Submit Content

Making Room: Invest in Arlington’s Affordability

Making Room is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of joining the board of the Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS).

The Alliance advocates for affordable housing in Arlington that meet the needs of all income levels and stages of life. This includes both committed affordable housing developments that are income restricted for low-income residents and market-oriented solutions such as ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) that will provide unsubsidized lower-cost housing.

This year, Arlington is at a cross-roads that will determine our commitment to affordable housing. I hope you’ll join me and other AHS supporters to call on the County Board to grow our stock of committed affordable housing with a strategic investment of $25 million in the Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

The Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF or “A-Hif”) is a low-interest loan program that helps developers build and preserve committed affordable housing in Arlington County. It is a revolving fund that receives money from private developers (like $20 million from Amazon for the first phase of HQ2), federal grants, and County contributions.

The County Board distributes AHIF loans to worthy projects, which affordable housing developers use to build or renovate multi-family properties. These developers then repay their AHIF loans, putting the money back in the fund to be used for future projects. This revolving fund is a catalyst for affordable housing developers to get the financing they need to increase our supply of income-restricted units.

In the last twenty years, low-income Arlingtonians have faced increased rent pressure. Because of increased demand and redevelopment, we’ve lost over 16,000 unsubsidized apartments in the open low-rent market that had been affordable to lower-income households. The County is attempting to make up the deficit by investing in committed affordable units. But they’ve only been able to reach half their goal each of the last five years. That means we’re falling further behind, as 28,000 Arlingtonians try to find decent affordable housing on an income of $36,000 per year.

Since adopting the Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015, the County Board has allocated an average of $14.3 million to AHIF and added only 298 units each year, when their annual goal is 600 units. We now have a 1,500 unit deficit and only 9% of our housing stock is affordable to families making 60% of the Area Median Income or less, which is about half of what we need to accommodate our low-income neighbors. We can’t keep taking the same action and expect better results. This year, the Board needs to take bold action by allocating $25 million to AHIF, an increase of $9 million.

The County Manager released the FY 2021 budget, which includes only $2.7 million more for AHIF. Another $2.3 million could come from Columbia Pike Tax Increment Financing and potentially another $2 million from a future increase in the County’s cigarette tax. If adopted, this could increase AHIF by a maximum of $7 million. The County Board would have to vote for all of these options, and the amount would still be below our goal of $9 million in new funds.

The County Manager has proposed additional funds to support housing programs, including $800,000 more for Arlington’s housing grants and $400,000 more permanent supportive housing, plus an additional $250,000 for a pilot program to support housing for youth aging out of foster care. These are increases to valuable programs, however, they do not address the fundamental problem of Arlington’s low supply of housing affordable for low-income families.

AHIF is the only tool that can increase the supply, so that families who receive housing grants, for example, have a place to live. Investing more in Arlington’s Affordable Housing by increasing the AHIF will mean that developers can submit more plans each year and help us reach our goal of 600 new affordable units each year.

Right now, the Arlington County Board is accepting citizen feedback on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. Thanks to an improved commercial real estate market and higher property tax assessments, the Board has additional funds to make valuable investments in our most pressing priorities. They need to hear from you about the importance of our Affordable Housing supply, and specifically the need to increase the AHIF contribution by $9 million in the coming budget.

How you can help:

  • Sign the AHS petition asking Arlington County to increase AHIF funding to $25 million and dedicate additional funds to our lowest-income households.
  • Write to County Board Members to tell them you support allocating $25 million for AHIF in fiscal year 2021. Download our letter template, customize, and mail it; or send an email to all five County Board Members.
  • Share with your neighbors so they can join us in advocating for members of our community who are most vulnerable to displacement. Download our flyer, or share our information via social media.

Speak at a County Board meeting on March 21, and especially at the March 31 budget hearing. Watch for changes to these meetings in response to COVID-19.

Jane Fiegen Green, an Arlington resident since 2015, proudly rents an apartment in Pentagon City with her husband and son. By day, she is the Development Director for Greater Greater Washington and by night she tries to navigate the Arlington Way. Opinions here are her own.

Recent Stories

This Wall Street Journal article telling the story of the steep price of single-family homes in Arlington has attracted lots of local attention this week. The crux of the story:…

Morning Notes

Arlington Housing Costs Still Rising — “The District of Columbia continued to lead the pack with an average per-square-foot sales price of $543, down from $555. Falls Church also reported…

A 5 BD/5.5 BA four level home with a two-car garage an finished basement is included in Just Listed.

The $38 million transformation of the Washington-Liberty annex is nearly complete. Over the last three years, the nearly six-decade-old Arlington Education Center has undergone a complete overhaul to turn it…

Do you struggle with anxiety, depression, stress, grief, trauma or anger? Are
you ready to make a change?

Lauren K. Nickum, LCSW, CSAC from Peaceful Mind Solutions is now taking new
clients for psychotherapy. Lauren has over 10 years of experience treating
mental health disorders and general life stress in adults and adolescents. For
more information visit
peacefulmindsolutions.com.

Submit your own Community Post here.

As the summer winds down, it’s a great time to look forward to a creative fall! Art House 7 has a terrific selection of classes, for preschoolers to adults. Our fall session, starting September 6, offers painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, ceramics (including the wheel) and sewing. We have specialty classes such as Suminagashi, the ancient art of Japanese water marbling.

If you’re looking for a shorter commitment, we also have a full schedule of workshops, Art Nights, and Morning Art Socials. If you haven’t discovered Art House 7, please check us out! We offer classes throughout the year, taught by a range of fantastic teachers. You can buy art supplies next door. We’re near the Lee Harrison shopping center, and free parking is outside our door.

Art House 7
5537 Langston Blvd.Arlington VA 22207
https://arthouseseven.com/

Submit your own Community Post here.

Rental Property Investing: Part One

Have you ever considered purchasing a rental property but weren’t sure where to start? This free webinar will go over the basics of how to invest in real estate, how to choose rental properties, and a market overview. Our Director

Standup Comedy Showcase Starring Todd Riley (Comedy Central)

A night of live standup comedy, with some of the best comedians from the DMV and beyond!

Todd Riley – Headliner

From the moment Todd Riley stepped onto that stage in 2008, he knew comedy is what he wanted to

×

Subscribe to our mailing list