars going to support that sort of nonsense either).

    • B-Rad

      Jennifer must work for the government.

  • Bluemonter

    I agree that the county screwed up this whole area/project. I know people that live in those apartments and they tell me that it is dangerous. The problem is supposedly that the tenants that get the most help are of an element not scene in that complex before, usually some history of criminal behavior or mental/psychological issues. Also, once they are in the buildings it is hard to evict them because of the county subsidies. A sense of cheap housing entitlement has also crept in.

    That area has always been poor and to some extent dangerous but never have people that lived in the complex felt like they are/where in danger in the past.

    They should have let the developer continue the plan as requested. More affordable housing should never have been allowed to be added in such a densely populated area. Have we not learned anything as a society from the government housing projects of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Putting all the poor people in one complex does not work it only keeps people poor and does not offer examples for how to climb the social economical ladder.

    The county should be ashamed of what is happening to that neighborhood.

    The truth is that before you had many poor but many of the poor where recently arrived immigrants who lived in the apartments because it was close to DC and custodian or hospitality jobs. They where hard working people who wanted a better life. You now have the typical person whom is poor and receiving gov.t help with no motivation to move up or out.

    With a booming 20 something crowd that likes illegal substances these new “poor” neighbors turn to jobs where a w-2 is not required and you can keep your income level at 20k so you can pay $300 a month to live in a 2 bedroom apt. No worries the County pays for the difference..

    • SoArl

      The same rationale should apply to Columbia Pike yet they still keep packing in the affordable housing projects here.

      • Bluemonter

        Agreed. County has been trying to break up the cycle of poverty on the Pike and at the same time keep affordable housing alternatives. Problem exists when complexes sprout up that are on the govt. dollar.

        The pike has alway’s been poor but in mostly private hands. Therefore, given VA’s landlord friendly laws a bad element can be evicted. Of course patrolling and control becomes a problem but at least you don’t have the govt. regulations and red tape in place to get rid of a person who is not law abiding etc..

        I don’t disagree with affordable housing it just needs to be spread out and the less the county is involved the better. You don’t want a big target on your back as the blank for a major law suite, hence all the red tape.

        • SoArl

          The last board meeting where they approved yet another project, after being told by the neighborhood association and every condo association around it that it was too much, was sickening to watch. The current board just does not care what anyone else thinks. I’ve always wondered what sort of kickback the board members are getting from this AHC. Whenever they want money, the board just happily hands it over. Meanwhile, my tax dollars are going directly to projects that are driving down my property values.

          • FrenchyB

            Seeing as how ‘this AHC’ is a non-profit organization, I’m guessing there aren’t any kickbacks.

          • SoArl

            I work for a non profit and I can see how there could be. Regardless, I can’t think of another justification for the board’s irrational obsession over affordable housing.

        • Burger

          So in your view the Arlington County Board is going to be able to halt something – poverty- the federal government hasn’t been able to do since declaring “war on poverty” in the late 60’s and more than likely increased poverty.

          My that is a very arrogant view.

    • SometimesAFact

      Exactly who is paying $300 a month for which apartments? Last time facts were provided, the rents even for committed affordable units were well over $700/month for a small one-bedroom.

      Next question: How much are you willing to pay the people who wait on you, cut your grass, deliver your packages, clean your office building, maintain your kids’ school, and otherwise serve you and your more affluent friends?

      • Bluemonter

        Ok – Rents for a 4 bedroom at ACH properties is $1,558 at max income of 86,000. comes to rent a month of roughly $389 and per year income of $21,500 not exactly the numbers I told you but preaty close.

        Here is the link to the county web site where the info. is available:


        Also, I don’t have a problem with affordable housing you just need to spread it out and not concentrate the lowest available housing in one area. Also, if you are providing govt. assistance then people should be abiding by the govt. rules. Therefore, if you see people or know of people selling dope or you call the police on numerous occasions because your nieghbor threatens you then the property owner should be able to kick that tennant out and not have to worry about law suites.

  • Abe Froman

    So what is the local AMI?

    • Wayne Kubicki

      2010 Area Median Family Income
      washington DC Metropolitan Area
      % of Median Number of Persons
      % 1 2 3 4 5 6
      100 $72,500 $82,800 $93,200 $103,500 $111,800 $120,120
      80 $58,000 $66,240 $74,560 $82,800 $89,440 $96,080
      60 $43,500 $49,680 $55,920 $62,100 $67,080 $72,060
      50 $36,250 $41,400 $46,600 $51,750 $55,900 $60,050

  • MC

    The lesson is that the County board is trying to play casino with the housing market, making deals with developers based on some vague hope that the number will add up, and then, when the units need to be sold, the reality becomes apparent. Unfortunately, such market feedback for rental subsidies per unit isn’t available, and the County budget documentation hides what the per unit subsidy per unit is. Some supporters of affordable housing get detracted by the criticism of the expense. I support affordable housing if it is cost effective, but I am increasing convinced the County government is less than truthful with how it portrays both the real need (specifically for existing residents being pushed out by rising costs, rather than anyone from anywhere) and real budgetary cost of these activities, and that makes me sad. The affordable housing policy needs to be publicly supported by taxpayers, and it is clearly not. The County board has failed to provide a convincing rationale for it. Have failed at something so basic and important, all deserve to loose their positions for being so tone deaf. The Arlington Way is a big joke when the Board can’t listen.

    • SoArl

      I love you.

    • MC

      A small correction to what I wrote: buried in the County report is the per unit subsidy for the rental option approved: $149,044 a unit, which is higher even than the original per unit subsidy for the sale-option. The County board never considered either allowing the sales of the units at market rate (adding funds and economic diversity to the complex) or allowing rental at market rate. Taxpayers are still faced with paying $7 million to subsidize a project that fails to meet the arbitrary goals the County board has set. Why do this project if no one, even the Board, thinks it’s a success?

      • Suburban Not Urban

        I love how the staff report leaves out the most important numbers like the AMI numbers posted above and what the projected sale price for the units would be. Honestly I’m kind of perplexed by the $230,000 per unit subsidy – my 4 bedroom single family is only accessed at about that for excluding the land. – Is it possible somebody did a DOD contractor on the buildings.

    • B-Rad

      All the more reason to start getting new philosophies on the County Board. No more Democrats.

  • Roquer

    The Board could just give the units away and jam up the tax payers to pay them off.

  • HELP

    Please put a police substation here.

    Please do not make crime the norm in this neighborhood.

    Why do we have to lock ourselves in our homes at night and let the THUGS rule arlington. Quit enabling criminals and don’t let the criminals live in subsidized housing. Cut them off.

    This neighborhood took a turn in the past two years. what happened. Someone has it wrong.

  • Frank Lyon

    Can’t wait for the next issue of the self-published, taxpayer funded, joke called the Arlington Connection!

  • Arlguy

    What about all the luxury town homes that have gone up and are still going up at the site of the other torn down Buckingham complex. These things have been selling for 600-900k so seems to show that the market says quite something else about the real value of the land. I think about 60 or so have been built w more on the way. Anyhow, is crime really still that bad here- seems like a lot of yuppies have bought these new places? I see a lot of expensive cars around etc. Have there been break ins or attacks against these new rich neighbors?


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