Women of Vision Honorees Announced — The 2016 Arlington County Women of Vision award winners have been announced. The honorees are Arlington Public Library director Diane Kresh, Sprout CEO Rebecca Carpenter and STEM education advocate Susan Senn. Kresh, Carpenter and Senn will be honored at a ceremony on Tuesday, June 28. [Arlington County]
Immigration Rally in Arlington — Local immigrants rallied in Arlington last night “to make their voices heard — and some began the process of becoming a citizen.” Some 100 people attended the CASA-sponsored event. [WJLA]
APAH Gets Big Grant — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing announced yesterday that it was one of 40 nonprofits nationwide to be selected for a grant from the Citi Foundation Community Progress Makers Fund. “APAH will receive a core operating support grant of $500,000 over the course of two years to continue its work in the community around affordable housing.” [APAH]
Photo by Jackie Friedman
The Arlington County Board has approved the redevelopment of the Berkeley Apartments near Four Mile Run.
The Berkeley, located at 2910 S. Glebe Road near the Arlington-Alexandria border, currently contains 137 apartments in two four-story buildings. Of those, 110 are committed affordable.
The redevelopment will replace them with two five-story buildings containing 257 apartments, 155 of which are committed affordable. One hundred forty units will be family sized, containing two or more bedrooms.
“This project will add high-quality housing — both market rate and committed affordable — to Four Mile Run,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in a press release. “Two older apartment buildings will be replaced, and we will gain a total of 45 affordable units — most of them big enough for families.”
The project’s developer, AHC Inc., will file an application with the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund to help finance the redevelopment. During the financial underwriting process, AHC is hoping to increase the number of committed affordable units from 70 percent to 80 percent.
AHC also committed to achieving Earthcraft Gold green building certification, ensuring that the buildings meet Energy Star requirements. Community benefits of the project include a widening of the Four Mile Run trail from 8 to 12 feet and a $75,000 public art contribution.
The project was met with resistance from the Arlington Ridge Civic Association, which expressed concerns about the size of the new buildings.
Some building residents also expressed concerns a condition imposed by county staff that the property’s fence that runs along the Four Mile Mile Run trail be removed. The fence helps to improve the building’s security, residents said. County staff and others said the fence does not comply with the Four Mile Run Master Plan.
“The proposed fence would completely undercut that effort, and send a message to both Berkeley residents and others that Four Mile Run is a scary place to be avoided,” said Liz Birnbaum of the Four Mile Run Joint Task Force. “Just as we are beginning to achieve the Master Plan vision of an inviting, accessible Four Mile Run, the fence proposal denies that possibility.”
Ultimately, staff softened the language of the condition, instead requiring that the fence be removed no later than Dec. 31, 2026.
“The proposed change ensures that there will not be a continuous fence along the entire frontage of the Four Mile Run Trail and provides a date certain for removing the fence, while addressing the the applicant’s concerns related to safety and security in the near term,” staff wrote, noting that AHC preferred to keep the fence in place.
Residents of The Shelton apartment building in Nauck are speaking out about what they say are poor and unsafe living conditions at the affordable apartment complex.
The four-story building, at 3215 24th Street S., was built in 2009 and has 94 committed affordable apartments. There’s also a community center, landscaped courtyard with a play area and underground parking.
A letter signed by 19 residents alleges “poor and disrespectful customer service,” “harassment of residents by staff” and — most pointedly — problems with drug dealing and usage in and around the building, chronic loitering and a pest infestation.
“The Shelton was built and operates using public funds, but is not accountable to the residents or the community,” the letter says. “Our living conditions continue to deteriorate… It is not always a safe place for us or our children to live. Security currently in place is not adequate.”
“As residents we have a right to live in a building that is well maintained, welcoming and secure,” the letter continues. “We need dedicated staffing and security personnel on these premises that will work with us as tenants… Safety and security at the Shelton should be a priority for management and on-site staff.”
Arlington County Police Department records show that there were 125 calls for service to the apartment building between May 1, 2015 and today. While high, we’re told that’s not an excessive number for a large, multi-family building. The top four types of police calls to the building were for domestic incidents, noise complaints, trespassing and disorderly conduct.
Arlington-based AHC, which owns and manages The Shelton, has organized a community meeting in response to the letter, a spokeswoman told ARLnow.com this afternoon. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 18 at 6 p.m. at the building’s community room. It will “discuss any concerns [residents] may have” and provide “an update on the steps we have taken over the last several months to rectify several issues.”
AHC says trash areas in the building are now being checked daily and extra trash collection days have been scheduled to help address the pest problem. Also, adjustments are being made to correct inaccurate utility bills that were sent to some residents.
To address the safety issue, an automated system asking loiterers to “please move on” was recently installed near the 7-Eleven store and the automatic front door now prevents individuals from holding it open indefinitely. AHC says the building currently has 32 security cameras.
“AHC has deep roots in the Nauck community,” said AHC Communications Manager Celia Slater. “We are dedicated to working with local organizations like the Nauck Civic Association and the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corporation. We continue to partner with Arlington County and other groups to help move forward plans for the Nauck neighborhood revitalization.”
The full letter from residents, after the jump.
The Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions is raising questions about the “Blue Ribbon Panel” on county priorities that was unanimously approved by the County Board last month.
In a letter to the panel’s principle supporter, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, and the four other members of the County Board, AHS asks the Board to delay implementation of the panel — the six members are slated to be appointed at the Board’s meeting on Tuesday — and gather more public feedback.
Garvey said last month that the panel would serve an advisory role for the Board and would not set policy, thus negating the need for an extensive public process.
As an organization, AHS is dedicated to “preserving and increasing affordable housing in Arlington through public education, facilitation and action.”
The full letter from AHS leaders Eugene Hubbard and Mary Margaret Whipple, the former state legislator, is below.
Dear Madam Chair and Members of the County Board:
The Alliance for Housing Solutions is writing to express its disappointment in the Board’s unanimous adoption of the Blue Ribbon Panel Charge on April 19, 2016. We urge that the Board delay this process, including the appointment of Panel members, until the public has had reasonable opportunity to provide feedback and the Charge is clarified to explain what appear to be inconsistencies.
Our principal concerns are summarized as follows:
1. Process. While it is clear that the Blue Ribbon Panel and Charge were discussed among Board members and perhaps members of the public as well, there was virtually no notice that the Board would adopt the Charge and the language was not available for public review and comment. This flies in the face of repeated messages by many Board members of the need for greater transparency and adequate public advance notice of Board actions.
2. Governance. The complete scope of what is being asked of the members of the Panel is not clear but explicitly includes the ability to “Affirm the[se] goals and objectives [of the Comprehensive Plan] and/or consider policy areas that should be revisited.” This is high-level policy-making that we believe should not be in the hands of unelected persons.
Further, we believe that the need to create a process to set priorities is redundant. As the Charge itself notes, priorities are set every year by the County Board in the budget and CIP processes, with feedback from the community and from affected Commissions.
3. Inclusion. The Charge speaks of the Panel of six reflecting “broad diversity, including knowledge of and experience with Arlington Public Schools”. Respectfully, we think that such diversity of issues and concerns cannot be reflected by six persons in a six month process. Further, AHS is concerned about how the on-going roles of Commissions and other appointed bodies will be considered.
Thank you for your consideration of these views.
Mary Margaret Whipple
The Board largely took the recommendations of County Manager Mark Schwartz, who presented his proposed budget in February, and voted unanimously for the new, $1.2 billion FY 2017 budget.
Under the budget, the property tax rate will be reduced by half a cent, to $0.991 for every $100 in assessed value, while the overall property tax burden on the average homeowner will increase from $7,640 to $7,829. The increase is due to a 2.8 percent rise in residential property assessments.
The budget provides more money for Arlington Public Schools than APS asked for, in stark contrast to the budget battle in Fairfax County.
APS, which is continuing to grapple with a burgeoning student population, will get a $466.9 million budget transfer from the county, a 3.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. That includes “$1.1 million in one-time and ongoing funding above the School Board’s funding request.”
The budget includes the biggest boost to Arlington’s public safety funding in years, satisfying some long-sought requests.
The fire department will get eight additional firefighters to convert existing three-person fire units to the recommended safe staffing level of four per unit. ACFD will also get four additional firefighters to address persistent strains to medic unit staffing during peak times.
“A positive step forward for public safety,” the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association said via Twitter.
The police department will get six new officers to help the department “meet its core mission responsibilities.” The Sheriff’s Office, which is facing a lawsuit over the alleged mistreatment of a deaf jail inmate, is getting five new positions to “improve safety and security at the Courthouse and the Detention Center, bolster its administrative staff and add a uniformed American with Disabilities Act coordinator.”
Other notable budget items include:
- An additional $1.5 million for Arlington Economic Development, “to focus on lowering the commercial vacancy rate.”
- $13.6 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which is $1.1 million more than proposed by the manager.
- “Modest funding to continue the County’s open data efforts” and funding for livestreaming County Board work sessions and certain commission meetings.
- Merit pay increases for county employees.
- An increase in the living wage for county employees to $14.50 per hour, plus tuition reimbursement and continued funding for the Live Where You Work program.
“This is a good budget,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “Even as our population and school enrollment continue to grow, and our office vacancy rate remains high, the Board was able to put together a budget that preserves our community’s values, gives schools more funding than they requested, and adds funding for public safety, economic development and other key services – with a slight decrease in the tax rate.”
The budget is a complex document and the adopted budget is not yet online. Know of any other notable budget items not included here? Any quiet boosts or cuts in funding to a certain group or county department? Let us know in the comments.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a $750,000 award to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) today during a ceremony at the Arlington Mill Community and Senior Center in south Arlington.
The funds, said APAH president and CEO Nina Janopaul, will go toward the construction of Columbia Hills Apartments, a new 229-apartment building scheduled to begin in May at South Frederick Street and Columbia Pike. The building will be erected in the parking lot of Columbia Grove Apartments, another APAH property.
“There are multiple financing tools, and this is an important piece of it,” Janopaul told ARLnews.com. “These funds will make [rents] more affordable for our residents and give us an opportunity to do a better job” of providing affordable housing.
Eleven nonprofits throughout the commonwealth received funding from the $6 million Virginia Housing Trust Fund Competitive Loan Pool during Tuesday’s ceremony. Along with two Richmond organizations, APAH’s $750,000 was the most granted to a regional housing nonprofit.
“On behalf of all the citizens of Virginia, I thank you,” McAuliffe told the audience in a fifth floor conference room at Arlington Mill. “Think of all the lives you have helped.”
Left to right: Maurice Jones, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade; Nina Janopaul, APAH President/CEO; Gov. Terry McAuliffe; John Milliken, APAH Board Chairman; and Mike Chiappa, APAH Real Estate Associate; Photo by Jon Grant
The Springs, a new affordable apartment complex in the Buckingham area, near Ballston, celebrated its “topping out” last week.
The five story, 104-unit apartment building, at the corner of Carlin Springs Road and N. Thomas Street, is being developed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. The project was approved by the Arlington County Board in 2014.
A topping out ceremony was held last Wednesday, after the construction project reached its highest point. Construction is expected to wrap up later this year.
“APAH purchased this site in 1997,” APAH Board member Susan Bell said in a statement. “Nine of APAH’s 14 properties are in North Arlington. The redevelopment of The Springs expands APAH’s presence in this wonderful Ballston location, just 1/2 mile from Metro and close to so many jobs and services.”
As part of the ceremony, more than 40 attendees, including County Board members and local legislators, signed a “commemorative beam” that will be installed on the top floor of the building.
“Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is one of our key community partners,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “Today only 9,600 Arlington apartments are affordable to the 17,000 low income families looking for housing in our community. With the targets set in the County’s Master Plan, we are committed to keeping Arlington a place where people from across the socioeconomic spectrum can live and work comfortably.”
DoD Renews Leases on Crystal City Buildings — In a win for Arlington County’s beleaguered commercial real estate market, the GSA has renewed leases on two buildings with some 912,000 square feet of office space, in Crystal City, for the Department of Defense. [Washington Business Journal]
Church Decided to Sell After Hearing from Residents — While initially skeptical, a majority of the membership of the Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike approved a plan to sell the church to an affordable housing developer after hearing the stories of working class residents who said they worked in Arlington but couldn’t afford to live there anymore. [Washington Post]
Fisette: Arlington Will Work to Improve Bike Rating — County Board member Jay Fisette says Arlington will work to improve its Bicycle Friendly Community rating. Arlington received a silver-level designation, but there are 29 U.S. communities that are either gold or platinum level. In order to achieve that, Arlington will need more bike lanes, bike programs for lower-income residents and bicycle-themed street events. [InsideNova]
Howell Introduces Courthouse Security Bill — State Sen. Janet Howell (D), whose sprawling district includes part of north Arlington, has introduced a bill intended to improve courthouse security. The bill would increase from $10 to $20 the maximum amount a local jurisdiction could charge a defendant convicted on traffic or criminal charges, to help fund security measures. [Richmond Sunlight]
Webb Responds to Criticism in Comments — Michael Webb, who hopes to run as a Republican against Rep. Don Beyer next year, has personally responded to criticism in the comments of the article about his campaign announcement. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the redevelopment of Arlington Presbyterian Church into an apartment complex with 173 affordable housing units at its meeting on Saturday.
“For over 100 years, Arlington Presbyterian Church has been a place where people of vision, connected with the community, have heard and responded to the needs of our neighbors,” the church said in a release. “As a faith community, APC is committed to creating and nurturing a community of disciples, being a people and place of crossroads for the Columbia Pike neighborhood, and redeveloping their property to provide affordable housing for those in their community.”
The project is a partnership between the church congregation and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, the organization overseeing the sale of the property at 3507 Columbia Pike, demolition of the church and construction of the apartment building.
“One of the key benefits of stable, affordable housing is the stable households it creates,” said John Milliken, vice chairman of the APAH Board of Directors at Saturday’s meeting. “It’s a unique and special opportunity to partner with APC… in carrying out what it has determined as its spiritual mission.”
As part of the vote, Board members also approved approximately $18 million in loans to help APAH fund the project.
The new building will also include a three-floor parking garage and ground floor retail space.
“This is another case where our development tools, coupled with major transportation investments, are helping us transform the Pike into the ‘main street’ that the community has long envisioned, while preserving the rich resident diversity that makes this part of Arlington so special,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement.
The church first approved the redevelopment plan in November 2013, but the sale of the church to APAH wasn’t until this February. Now that the loan from the County has been approved as well, the project is expected to move forward as planned.
At the meeting, community members spoke in support of the project’s final approval.
“[My wife and I] really love our neighborhood, its diversity, its walkability, the history, and the people,” Columbia Pike and Arlington Presbyterian Church member Miles Townes said. “We’re concerned some of our neighbors are not able to live in our neighborhood anymore, and we plainly see that the need for affordable housing is growing on the Pike.”
The project also has the support of other area faith communities.
“This project is a perfect example of doing something now for generations yet unborn that will look back and say ‘thank you,'” said the Rev. Andrew Merrow of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider a project that would tear down Arlington Presbyterian Church along Columbia Pike and replace it with an affordable housing apartment building.
County staff is recommending approval of the project, which was approved by the church’s congregation in 2013. The church’s regional governing body gave the green light for its sale to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing earlier this year.
APAH is proposing to tear down the church, which was built in 1931, and construct a six-story apartment building with 173 units, all of which will be committed affordable housing. The building would include a three-level parking garage and 8,900 square feet of retail or civic use space.
The church has proposed leasing much of the retail area for a non-traditional worship space. A coffee shop was also suggested as a possible retail use, in addition to the church.
The apartment building would also replace the church’s surface parking lot and its tot lots, which are currently used by daycare provider Funshine Preschool. The preschool is being relocated to 3412 22nd Street S. and the tot lots are expected to be sold to a single family home developer in order to help fund the apartment building’s construction.
The County Board is expected to follow staff’s recommendations and approve a rezoning, use permit and $8.6 million loan from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund for the project.
The church is located at 3507 Columbia Pike.
Affordable 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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]
(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.”
“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.”
(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.
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.”