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County Considers New District to Protect Affordable Housing

The county is considering a proposal to instate a “housing conservation district” (HCD) to preserve existing market-rate affordable housing.

According to a presentation at The Alliance for Housing Solutions’ annual affordable housing forum last month, the concept for a preservation district has been built off of ongoing work for affordable housing in Arlington.

In 2015, the county adopted the Affordable Housing Master Plan and earlier this year it released a report about preserving market-rate affordable housing (MARKs). The County Board held a work session on the topic in April, and since that time work has continued on developing an HCD study and framework.

Part of the ongoing analysis for a housing conservation district is to determine which sites should be included and what the boundaries would be. Numerous studies point to Arlington’s garden apartments as an affordable housing resource that’s disappearing as they’re increasingly being redeveloped into larger homes. The MARKs study released earlier this year indicates that the parts of Arlington most at risk of losing these types of units to redevelopment are Westover, Ballston and Rosslyn.

Nothing has been finalized yet, but the preliminary HCD goals are:

  • Encourage the retention and renovation of existing rental affordable housing units.
  • Provide opportunities for the creation of new affordable units when redevelopment occurs.
  • Signal that a variety of tools are available to achieve the above.

Although they also haven’t been finalized, the preliminary HCD objectives are:

  • Provide committed affordable housing (CAF) rental housing up to 60% of the area median income (AMI).
  • Preserve MARKs up to 80% AMI.
  • Provide ownership housing between 80% and 120% AMI.
  • Preserve historic buildings.
  • Incorporate sustainable building practices.
  • Encourage renovation and infill development while accommodating redevelopment.
  • Projects compatible to their surroundings.
  • Any density changes recommended to be supported by community & transit.
  • Encourage underrepresented housing forms.

Consultation with county commissions will continue through the fall and community outreach is expected to begin sometime this winter, as is a General Land Use Plan amendment. A Zoning Ordinance amendment is expected next year.

Photo via Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing

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