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County Board Approves $16 Million Loan for Affordable Apartment Building in Ballston

A long-stalled affordable housing development project in Ballston has secured the funding it needs to move forward.

On Saturday, the County Board approved an allocation of nearly $16 million for an 8-story building at the Central United Methodist Church site on Fairfax Drive near the Ballston Metro station.

The project, which will have 144 committed affordable housing units, a childcare facility for up to 100 children and a church space for up to 200 people, is being developed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.

“It’s a move that goes a long way — there’s still much more work to do — toward achieving our affordable housing goals here in the county,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said.

The funding is in addition to the $3 million allocated to APAH in September 2019.

APAH proposes a mix of units: 15 units are affordable up to 30% of AMI, 60 units affordable up to 50% AMI and 69 units affordable up to 60% AMI.

Twelve units will be accessible to people with disabilities.

Setting aside 75 units for residents earning 50% of the area median income or below “is an elusive income target in affordable housing developments,” said Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey in a letter to the county.

Twelve of the 69 units will be three-bedroom, something the Housing Commission is also pushing to see more of in the county, generally, Berkey said.

APAH will be providing free in-unit internet access to residents as well.

“Low-income residents often cannot afford internet access or can only afford service that provides very low bandwidth or limited service,” the staff report said.

Although there is momentum now, those involved have had a hard time getting the Ballston Station project off the ground.

The County Board originally approved the development in 2017, when the church was working with Bozzuto Development Company.

The county reapproved the project in 2019, once APAH took it over, to upsize the project from 119 units, including 48 designated as affordable, to 144 units of 100% committed affordable housing.

Last fall, the County Board granted APAH a three-year extension on the site plan amendment, giving the developer until October 2023 to start building.

The project has also faced setbacks, as multiple applications for competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credits were unsuccessful. APAH had to find other ways to make the project financially sustainable.

It changed the mix of apartment units, worked with the county and Virginia Housing to restructure the financing for the project, and applied for and won an $8.75 million Amazon REACH grant from Virginia Housing.

“It is noted that this project was made possible due to APAH and CUMC making changes to the income-level mix of the property and obtaining Virginia Housing Amazon REACH Grant funding,” Berkey said. “That this project required such efforts should be a reminder about the challenges currently faced by our development partners and should inform both our local efforts and advocacy at the state and federal levels.”

Next, the County Board will review the loan documents, likely this fall. Construction is slated to start in October or November and APAH expects work to finish by winter 2023-24.

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