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by Heather Mongilio — October 5, 2015 at 12:40 pm 630 0

Mike McMenaminAffordable housing continues to divide the candidates for County Board, with the two Democratic nominees supporting the Affordable Housing Master Plan and the two independents proposing alternative methods at a debate over the weekend.

The County Board candidates all announced varying degrees of support for increasing affordable housing in Arlington, but disagreed on the best way to implement it during a candidate forum held by Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement Sunday evening.

“Everyone’s in favor of everything, and that’s the balancing act in this community,” said independent candidate Mike McMenamin.

The county needs to focus on geographic distribution of affordable housing units, said McMenamin, who has previously said affordable housing is not one of his priorities. The county should also go back and address its 2003 targets for the amount of affordable units, which it only met twice, he added.

McMenamin, who does not support the Affordable Housing Master Plan passed by the County Board last month, said that the County Board needs to look at how to add affordable housing and address school capacity, without sacrificing parkland for more affordable housing units or more schools. Finding the money to support all of these plans is also a challenge, he added.

Audrey Clement

One of the high costs to the affordable housing plan is the choice to increase the amount of committed affordable units (CAFs) instead of trying to incentivize market-rate affordable units (MARKs), said Audrey Clement, the other independent candidate.

“There is a serious question of whether CAFs are the way to go,” Clement said.

The new Affordable Housing plan calls for 15,800 affordable housing units, and making them all CAFs would be too expensive for the county, she said, arguing that MARKs are cheaper.

“Private developers can build units much more cheaply than the county can, so limit new construction to onsite units in market-rate developments,” she said.

Clement has spoken out against the Affordable Housing Master Plan, and if elected, plans on creating a housing authority to oversee all housing concerns in Arlington, similar to the authorities in Fairfax County and Alexandria.

Both Democratic nominees, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, reaffirmed their support in the affordable housing plan.

Beyond affordable housing, candidates all addressed community concerns about the disconnect between Arlington residents and the Board. The “Arlington Way,” the county’s system of community involvement in decision-making, needs some retuning, candidates said.

Christian DorseyIt is on the community’s shoulder to tell County Board members what the problems are in the county, Dorsey said.

“It’s not what I am going to do. It’s what you all are going to do, and everybody else in Arlington. You all are going to tell us what is necessary to make sure every voice counts,” he said. “It does not work if elected officials tell you what they are going to do to listen. You have to tell us what we need to do to make sure your voices are heard.”

It’s also about going to meet the community where they are, Dorsey and Cristol said.

“We have to get rid of this excuse that they don’t come to our meetings,” Cristol said.

Increasing community engagement means making meetings at times that are reasonable to community members and personally inviting leaders to come to meetings, she said.

It’s also important that the public is brought into the process at the beginning, not the tail end, said McMenamin, citing the recent discussions about Fire Station 8.

If elected, he plans on going to community meetings, talking to people at farmer’s markets and even knocking on people’s doors to get their opinions about bigger decisions, he said.

“You have to listen to the neighborhoods and do what’s right,” he said.

Katie CristolIn addition to fixing the “Arlington Way,” all candidates pledged to focus on the school capacity crisis and the commercial vacancy rate issues that are plaguing the county.

Addressing the school capacity rate needs to be figured out by both the Arlington School Board and the County Board, Cristol said, adding the community has to be involved from the beginning.

“To me, this issue is one of how do we manage our growth,” she said.


by ARLnow.com — September 28, 2015 at 10:00 am 1,062 0

Last night's Super Moon above the clouds, as seen from a flight arriving at DCA

Vihstadt Endorses Dorsey, McMenamin — Independent Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt has endorsed fellow independent Michael McMenamin and Democrat Christian Dorsey for County Board. Dorsey said in a statement that he is “honored to have the support of all five members of the Arlington County Board, including John Vihstadt,” but also reiterated his support for Democratic ticket mate Katie Cristol. [InsideNova]

ACFD Responds to Small Fires — The Arlington County Fire Department has battled two small fires within the past two days. On Saturday around noon on the 2300 block of S. Arlington Mill Drive, firefighters extinguished a fire on the back porch of a home. This morning ACFD extinguished a small apartment fire on the 4200 block of 2nd Road N. [Twitter, Twitter]

‘JPod’ Discussion Tonight — The Columbia Heights Civic Association tonight will discuss monorail-like “JPods” as a possible transit alternative for Columbia Pike. Residents will hear from JPods booster Bill James at tonight’s meeting at the Walter Reed Community Center. [CHCA]

Affordable Housing Opponents Vow Budget Fight — Now that Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan has been approved, opponents of the plan are planning to try to stymie it within the county’s budget process next year. “The plan didn’t obligate the county, directly or indirectly, to spend money,” the chair of the Arlington County Republican Committee is quoted as saying. “The testimony at the budget hearing is going to determine how that is funded.” [InsideNova]

by ARLnow.com — September 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm 612 0

Speaker at County Board meeting on affordable housing plan(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Following nearly five hours of discussion and heartfelt testimony, the Arlington County Board on Saturday approved an ambitious plan to replace rapidly disappearing market rate affordable housing in the county with more subsidized, committed affordable units.

Affordable housing supporters showed up in force to the meeting, well outnumbering critics who questioned the use of taxpayer funds to house residents who could otherwise not afford to live in a desirable, increasingly affluent inner suburb like Arlington.

Young parents, immigrants, teachers, seniors, businesspeople and clergy members, among others, spoke passionately in support of the plan, which calls for the creation of 15,800 new committed affordable housing units over the next 25 years.

“My parents always say that they know that in the future we will do a lot more than they have… and I believe that,” said one speaker, an Arlington Public Schools graduate and current Marymount University student who grew up in affordable housing. “I want our future generations to have better access to economic mobility, and in order for them to excel and become successful professionals, they need a stable home and a world-class education just like the one I know I am blessed to have received from APS and affordable housing.”

The Affordable Housing Master Plan approved by the Board was the culmination of three years of study and community engagement. Board members and community members spoke of the “marathon” process that led to the plan’s passage. Some spoke of continuing “the grand legacy” of former County Board members and local legislators who were instrumental in the county’s early support of affordable housing.

The plan provides a framework and goals for affordable housing in Arlington, but stops short of funding or planning individual housing developments. Under the plan, the County will try to dramatically increase the supply of housing that’s affordable primarily to those making less than 60 percent of the area median income.

“Between 2000 and 2013, the number of units affordable to low-income individuals and families in Arlington decreased from approximately 23,000 to 10,000,” the county noted in a press release. “Most of the 13,500 rental housing units were ‘lost’ to rising rents and redevelopment activity. The County’s current inventory of 7,000 Committed Affordable Units (CAFs) — units that are contractually obligated to remain affordable for decades — has only partially alleviated the loss of market-rate affordable units (MARKs).”

“The plan’s rental supply goal targets 22,800 affordable units by 2040 — a return to the number of affordable units that were available in 2000.”

County Board meeting on affordable housing planCounty Board Chair Mary Hynes said that affordable housing is integral to keeping Arlington an inclusive and diverse community.

“This affordable housing plan continues our long tradition of providing housing so that individuals of all ages, races and incomes can come together to make a great community we can all call home,” Hynes said in a statement. “In the end we — and the generations that follow us — will all benefit from the great thinking that went into this plan.”

Among the personal affordable housing stories the Board heard was one from Claudia Delgadillo, an APS teacher and parent and a representative of the newly-formed group Mi Voz Cuenta — “My Voice Counts.” Delgadillo was once a recipient of free and reduced launch at school, but said she worked to put herself through Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University.

Delgadillo said the hard-working immigrant community along Columbia Pike — those who are relying on Arlington Public Schools to educate their children so they can achieve a better life — deserved to have their voices heard, since they were among the most vulnerable to getting priced out of Arlington.

“We are the residents who are most actively feeling the housing crisis,” she said. “You think about us as statistics and have good intentions. We build your houses, we teach and take care of your children, we make your pupusas — don’t push us out, don’t speak for us.”

Also speaking in support of the plan was Katherine Novello, a founding member of the group Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development. Mi Voz Cuenta was formed partially in response to CARD, which pushed back against what it saw as an increasing concentration of affordable housing in South Arlington. Novello said the group was satisfied with changes to the plan intended to better distribute affordable housing throughout the County.

The plan “better reflects the vision of Arlington as a truly diverse and inclusive community,” said Novello. “I feel fortunate to live in a place where all voices count.”


by Heather Mongilio — September 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm 2,060 0

A member of Mi Voz Cuenta at county government offices (Courtesy of Mi Voz Cuenta)

(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) A new group made up of South Arlington residents and teachers are asking the County Board to approve the Affordable Housing Master Plan at its meeting this Saturday, Sept. 19.

The plan calls for an additional 15,800 affordable housing units to be built by 2040, to bring the county’s percentage of affordable housing to 17.7 percent. The plan has caused a divide in South Arlington, with the new group, Mi Voz Cuenta asking for the County Board to approve the plan, while the group Coalition to Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (CARD) is continuing to ask the Board to ensure that affordable units will be spread throughout the county instead of clustering them around Columbia Pike.

Mi Voz Cuenta, which translates to My Voice Counts, is composed of South Arlington residents, many of whom are parents of children attending Arlington Public Schools, including Randolph, Barcroft, Campbell and Claremont Elementary Schools.

“For many of us, English is not our first language, and many of us were not born here. Nevertheless, we have made Arlington our home, and it has been a community which we have contributed to and enriched economically, culturally, and socially,” the group said in a letter to the County Board, which had more than 440 signatures.

Mi Voz Cuenta says it organized in response to another South Arlington group that has asked for affordable housing to be spread throughout the county and has connected low-income housing to poor school performances, an apparent reference to CARD.

“We know of communications you have received from our neighborhoods and know that they do not speak for us,” members of Mi Voz Cuenta said. “Our voices and our perspectives have not been adequately or correctly represented in these communications. In fact, we feel discriminated against. Most of us were not invited or ever made aware of the forums from which official messages claiming to represent our neighborhoods were sent. We would have liked to be included in these conversations since we are also part of the neighborhood.”

Mi Voz Cuenta is advocating for affordable housing in the neighborhoods near Columbia Pike, adding that the mixed-income neighborhoods have attracted diversity, and with it vibrancy, to the area, the group said. The group is also open to affordable housing throughout the county, said group spokeswoman Jessica Sarriot.


by Heather Mongilio — September 16, 2015 at 3:45 pm 1,012 0

Mixed income housing discussion flyer

The Alliance for Housing Solutions and Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization will hold a panel discussion tonight about the positive aspects and challenges of mixed-income housing in Arlington.

The event will run from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike). The discussion comes in the middle of “Affordable Housing Month” and days before the County Board will discuss the Affordable Housing Master Plan.

Panelists, including a banker, an Arlington County official and developers who have worked with mixed income housing sites, will talk about what mixed housing is and where it does and does not work, said AHS Executive Director Mary Rouleau.

“We’re sponsoring this to get some people on stage who have dealt with mixed-income housing developments,” Rouleau said.

The event is intended to be an informational discussion, she said, adding that panelists will be talking about the positives and complications with mixed income housing.

“From our [CPRO] side I would just say: that the focus of this event is to provide first hand information (and education) on what mixed-income housing development actually is and what are the economic pre-requisites for successfully developing mixed-income housing projects,” CPRO Executive Director Takis Karantonis said in an email.

Panelists include Paul Browne with Wesley Housing Development Corporation, John Welsh with AHC, Inc., Ed Delany with Capital One Bank and Steve Cover with Arlington County.

“The invited panelists are among the most knowledgeable professionals on this topic and will offer the audience a great opportunity to learn and discuss,” Karantonis said.

A question and answer session will follow the panel discussion, allowing attendees to ask question about the complications of mixed-income housing. Many Arlington residents have responded well to the idea of mixed-income housing, Rouleau said.

“It’s complicated and we are just trying to explain to the community that we can’t just wave a magic wand and have mixed incoming housing developments,” she said.

Mixed-income housing is one solution to bringing more affordable housing to the area, including Columbia Pike neighborhoods, Rouleau said. Under the Affordable Housing Plan, the county will add roughly 15,800 affordable housing units.

“You can look at mixed income housing in two ways,” Rouleau said. “One, you have a building. In that footprint, you have housing for people with mixed incomes.”

The other would be a neighborhood that has houses that are completely affordable and homes that are affordable to higher income families, she said.

Mixed-income housing is an important part of the vision for Columbia Pike, Karantonis said.

“The Pike should offer housing opportunities to all types of residents across all income levels. As a community we committed not to exclude any group of residents (either on the higher or lower end of the income scale), he said in an email. “It is a declared goal of the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan to avoid the displacement of any of its current residents, and actually grow by attracting the most diverse population. The Pike revitalization project is in its essence a mixed-income corridor.”

by ARLnow.com — September 11, 2015 at 9:30 am 1,627 0

9/11 flag in Arlington (Flickr pool photo by Kevin White)

Arlington Remembers 9/11 — Arlington County is marking the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks with a solemn ceremony in Courthouse. A moment of silence will be held at 9:37 a.m. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Sidewalks on the Pike Still Need Work — The new Freedman’s Village Bridge over Columbia Pike includes new, wider sidewalks along the Pike, but there are problems. Just up from the new sidewalks, narrow old sidewalks have telephone poles in the middle of them, obstructing pedestrians and bicyclists. And there are multiple crossings among the new sidewalks that make the going slow. [Greater Greater Washington]

Letter Writer: Everything Is Awful — Most people probably find Arlington a pleasant place to live. But a resident who wrote a guest commentary about Arlington for a Falls Church newspaper finds a lot to dislike, warning Falls Church residents of Arlington as a “cautionary tale” of development gone wrong. The letter blasts Arlington’s overcrowded schools, “scorched-earth development practices,” “critical shortage of parkland and green space,” “failed policies and inadequate planning,” “poor local air quality,” lack of mature tree canopy and “urban heat island effect.” [Falls Church News-Press]

AHC Repays Loan — Nonprofit affordable housing developer AHC Inc. has made a $2.5 million loan repayment to Arlington County, one of the organization’s largest lump sum repayments. AHC presented retiring County Board members Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, along with other county officials, a giant check to mark the occasion.

Janet Howell Announces Breast Cancer Diagnosis — State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd), who represents part of Arlington, announced yesterday that she was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer. She has undergone treatment and says her prognosis is “excellent.” [Reston Now]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

by Heather Mongilio — September 2, 2015 at 11:30 am 2,779 0

Members of the Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development, a group that wants affordable housing throughout the county, protested before a County Board work session on the Affordable Housing Master Plan last night.

The Affordable Housing Master Plan calls for 17.7 percent of all housing in Arlington to be affordable by 2040 for those making up to 60 percent of the average median income. Under the plan, the county would add roughly 15,800 new affordable units.

“It’s housing for our low wage workforce, or our lower wage workforce,” said County Board member Jay Fisette after the work session. “It’s the people we all rely on and come across every day in our lives in Arlington.”

The County Board will vote on the plan in September, and CARD members said they do not think the plan does enough to spread affordable housing throughout the county. Instead, the group said that new affordable housing units will be clustered around Columbia Pike.

“I think the county can make a stronger commitment to placing CAFs [Committed Affordable Units] in school districts that don’t have a high concentration of poverty,” said CARD member Katherine Novello, who lives in Barcroft.

Housing Distribution forecast map (via Arlington County)

The plan includes a map that forecasts the distribution of affordable housing units throughout the county. By 2040:

  • Rosslyn-Ballston corridor will have 22 percent of the affordable housing units
  • The Route 1 corridor (Crystal City and Pentagon City) will have 10 percent
  • Columbia Pike will have 22 percent
  • The area around the Arlington and Washington Blvds will have 6 percent
  • Buckingham will have 7 percent
  • The Westover Garden Apartments will have 3 percent
  • Apartments along I-395 will have 13 percent
  • The neighborhoods along Lee Highway to East Falls Church will have 11 percent

Under the plan, no affordable housing units would be added to areas in the northern most part of Arlington, including the Bellevue Forest, Arlingwood, Old Glebe and Rivercrest neighborhoods.

Many of the CARD members are concerned that the lack of distribution throughout the county will hurt school achievement by clumping high levels of poverty in some schools, while others have very few students who need free or reduced meals.

“If you create pockets of poverty, you’re not creating opportunities for people to succeed in life,” said CARD member Sue Campbell, who lives in Glencarlyn.

The lack of diversity in some schools also goes against the county’s slogan of diversity and inclusion, Campbell said.

The County Board received many comments from the public asking for geographic distribution and urging the county to do more to ensure it, said County Board member John Vihstadt during the work session.

“I’m just looking at pages and pages of the comments looking at the survey [on affordable housing],” Vihstadt said. “We’re moving in the right direction. The question is what more can we do.”

Vihstadt said after the meeting that he thinks the plan is better than before and is hopeful that the final plan presented in September will be something he can support.

“I think this plan now has goals as well as some teeth,” he said.

CARD founding member Joye Murphy said this morning that while the County Board members, “especially John Vihstadt,” were listening to the group, the plan still does not do enough to enforce geographic distribution.

“The county continues to harp on ‘preserving’ affordable housing,” she said in an email. “The only place housing is ‘market-rate affordable,’ (this means ‘low rent apartments’) is basically along Columbia Pike. This thinly-veiled ‘goal’ of ‘preserving affordable housing’ means dumping more committed affordable units on the Pike. We are not drinking that Kool-Aid.”

by ARLnow.com — August 31, 2015 at 2:35 pm 2,306 0

CARD logoA group that’s pushing for a wider distribution of affordable housing throughout Arlington plans to protest a County Board meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

The Board will be holding a final work session on its new affordable housing plan at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The draft plan calls for adding 15,800 affordable housing units in Arlington by 2040.

The Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development says it “organizing a peaceful demonstration opposing the plan” at 6:30 p.m., at the intersection of Clarendon Blvd and N. Wayne Street. The group will also hold signs and “observe the markup process” at the meeting.

CARD says the county has been concentrating affordable housing along Columbia Pike, hurting student achievement. The group says county officials have not been responsive to its concerns.

From a CARD press release:

Over the past decade, Arlington has become socio economically segregated, with pockets of poverty along the west end of Columbia Pike. This area continues to be targeted for even more affordable housing. The second-order effects on schools like Randolph and Barcroft are 80% free-and-reduced-meal rates and an achievement gap. The coalition is dismayed that county leadership is not responding to its concerns and wishes to see affordable housing as an avenue for upward economic mobility for tenants. We want children living in affordable housing to have access to the highest-achieving schools.

September is Affordable Housing Month in Arlington. Public hearings on the affordable housing plan are scheduled for Sept. 8 and 19.

by Heather Mongilio — August 31, 2015 at 10:15 am 1,034 0

Affordable Housing Month logo (via Arlington County)

Arlington County and a local nonprofit are raising awareness of housing and hunger in September.

September is Affordable Housing Month in Arlington. Throughout the month, Arlington County will be holding events that celebrate “the County’s long-term commitment to preserving and creating housing opportunities that benefit the whole community.”

There will be bus and bike tours of affordable housing complexes, a speech from national affordable housing advocate Chris Estes and a public forum about the benefits and challenges of offering affordable housing in the county.

During the month, there will also be public hearings on the Affordable Housing Master Plan on Sept. 8 and 19. The plan addresses the decline of affordable housing in the county and includes the creation of 15,800 additional affordable housing units by 2040.

“For decades, we have invested in our affordable housing programs to help us achieve our vision of a diverse and inclusive community,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “These efforts support our residents at all ages and stages of life, improve our neighborhoods and strengthen our economy. This September, we will come together to celebrate our successes and discuss our challenges.”

Affordable Housing Month kicks off on Wednesday, Sept. 2 with a speech from Estes, the president and CEO of non-profit National Housing Conference. The opening reception is from 4-6 p.m. in the County Board room (2100 Clarendon Blvd, room 307).

The following events are also part of Affordable Housing Month:

AFAC celebrates 25th anniversaryThe Arlington Food Assistance Center will also spend September educating residents about hunger and food demand in the county as part of its Hunger Action Month.

The organization will hold discussions about hunger, a golf tournament, a film screening and multiple food drives to raise awareness of Arlington residents who struggle with feeding their families.

There will also be a month-long exhibit about AFAC and hunger in the lobby of the Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street), with an accompanying presentation on Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.

“Over 2,200 families are coming to AFAC each week to access fresh and healthy supplemental groceries, freeing up tightly stretched funds for child and health care, rent, and other financial demands. The growing need shows no signs of abating and Hunger Action Month creates an opportunity to share AFAC’s story and expand its reach to every Arlington resident suffering from food insecurity,” the organization said in a press release.

by ARLnow.com — August 18, 2015 at 10:00 am 1,755 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Jim Whittaker, chairman of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express my support for Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan and for its goals of ensuring that middle and lower income workers can continue to call Arlington home. Frankly, I am confused by the controversy that has been stirred up regarding the Plan. This plan is the logical extension of efforts that have been underway here for years to limit the loss of existing affordable housing units and to create some new ones. The plan is not radical, nor will it be sufficient to entirely stop the loss of affordable housing, but it presents a reasonable approach for stemming the tide.

I serve as Chairman of the Board of A-SPAN, and we are working hard to lift hundreds of our most vulnerable neighbors out of homelessness. To accomplish this we depend on the availability of affordable housing. In Arlington the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $1,700 per month and rising.  When one of our veteran or other homeless clients qualifies for a VA or HUD housing voucher we must find a willing landlord and an apartment that rents for $1,300 per month or less. While these are becoming harder to find, the plan before the County Board gives us hope that enough units will be available for us to achieve our goal of ending chronic homelessness in Arlington.

It’s not good for anyone to leave our homeless neighbors on the streets. It’s also expensive. A recent American Medical Association study found that homeless individuals cost a community about $45,000 per person per year in police, court, and hospital costs. We can provide housing and other services to that person for about $22,000, improve their health, and in many cases get them back into the workforce.

We have learned how to solve the problem of homelessness. But, we need Arlington to adopt the Affordable Housing Master Plan so that when A-SPAN clients are ready for housing there’s an affordable apartment available for them.


Jim Whittaker
Chairman, A-SPAN Board of Directors

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about local issues. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected]. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.

by ARLnow.com — July 30, 2015 at 9:30 am 2,197 0

Line at Pedro and Vinny's on Columbia Pike

ITT Tech Protest Only Included One Student — A protest outside ITT Tech’s shareholder meeting in Rosslyn earlier this week reportedly included only one person who had actually been a student at the for-profit school. The rest were from advocacy groups and a labor union. [Inside Higher Ed]

New Food Delivery Service Comes to ArlingtonDoorDash, an online food delivery business that promises to get food to your door in 45 minutes or less, has launched in Arlington. DoorDash joins similar food delivery services like Seamless and Eat24 in entering the Arlington market. [WUSA 9]

Arlington Teacher Recognized at the White House — Arlington Career Center teacher Thomas O’Day was one of 10 educators nationwide to be honored as a 2015 Career and Technical Education Innovator. O’Day, who has been teaching television production at the career center for 27 years, received his recognition at an event hosted by the White House. [Arlington Public Schools]

New Affordable Housing Video — The group Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) is producing a series of videos in support of affordable housing efforts in Arlington. The first video profiles Marcos Rubio, a janitor at H-B Woodlawn who currently commutes from the Springfield area. [Vimeo]

House Fire in Alcova Heights — A small house fire broke out on the 3800 block of 6th Street S. in the Alcova Heights neighborhood around 7:00 this morning. The fire was extinguished and no one was hurt. [Twitter]

Fairfax County Approves Seven Corners Plan — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this week approved a sweeping redevelopment plan for the Seven Corners area, near Arlington. The plan, which was fought by residents in nearby single family home neighborhoods, calls for several thousand new homes, a revamped street grid and new shops and restaurants. [Washington Post]

by ARLnow.com — July 13, 2015 at 11:45 am 1,809 0

Arlington County has released a series of public service announcement videos touting the benefits of affordable housing.

The 30-second “Faces of Affordable Housing” videos were created in advance of hearings scheduled for September on the county’s proposed Affordable Housing Master Plan. The draft plan calls for the creating of 15,800 new affordable housing units by 2040.

The videos, which were published on YouTube and will air on the county-run Arlington TV cable channel, include the tagline, “Affordable housing, a foundation for our future.”

The video above is intended to show how the county’s affordable housing program “creates community and helps people age in place. Other videos show how the program:

by Heather Mongilio — July 7, 2015 at 4:05 pm 3,046 0


A newly-formed citizens group is raising questions about the Affordable Housing Master Plan, the County’s plan to address the need for more affordable housing.

The Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (CARD), which currently has around 70 members, is concerned with the geographic distribution of affordable housing units and the effect affordable housing has on Arlington Public Schools.

The County Board has set public hearings on the housing plan before the Board and the Planning Commission in September to allow for more public comment. The plan, as proposed, calls for the creation of 15,800 additional affordable housing units by 2040, bringing the total to 22,800 units or 17.7 percent of the total housing stock in Arlington.

For CARD, the question is not the amount of affordable housing, but where it is placed in Arlington. There are large discrepancies in where affordable housing units are located, leading to socioeconomic segregation, said Joye Murphy, a founding member of CARD.

Murphy points to neighborhoods along Columbia Pike — particularly the western end of the Pike — that feed into Randolph Elementary School. In some neighborhoods along the Pike, the county set of a target of having 15 percent of their housing available as affordable housing. However, the neighborhoods exceeded that target and have about 38 percent of its housing affordable, Murphy said.

At the same time, she said, some North Arlington neighborhoods have failed to reach their targets.

Serrano apartments on Columbia Pike“What we’ve seen is a disproportionate percent of affordable housing along specific areas of Arlington,” Murphy said.

One of CARD’s aims is to have affordable housing across the county, not just in specific sectors. By spreading affordable housing, there will be more diversity in Arlington’s neighborhoods, which will benefit all Arlington residents, said Maura McMahon, another founding member of CARD.

“CARD’s goals are for responsible development in Arlington that fosters socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods and schools so that all Arlingtonians can benefit from what Arlington has to offer: top schools, efficient transportation systems, quality recreational facilities and parks, etc.,” McMahon said. “We believe every individual and every child should be afforded an equal opportunity to achieve his/her potential.”

The current targets for the amount of affordable housing units that should exist in each neighborhood are not referenced in the new plan, Murphy said. It only lists distributing housing units throughout the county as one of its goals.

The targets allowed for accountability, said Dedra Curteman, a CARD founding member.

“The primary fault with the master plan as written is it doesn’t call for targets for geographic distribution,” Curteman said.

Without the targets for each neighborhood, affordable housing developers could theoretically place most of the new affordable housing units in specific areas of the county instead of throughout Arlington.

“I worry that the targets were deleted because they shot past the targets in many areas,” Curteman said.

Pie chart of housing on Columbia Pike (via Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance)

CARD wants County Board members to include tools and specifics in the housing plan to ensure geographic distribution. The group plans to send a letter with their recommendations to the County in the next week, Murphy said.

The county is replacing the targets with three different ways to address affordable housing, said County Board Chair Mary Hynes.

“The plan really has three buckets that the Board would be using to achieve affordable housing,” Hynes said.

The first is preserving existing units, the second is looking at bringing affordable housing to transit corridors and the third is to look at areas with many single-family homes to see where additional housing units could be added. Hynes said that CARD is right in saying that the county does not yet have the tools needed for the second and third buckets, but after the plan is adopted she hopes the county will work on developing these tools.

The targets also did not work as the county did not have the tools to bring affordable housing to each area according to the targets, Hynes added. A lack of available land and high costs could make building affordable housing in certain parts of the county particularly difficult.

CARD members say the lack of geographic distribution affects the Arlington Public Schools, as research has shown that having a large amount of children that need reduced or free lunches influences test and achievement scores.

“Housing policy is education policy,” Murphy said.


by ARLnow.com — June 17, 2015 at 10:00 am 2,320 0

Aerial view of Courthouse and neighborhoodsArlington residents will be able to weigh in on the county’s proposal for more affordable housing before the County Board votes on the ambitious plan.

Arlington County will hold the hearings on Sept. 8 with the Planning Commission and Sept. 19 with the County Board.

“Ensuring that Arlington has housing affordable to folks at all incomes in all stages of life is one of the most important challenges facing our community,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said. “Whether we are seeking to attract businesses, helping Arlingtonians age in place or ensuring that residents who rent have the opportunity to grow roots, the preservation and creation of affordable housing is a necessary component of our long-term sustainability and vibrancy.”

The county’s plan includes the creation of 15,800 additional affordable housing units by 2040, bringing the total to 22,800 units or 17.7 percent of the total housing stock in Arlington.

The county currently has 7,000 committed affordable units (CAFs), which are bound to keep rents lower thanks in part to federal and/or local government subsidies. Affordable housing programs account for about 5 percent of Arlington County’s overall budget, excluding school funds.

A chart showing the trends of affordable housing in Arlington since 2000In Arlington, housing is typically considered “affordable” for households that make less than 60 percent of the area’s median income (AMI), or $64,480. According to a press release from the county, only 9 percent of housing in Arlington is currently affordable to that group of residents.

“There is insufficient affordable housing to meet the demand of renters” with incomes below 60 percent of AMI, the county says.

As part of its Affordable Housing Master Plan, the county also plans to incentivize the creation of 2,700 moderately-priced homes that would be affordable to buy for those to those who make between 80 to 120 percent of the area median income.

Moderate income renters will not, however, see an increase in housing opportunities under the plan.

“The County’s current rental stock sufficiently serves both families, and single-person households, who have incomes above 80 percent of AMI,” the plan concludes. It thus envisions trying to preserve existing 60-80 percent AMI committed units while focusing on creating new committed units for sub-60 percent AMI residents.

While the additional housing would help low-income households in Arlington, the county also identified renters over 65 years old, families and racial and ethnic minorities as the target population for these affordable units.

The need for committed units to replace disappearing market-rate affordable units is particularly acute. A county study found that market rate units affordable for those under 60 percent AMI in Arlington may all but disappear by 2020.

Support for affordable housing among county policymakers is strong. Arlington’s housing efforts are generally supported by all five County Board members and each of the four candidates for County Board have expressed support for affordable housing programs to varying degrees at one point or another.

Some critics, however, contend that the county’s new plan is unrealistically expensive and will require considerable additional housing density and school capacity.


by ARLnow.com — June 8, 2015 at 9:45 am 1,563 0

Escalator construction between the Pentagon City Metro station and the mall

FIFA Movie Shown in Arlington — Arlington is home to one of ten theaters nationwide that showed a biopic about Sepp Blatter, the embattled president of FIFA who last week announced that he would be stepping down from the international soccer organization. The AMC Loews Shirlington 7 grossed $161 from “United Passions” as of Friday. Nationwide the film, which cost FIFA at least $25 million to produce, grossed only $607. [Washington Post]

Crystal City Hosts Car ‘Micro-Factory’ — Crystal City is currently home to the Local Motors Mobifactory, a car factory in a shipping container. The “micro-factory” uses 3D printing technology to produce prototype vehicles. The micro-factory plans to remain at 1900 Crystal Drive for the rest of the summer. A grand opening is planned for Thursday. [Tech.co]

GGW on Tomorrow’s Primary — Greater Greater Washington weighs in on which Democratic Arlington County Board candidates would be best for smart growth, transit, walking and bicycling. The Democratic primary will be held tomorrow. [Greater Greater Washington]

CivFed Backs Affordable Housing Plan — The Arlington County Civic Federation has voted 47-29 to support Arlington County’s draft Affordable Housing Master Plan. The plan sets goals for affordable housing in the county and is several years in the making. The County Board is scheduled to vote Saturday on setting a public hearing for the plan. [InsideNova]

A Note on InsideNova Links — Normally, ARLnow.com warns readers of auto-play videos in articles that we link to in the Morning Notes. We have observed that InsideNova often hosts autoplay videos, with sound on, within its ad units. Because this doesn’t happen every time we visit, however, we will not include an auto-play video warning for these links. ARLnow.com believes that advertising should be local and relevant and should not purposefully interrupt or annoy readers. We hope that users who might use AdBlock Plus to block annoying ads from other publishers would whitelist our site so that we can continue to bring you interruption-free local news content and relevant messages from local advertisers.


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