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An Arlington affordable homeownership program is small, but looking to grow

A rendering of the development at 2000 Clarendon Blvd (file photo)

While there are thousands of affordable housing units in Arlington, there’s a smaller, unique portfolio under the county’s purview.

Homes that are part of the county’s Affordable Dwelling Unit Ownership Program are the only dedicated affordable housing in Arlington that residents can own, as opposed to rent.

In 2017, the county took over the program, which only had about 40 units at the time, from affordable housing provider AHC. Since then, the county has added about 20 units as condominium projects have incorporated income-restricted units into their plans.

The current stock of 59 units is made up of mostly — about 47 or 48 — condos, a few duplexes, two townhomes, and two single-family homes, county Homeownership Program Administrator Akeria Brown tells ARLnow.

These units are for households that meet a 80% area median income which, according to stats released by HUD on Monday, is about $113,000 in annual income for a household of four.

The owners still have to meet the same criteria and go through the same traditional mortgage process to purchase an affordable dwelling unit. The county oversight is only in ensuring the unit remains affordable through sales and resale, and assisting owners when needed, such as for refinancing.

“We don’t typically see a lot of sales,” Brown said. “Households tend to get in these units and they stay for a myriad of reasons.”

One of the homes that was in the program prior to the county’s administration is in the process of being sold. The home at 2900 17th Street S., in the Green Valley neighborhood, is only the second of that original portfolio from AHC to go for resale since the county took control in 2017. It is located in the only all-affordable, resident-owned housing in the county: Davis Place Condominiums.

There have been new affordable housing sales, however, through agreements with the developers of Carver Place, Key & Nash and soon from 2000 Clarendon. When new construction affordable units like these become available, buyers are selected through a random lottery.

The county is always looking to add to its stock, but Brown says they particularly wish for greater availability of family-sized units.

“We would like to get family-sized units, two or three bedrooms… so households that have that goal, are really hoping that we would be able to secure those large units in our portfolio,” Brown said.

Richard Tucker, Housing Arlington coordinator, agreed that there is a general lack of availability of those sized units. He noted that when developers don’t incorporate affordable units into their projects, and instead provide financial contributions toward the Affordable Housing Investment Fund, that money typically goes toward affordable rental programs.

The county intends to complete a homeownership study in the next year to determine what’s working and best practices to explore directions for the various homeownership programs. As part of that study, an assessment of the affordable dwelling unit portfolio will look at the “sustainability and viability of that housing stock and to identify whether additional support to these homeowners is needed,” according to a report released in March.

“There’s a need we feel to have some analysis, or some review, of what our programs are doing, how well they’re performing and who’s being served and then looking at, you know, taking a step back and having the conversation with the community about vision and goals,” Tucker said.

In addition to overseeing the portfolio of affordable units that are owned, the county also has resources for home ownership such as the Moderate-Income Purchase Assistance Program, which provides down payment assistance, and the Condo Initiative, which provides technical assistance and information to condo owners.

As part of the effort to address the lack of affordable housing, the county created the Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015. Each year, an annual report provides an overview of what the county has done to reach affordable housing goals set out in that plan.

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