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Arlington Wants Democrats to Push Big for Affordable Housing Funds Next Year

Arlington’s leaders will be pushing the state to increase its affordable housing contributions more than five-fold as Democrats head to Richmond after taking control of the House of Delegates and State Senate.

The Arlington County Board will vote this Saturday, November 16, on holding a public hearing about the legislative priorities as the General Assembly prepares to convene in Richmond for the 2020 legislative session between January 8 and March 7. The draft document lists a number of priorities Arlington leaders hope its state delegates and senators will also push during the 60-day period.

One priority is calling for Virginia to add $100 million to the state’s Housing Trust Fund in the budget for fiscal years 2020-2022 in a bid to solve the area’s persistent housing squeeze. The fund offers low-interest loans to offset developer’s costs when building affordable homes — a program Arlington’s Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) has pushed to increase funding to since founding it three years ago but failed when Republicans blocked the budget proposal this winter.

In addition to the public hearing, the County Board is also due to discuss legislative priorities during a work session with the county’s state representatives on Tuesday, December 3 from 3-5 p.m. in the Bozman Government Center in Courthouse (2100 Clarendon Blvd).

Increasing the state fund to $100 million would match Lopez’s recommendations. It also comes on the heels of Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol saying the county was “trying to fill a really big hole” when it came to funding local projects like the 160-unit affordable housing building on the site of the American Legion Post 139.

The Virginia Housing Trust Fund contributed $700,000 for that project — an amount dwarfed by the $13,000,000 loaned by the county’s own affordable housing fund to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).

However, some experts warn that the shortage of affordable housing units could displace hundreds of thousands of D.C. area residents in the next 20 years, including some 20,000 Arlingtonians.

Lawmakers added $5.5 million in the last legislative session, upping the total amount to $9.5 million, reported the Washington Post.

Increasing the funds even more in the upcoming session would also make legislators’ incentive promise to Amazon to contribute at least $75 million towards affordable housing in Northern Virginia over the next five years a reality. Arlington and Alexandria have also pitched the Crystal City-area to Amazon by promising to spend $150 million on affordable housing over the next decade amid concerns that Amazon’s incoming workforce at its new headquarters could spike housing prices.

Amazon itself announced a $3 million donation to affordable housing in Arlington earlier this year, citing the fact the county has “fewer than 25 apartments dedicated for the lowest-income individuals and families who can live independently.”

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is scheduled to introduce his proposal for Virginia’s state budget for fiscal years 2020-2022 on December 17. The General Assembly will then deliberate on the budget during its January session.

Other proposed legislative priorities for Arlington include more state funding for Metro, more local tax authority, additional state funding for school, state funding for the Long Bridge rail project, drivers licenses for non-citizen, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and more leeway for localities to mandate tree preservation on private property.

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