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What’s Next: Expanding homeownership stock

What’s Next with Nicole is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Homeownership is one of the fundamental pillars of building wealth in the American economy.

In Arlington about 60% of our housing stock is renter occupied and new housing stock is almost all in rental housing development, with almost no new development of ownership housing stock.

The Missing Middle housing initiative has the opportunity to provide expanded home ownership stock. The current Missing Middle draft lacks intentionality around homeownership and even pushes back against the concept. My hope is that this changes in future drafts.

Arlington has the highest median home sale price in the D.C. metro region from 2020:

  1. Arlington: $670,000
  2. D.C.: $630,000
  3. Alexandria: $600,000
  4. Fairfax: $575,000
  5. Montgomery County: $483,000
  6. Prince George’s County: $345,000

When the topic of homeownership was requested during multiple public meetings, it was largely shutdown as illegal based on “discrimination by tenure.” This is a term I have been unable to find in any fair housing laws and contrary to the fact that Arlington County is currently discussing dedicated home ownership exclusive units on Columbia Pike right now.

Homeownership is important for millennials, people aged 25-40, who are in their prime home-buying years and dominate the U.S. workforce. Millennials hold just 4.6% of U.S. wealth and have 56 million in the workforce, whereas Boomers are 10 times wealthier and hold 53% of U.S. wealth and have 41 million in the workforce.

When Boomers were in the current age-range for millennials, they held 21% of U.S. wealth or four times what millennials hold today. Since homeownership is a key to wealth building, this gap in purchasing opportunities is fundamental for the economic outlook of future generations.

We know that Missing Middle-type housing, when available for purchase, is lower-cost than single-family homes, while this rental type is not necessarily more affordable. For example, in 2021 average assessed value of homes were:

  1. Single-family detached: $1,000,300
  2. Attached townhouse: $846,800
  3. Condo townhouse: $686,800
  4. Multi-unit condos: $447,700
  5. Cooperatives: $158,400

Additionally, if we are planning to reduce ownership housing stock in single-family houses, we should have a plan to replace it with ownership housing. We have plans to produce thousands of additional rental units throughout the county and no plan for additional ownership opportunities, and the Missing Middle Housing initiative should be exactly where we seek to do so.

Nicole Merlene is an Arlington native and former candidate for Virginia State Senate. She has served as a leader in the community on the boards of the Arlington County Civic Federation and North Rosslyn Civic Association, as an Arlington Economic Development commissioner, in neighborhood transportation planning groups, and as a civic liaison to the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.

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