Press Club

Activists to decry ‘predicted displacement’ from affordable housing project at afternoon rally

The Barcroft Apartments, a 1,334-unit, market-affordable apartment complex along Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A progressive group says an Amazon- and county-funded plan to keep the Barcroft Apartments affordable will actually displace low-income residents.

The more than $300 million purchase of the 60-acre, 1,334-unit complex along Columbia Pike will take what are currently aging but affordable market-rate apartments and renovate or reconstruct them, while converting them to dedicated affordable units.

The hasty and hefty purchase happened, county officials said, in response to the possibility that the complex could be redeveloped without affordability protections. That is what happened to the nearby Columbia Gardens Apartments, which are being torn down to make way for townhouses.

But the group Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE), an offshoot of Alexandria-based New Virginia Majority, says the Barcroft Apartments plan is flawed and will actually displace some long-time residents. The rent they are currently paying, according to rates listed online, is actually lower than the dedicated affordable rates that the rents could eventually rise to.

ACE is holding a rally this afternoon at Doctor’s Run Park, across the street from the apartments in the Douglas Park neighborhood, to speak out against what it says is the “predicted displacement of Arlington tenants within next year in [the] highly diverse Barcroft Apartments.”

From a press release:

On May 12, 2022 at 4 p.m., Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE) organizers and tenants from Barcroft Apartments will hold a press conference and rally at Doctor’s Run Park, 1301 S. George Mason Drive. During the press conference, tenants will share their experiences trying to prepare for skyrocketing rental costs, and organizers will reveal the results of a recently completed survey conducted by organizers and Marymount University predicting tenant displacement of low-income residents.

Barcroft Apartments provides a home to one of the most culturally-diverse neighborhoods in the area, and was recently sold to new owners Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners. The current agreement involving Arlington County, Jair Lynch Real Estate Partner, and Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund risks displacing long time tenants in the upcoming years because their rental rates will be increased by 3% every year up to 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) starting next year. A majority of the long-time tenants that were surveyed by ACE make below 60% AMI which also increased this year as well.

Tefera Negash, a five year tenant, said, “This was the last place in this area that was in our budget. This will bring too much inconvenience in our life on top of the economic difficulties we are experiencing recently.”

Nupur Chowdhury, community organizer for ACE said, “I’m a Bangladeshi-American living here in Arlington. My family and I have lived in Barcroft for 17 years. As someone who is living and active in this community, I am afraid that the scheduled rent increases year after year will make it too expensive for our diverse community to continue living here.”

Asked about the rally, Arlington County Housing Director Anne Venezia said she and Jair Lynch, the developer that is buying the complex with the loans from Amazon and Arlington, have been in touch with ACE.

“No Barcroft residents are being displaced,” Venezia asserted.

She issued the following statement in response to inquiries from ARLnow.

The Jair Lynch team and I have been working one-on-one with ACE since early this year. Last week we spoke with them directly to talk about their survey, the results, and their concerns. Our conversations have been collegial and constructive. We continue to share that no Barcroft residents are being displaced. Starting in 2023, rents may increase a maximum of 3% annually, up to the 60% AMI rent limit. The County remains committed to working with residents who need financial assistance. Last Friday and again this Tuesday, I followed up with additional information for families facing financial hardship, including a handout in 11 different languages about existing County programs that they could share with any residents. We are working to connect struggling families with rental resources, such as housing grants, including the potential for an information event about County resources at the property. County staff continues to be available to ACE and all Barcroft residents and to provide information and resources as needed. The Arlington Department of Human Services team is also available to help Barcroft residents with assistance for food, rent, and other services, regardless of immigration status. Residents can call 703-228-1300.

A representative with Jair Lynch echoed Venezia in saying that no residents will be displaced.

“We remain firm to ensuring no Barcroft residents will be displaced regardless of income,” said Mark Hannan, an investment associate for the D.C.-based developer. “As we have stated publicly previously and have discussed with both ACE and New Virginia Majority, rents for existing residents will not increase in 2022. We are committed to working closely with our residents to ensure apartment homes and rents are commensurate with their personal financial situation.”

John Snyder, chair of the Columbia Pike Partnership (formerly CPRO) and a supporter of the acquisition, said without the purchase of the property “the most likely outcome would be displacement of all the Barcroft residents.”

“The Columbia Pike Partnership and the rest of the Pike community want our neighbors in the Barcroft Apartments to be able to stay,” he told ARLnow. “That is why we have supported the Pike Neighborhoods Plan, which emphasizes preserving all the affordable housing on the Pike, and the purchase by the Jair Lynch organization late last year with the help of the County and Amazon.”

“Now comes the hard part. Fixing up and maintaining the old buildings at Barcroft — all built by 1952 — while keeping rents affordable for as many people as possible is a really difficult financial challenge,” Snyder added. A”nd it is right to point out the impact of the rent increases. Everyone involved has the same goal. Together we need to figure out how to get the best outcome.”

A spokeswoman for New Virginia Majority declined to answer questions from ARLnow in advance of today’s press conference, including whether it has a specific proposal for preventing Barcroft Apartments residents from being displaced, saying that such questions can be asked of ACE director Mitchell Yangson during a Q&A portion of the press conference.

ACE, which describes itself as “a nonprofit, non-partisan Asian American community building group with members who primarily live in the Columbia Pike and Rosslyn-Ballston Corridors,” first reached out to ARLnow last year. Today’s rally is the first Arlington event for which the group has sent out a press release since a pair of events last year linking affordable housing in Arlington and Amazon’s new HQ2.

The 2021 events included a rally dubbed “Stop the Push Out” and an online town hall meeting discussing “a recent report that highlights the ongoing and uniquely devastating effect of Amazon’s new development in Arlington.”

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