Earlier this year, I had the privilege of joining the board of the Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS).
The Alliance advocates for affordable housing in Arlington that meet the needs of all income levels and stages of life. This includes both committed affordable housing developments that are income restricted for low-income residents and market-oriented solutions such as ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) that will provide unsubsidized lower-cost housing.
This year, Arlington is at a cross-roads that will determine our commitment to affordable housing. I hope you’ll join me and other AHS supporters to call on the County Board to grow our stock of committed affordable housing with a strategic investment of $25 million in the Affordable Housing Investment Fund.
The Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF or “A-Hif”) is a low-interest loan program that helps developers build and preserve committed affordable housing in Arlington County. It is a revolving fund that receives money from private developers (like $20 million from Amazon for the first phase of HQ2), federal grants, and County contributions.
The County Board distributes AHIF loans to worthy projects, which affordable housing developers use to build or renovate multi-family properties. These developers then repay their AHIF loans, putting the money back in the fund to be used for future projects. This revolving fund is a catalyst for affordable housing developers to get the financing they need to increase our supply of income-restricted units.
In the last twenty years, low-income Arlingtonians have faced increased rent pressure. Because of increased demand and redevelopment, we’ve lost over 16,000 unsubsidized apartments in the open low-rent market that had been affordable to lower-income households. The County is attempting to make up the deficit by investing in committed affordable units. But they’ve only been able to reach half their goal each of the last five years. That means we’re falling further behind, as 28,000 Arlingtonians try to find decent affordable housing on an income of $36,000 per year.
Since adopting the Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015, the County Board has allocated an average of $14.3 million to AHIF and added only 298 units each year, when their annual goal is 600 units. We now have a 1,500 unit deficit and only 9% of our housing stock is affordable to families making 60% of the Area Median Income or less, which is about half of what we need to accommodate our low-income neighbors. We can’t keep taking the same action and expect better results. This year, the Board needs to take bold action by allocating $25 million to AHIF, an increase of $9 million.
The County Manager released the FY 2021 budget, which includes only $2.7 million more for AHIF. Another $2.3 million could come from Columbia Pike Tax Increment Financing and potentially another $2 million from a future increase in the County’s cigarette tax. If adopted, this could increase AHIF by a maximum of $7 million. The County Board would have to vote for all of these options, and the amount would still be below our goal of $9 million in new funds.
This Week’s Crystal City Garage Races Postponed — “Attention garage racers and friends: Tomorrow’s Crystal City races are postponed. We are operating with an abundance of caution after an employee of a tenant in the 201 12th St. S. complex was quarantined because of COVID-19. The complex common areas were cleaned and disinfected, today, but we are holding off before racing again.” [Facebook]
Deep Clean for Rosslyn-Based News Outlet — “Politico has asked several reporters who covered CPAC to self-quarantine over coronavirus concerns. It’s also sanitizing/disinfecting its office.” [Washingtonian, Twitter]
Winter is Over, Unofficially — “Winter was barely perceptible in Washington this year, and now, we can put a fork in it. We see no more potential for enduring cold or substantial snowfall. Spring is here.” [Capital Weather Gang]
Whitlow’s Rooftop Opens — “Rooftop opens for the season tonight at 5 p.m.! How’s that for a Monday?” [Twitter]
Neighborhood College Applications Open — “Learn how to become a neighborhood advocate and effect change through Arlington County’s free Neighborhood College program, which will meet on eight consecutive Thursday evenings beginning April 23.” [Arlington County]
Developers Pitch in to Help Housing Nonprofit — “Absent a budget from a central housing authority, APAH ‘can’t afford not to’ maintain solid relationships with developers — who donate, serve on its board and train future APAH staffers. ‘We’re blessed by their generosity,’ Janopaul says, citing Arlington builders Tim Naughton of AvalonBay Communities Inc., John Shooshan of the Shooshan Co. and Andy VanHorn at JBG Smith.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Photo courtesy Josh Folb
The Arlington View Terrace apartments, which mostly have views of part of the Army-Navy Country Club golf course, are set for redevelopment.
The Arlington County Board last week allocated just over $8 million — a $7.25 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund and a nearly $1 million grant — to help fund the redevelopment of the aging apartment complex at 1420 S. Rolfe Street, in the Arlington View neighborhood on the eastern end of Columbia Pike.
The 30-unit garden-style apartment complex is set to be torn down and replaced by a new building with 77 apartments, affordable for those making 30-60% of Area Median Income, according to local affordable housing developer AHC Inc.
“The Arlington View Terrace redevelopment enables AHC to add much-needed affordable living opportunities in a rapidly gentrifying area along Columbia Pike,” AHC President and CEO Walter Webdale said in a statement. “The new building will also help diversify housing options with 15 new three-bedroom apartments, eight fully accessible units and 10% of the new apartments designated for households earning no more than 30% AMI.”
A press release notes that AHC is “also exploring solar panels and a possible partnership with Connect Arlington to provide free Wi-Fi for residents at the site.”
AHC spokeswoman Celia Slater tells ARLnow that “if all goes well, we could start construction in Spring 2021 and open doors to new families in Spring 2023.”
“We are working with a relocation firm to help [current residents] move temporarily to other apartments – hopefully other nearby AHC properties,” she added. “All current residents will have first opportunity to move back into the new apartments. We work one-on-one with individuals and families to meet their needs – like trying to keep kids in the same schools if possible, etc.”
The full press release from AHC Inc. is below, after the jump.
Ballston-Based E*TRADE Acquired — “Morgan Stanley and E*TRADE Financial Corporation have entered into a definitive agreement under which Morgan Stanley will acquire E*TRADE, a leading financial services company and pioneer in the online brokerage industry, in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $13 billion.” [BusinessWire, Wall Street Journal]
County Wants Feedback on Capital Projects — “As part of this year’s budget season, you’re invited to share your input on capital priorities for Arlington County Government. Where should we make investments? Which types of projects top your list? We want to know what you think. Your input will help guide development of the County Manager’s Proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Fiscal Years 2021 – 2030, which will be presented to the Arlington County Board in May.” [Arlington County]
More on Upcoming EPA Move — “‘Facing budget constraints during the past few years, the agency has tried to reduce impacts on its programs by using rent savings to absorb appropriations cuts,’ said the EPA spokeswoman. ‘The lease for [Potomac Yard South] expires in March 2021 and by not renewing it, the agency can expect to attain approximately $12.7 million in rent savings annually,’ she said.” [E&E News]
New AED Director Settling In — “Tucker is pledging not to lose focus on helping the county’s existing businesses, particularly its small, family-owned companies. Critics of AED have long accused it of pursuing large corporate tenants at the expense of supporting mom-and-pop shops, a perception Tucker is keen to reverse.” [Washington Business Journal]
AHC Returns $$$ to Affordable Housing Fund — “AHC Inc., an Arlington, VA-based affordable housing developer, deposited more than $710,000 this week into the County’s revolving low-interest loan program, the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF). This year’s annual repayment boosts AHC’s total repayments to more than $45 million since the AHIF program began in 1988. The payments vary from year to year. Last year, AHC returned $4.9 million to the fund.” [Press Release]
Saturday: Census ‘Celebración Comunitaria’ — “Join us at the Gates of Ballston Community Center for food, family activities, an art contest, a kid’s raffle, and information about the upcoming 2020 Census 2020! Event sponsored by Arlington County, Census 2020, Alfo-Conce, Producciones POPB’IL.” [Arlington County]
Arlington County is in the midst of a “Missing Middle Housing Study,” to determine whether legalizing additional housing types in certain areas could “address the shortage of housing supply in Arlington.”
So what is “missing middle housing” anyhow?
It’s described by Opticos Design, whose founder claims to have coined the term, as “a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types — compatible in scale with detached single-family homes — that help meet the growing demand for walkable urban living.”
Alternately, Wikipedia describes it as “multi-unit housing types such as duplexes, fourplexes, bungalow courts, and mansion apartments that are not bigger than a large house, that are integrated throughout most walkable pre-1940s neighborhoods, often [on] blocks with primarily single-family homes, and that provide diverse housing choices and generate enough density to support transit and locally-serving commercial amenities.”
In a nutshell, missing middle housing is what’s between single-family detached homes and mid-rise apartment buildings, including duplexes, townhouses and fourplex apartments. And Arlington County is studying zoning changes that would allow it in certain places, to increase housing supply and provide alternatives to moderate-income households that can’t afford pricy detached homes (median sale price in 2019: about $950,000, compared to $575,000 for townhouses and duplexes.)
In a recent webinar, below, county staffers said the study is being conducted as housing costs rise and the county’s population is expected to exceed 300,000 by 2045.
Without finding ways to increase the housing stock and the types of housing in the county, the webinar suggested, Arlington will become more expensive and less diverse.
Current building trends, according to the presentation, are skewed toward the replacement of smaller, older homes with large, luxury houses in single-family home neighborhoods, while developers build small one- and two-bedroom apartments and condos along Metro corridors.
Neither are good options for a family of moderate means.
“We have a gap in housing options here in Arlington,” the presentation said. “Arlington’s Metro corridors offer smaller apartment and condo units in medium to high density buildings, however that style of housing does not suit everyone’s needs. Other neighborhoods offer single-family homes or townhomes and only a very limited quantity of other housing types.”
“If we do nothing to address these challenges, the existing housing stock will continue to get more and more expensive while existing mid-sized homes will continue to be replaced by large single-family homes and very little else,” the presenter continued. “Arlington’s vision to be diverse and inclusive will become less and less attainable. Our lowest income households are at home risk of being squeezed out, while moderate income households will also be at risk, further burdened with rising housing costs and potentially unable… to stay here.”
The webinar went on to explain the history of Arlington’s zoning ordinance, which echoes the history of such zoning decisions in many other communities. Currently, the zoning ordinance prevents duplexes and triplexes in most neighborhoods.
“A recent study found that 73 percent of the land zoned for residential use in Arlington is zoned exclusively for single-family detached housing,” the presenter said. “These zoning restrictions originated in early 20th century decisions that required the separation of different housing types. This enabled patterns of racial and economic segregation and the repercussions of that persist today.”
Arlington County is currently working through a plan to add more options for housing through zoning changes, but there was disagreement during a recent Transportation Commission meeting over whether greater diversity of housing types will actually help with affordability.
Staff at the Transportation Commission noted that what’s being built these days are typically either condos and apartments or huge single-family homes. Townhouses and smaller, “starter” homes are more rare, resulting in a shrinking supply of housing accessible to young families.
“Neighborhoods are changing,” staff said. “Even without any intervention that will continue to change. New construction is either very large homes or smaller units in Metro corridors. Only 6% are three bedrooms or more, and that creates some tension as people seek to find housing for growing families.”
While affordable, mid-size units are in demand, the most lucrative options for developers are the higher-priced, luxury housing. Without some sort of intervention, staff said the neighborhoods will continue to become more expensive.
A framework for the Missing Middle Housing Study released in late December said the goals of the plan are:
- A shared definition for the term “missing middle housing” for Arlington
- A set of policy options to support preservation of existing Missing Middle housing stock and production of new Missing Middle housing types for County Board consideration
- Identification of additional considerations relating to the Comprehensive Plan and other County policies and practices to be further reviewed in support of the goals of this process
- The ability for new housing type alternatives to be built that meet Arlington’s definition of ‘missing middle housing”, offering greater affordability and design that is complementary and compatible with the scale and style of their intended neighborhoods
Part of that framework also dealt with “locational factors” for missing-middle housing.
“Building more housing… where people shop and work and have easy access to transit is one of the few things we can do in a small community to lessen our carbon impact,” said Transportation Commission member Chris Yarie. “Really drive the pedal down on that a lot, please.”
Transportation Commission member Audrey Clement was more wary of the plan, saying that it calls to increase types of housing but says nothing about affordability or equity. Instead, Clement echoed concerns of some in Arlington that the plan is an effort to quietly curtail single-family zoning.
“This is about the densification of the county and further gentrification of the county,” Clement said. “Given that is implied in the goals, to implement such a plan would require upzoning. Therefore it is disingenuous to say this is not about upzoning because that’s precisely what would be required to increase housing in residential neighborhoods.”
Clement pointed to the Veitch Street home to be replaced by several townhouses, discussed earlier in that same meeting.
“We’re really replacing every million-dollar home with up to seven million-dollar homes on residential lots,” Clement said. “That will serve the purpose of densifying the county, but it won’t provide more affordable housing and it’s a misnomer to call this a Missing Middle plan.”
Clement’s concerns are echoed by Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, a group “concerned about Arlington County’s accelerated population growth and density” and its effect on water infrastructure, schools and transportation systems.
Trash Collection Cancelled — Updated at 8:55 a.m. — Trash and recycling collection is cancelled today, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. Christmas tree and brush collection will be completed as normal, however. [Twitter]
Rep. Beyer Calls for Peace — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted the following after Iran’s airstrike on U.S. military bases in Iraq — a response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general: “De-escalate. Exercise diplomacy. Talk. Listen. Give peace a chance.” [Twitter]
Civ Fed Worries About Upzoning — “‘None of us are interested in destroying all our single-family neighborhoods,’ new County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said during the board’s Jan. 2 meeting with the Arlington County Civic Federation… At the forum, Garvey promised that the Civic Federation would play an integral role in any civic-engagement process that transpires in coming months. She reiterated the board’s position that zoning changes are not a done deal.” [InsideNova]
Board Defends Amazon’s Housing Contribution — “Arlington County Board members are defending their decision to trade additional office-building density for affordable-housing funding, but the decision provoked tension with some delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. Meeting with board members on Jan. 2, several federation members asked why the county government had decided to allocate all the $20 million contribution from Amazon to affordable-housing efforts.” [InsideNova]
Marijuana Possession Cases Dismissed — In court Tuesday, Arlington’s new top prosecutor successfully sought for judges to dismiss charges against those charged with simple marijuana possession. [Twitter]
Police Investigate Pike Robbery — A portion of westbound Columbia Pike was shut down near S. Glebe Road early Tuesday morning while police investigated a robbery. An ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow that a victim was robbed and suffered minor injuries; no weapon was involved in the robbery. [Twitter]
New Coworking Space Coming to Crystal City — “Hana is coming to Greater Washington, and it’s going to be neighbors with HQ2. CBRE Group has picked a Crystal City office building to serve as the first East Coast location of its flexible space concept, named after the Hawaiian word for work.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Pawn Shop Helps Return Lost Ring — “Mary Nosrati, a certified gemologist who works at a pawnshop in Arlington, Va., likes to say that every diamond has a story. This is the story of Marsha Wilkins’s diamond, of how it was lost and how it was found.” [Washington Post]
Libby Garvey was selected by her colleagues as Arlington County Board Chair for 2020, following a tradition of the Board member up for reelection serving as chair.
Garvey, who’s facing another primary challenge this year, outlined her priorities at the County Board’s annual organizational meeting last night, calling for a focus on “equity, innovation and resilience,” amid the growth of Amazon’s HQ2 and a continued challenges with affordable housing.
More from Garvey’s speech:
We’ve been managing change and growth for some time, and doing it well, but the arrival of Amazon has made the scope of our current challenge large and clear. We need to change a paradigm: the paradigm that the most vulnerable in a society are the first to suffer from change and the last to gain from it — if they ever gain at all. Economic change tends not to be equitable. That’s the old paradigm. We want a new one.
We want to be a model of progress and growth with equity. That’s a tall order. I think focusing on three areas in 2020 will help.
First, Equity. We must commit to an Arlington where progress benefits everyone, not just some. That especially includes our older residents, the people who built the Arlington we have today.
Second, Innovation. We need to double down on innovative thinking. We can’t always keep using the same solutions.
Third, Resilience. The solutions we find must not only be equitable, but they need to last over time.
So, as Board Chair, I will continue to focus on equity in 2020 like our Chair did in 2019. We have a lot of work to do. It is outlined in the resolution we adopted and includes 4 simple questions: Who benefits? Who is burdened? Who is missing? How do we know?
Specific policy focuses for 2020 include affordable housing, cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions, and stormwater management.
“Our July 8 storm showed clearly that our 20th-century infrastructure and approaches will not work well for 21st-century storms,” Garvey said. “When we begin work on our Capital Improvement Plan budget this spring we should see some very different solutions to stormwater management.”
Garvey, who faced a backlash from the local Democratic party after her vocal opposition to the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar and support for independent County Board member John Vihstadt, took a moment after her selection as chair to support another embattled County Board member: Christian Dorsey.
“Christian is a real asset to this board, to this community — we’re lucky to have you,” Garvey said of Dorsey, who last month told ARLnow that he regrets not informing the community that he had declared bankruptcy before the November election.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, Erik Gutshall — who is up for reelection in 2021 and is next year’s presumed chair — was selected as Vice Chair. The priorities Gutshall outlined include making changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance so as to encourage the creation of additional homes.
More from a county press release:
Amazon’s arrival requires an increased focus, or “leveling up” by the County “how we grow matters.” Arlington’s next level of managed growth, he said, “will focus beyond first-order urban design principles of sidewalk widths, building heights, and traffic circulation, and instead level up to an essential focus on equity, infrastructure like schools and stormwater, and a broader definition of quality of life and livability.”
To achieve that sort of managed growing, Gutshall said, “will require new tools and a modernized zoning ordinance to expand our housing supply in a way that enhances the livability of our existing neighborhoods.” It also requires the development of a long-range, comprehensive Public Facilities Plan “to guide the collaborative, creative, timely and efficient siting and development of County and Schools facilities.” Gutshall said he looks forward to continuing to work with County and APS staff, and the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission to begin drafting the plan by July 2020 and looks forward to working with County staff to achieve the ambitious goals of the County’s updated Community Energy Plan and to conduct a campaign to highlight and profile small businesses.
(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Could legalizing duplexes and triplexes in certain areas be a way to provide more affordable, middle-income housing in Arlington?
That’s what Arlington County will trying to determine with a new “Missing Middle Housing Study.”
In announcing the study, the county pushed back on the assertion — made by some activists — that it was looking to eliminate single-family zoning entirely, as was done in Minneapolis. Instead, county staff said that “neither an across-the-board rezoning, nor an elimination of single-family zoning, would be the right fit for Arlington.”
The study will explore whether allowing more types of housing could “address the shortage of housing supply in Arlington” and will determine where the new housing types could be allowed so as to be “compatible with existing neighborhoods.”
The study — part of the overall Housing Arlington initiative — is expected to begin in 2020.
Meanwhile, a statewide missing middle housing bill has been proposed. HB 152, introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates by a Northern Virginia legislator, proposes requiring “all localities to allow development or redevelopment of ‘middle housing’ residential units upon each lot zoned for single-family residential use.”
The press release on the Arlington County housing study is below, after the jump.
The Arlington County Board is set to consider allocating millions of dollars into two affordable housing developments, per the agenda for the Board’s meeting this Saturday, December 14.
In the agenda’s first affordable housing item, County Manager Mark Schwartz has recommended the Board approve nearly $14 million in taxpayer-funded loans for the development of the Terwilliger Place Apartments at 3445 Washington Blvd.
The American Legion post in Virginia Square will be redeveloped with a seven-story, 160-unit residential building, with apartments prioritized for former veterans and a space for the legion.
In August, Arlington couple Ron and Frances Terwilliger donated $1.5 million to the development, giving it its namesake. Recently, Amazon also allocated $1 million from its June affordable housing donation to the project.
The project is expected to be completed “no later than December 2022,” per the staff report, and the total cost is estimated to be approximately $37 million.
In the second affordable housing item, Schwartz has recommended the Board allocate $11 million of county and federal funds to assist with the development and construction for The Cadence, a new affordable apartment complex with 97 committed affordable units to be located at 4333 Arlington Blvd.
The site plans include the demolition of a former Red Cross building, along with two single-family homes. Nineteen market-rate townhouses will also be constructed.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be $47.2 million.
In July, the county applied for an allocation of the Virginia Housing Development Authority’s REACH funds, part of the state incentive package for Amazon’s HQ2, for The Cadence. If approved, 12 units in the building will be designated for those with incomes 40% or below the Area Median Income.
With the festive season upon us, Amazon has gotten into the giving spirit with a holiday donation for students who live in local affordable housing complexes.
On Tuesday, officials from Amazon’s charity group AmazonSmile met with residents at affordable housing developer AHC Inc.‘s Gates of Ballston property, distributing school supplies, board games, and more.
Amazon’s donation was made in effort to support AHC’s educational programming for residents utilizing the AHC’s AmazonSmile Charity List, an online wish list platform.
The donated items will be distributed across AHC’s five different community centers in Northern Virginia with children’s educational programming, which benefits dozens of students ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.
— AHC Inc. (@AHCInc) December 10, 2019
“AHC Inc. is thrilled to be surprised by Amazon to receive donations of educational games and electronics from AHC’s AmazonSmile Charity List,” said AHC President & CEO Walter D. Webdale in a press release.
“The low-income families we serve in Arlington and the surrounding areas are especially struggling during the holiday season, and contributions to support the girls and boys in AHC’s afterschool and teen tutoring programs will not only brighten the holiday but help keep learning front and center.”
AHC is Arlington’s oldest and largest nonprofit affordable housing developer, managing 23 properties across Arlington with 3,000 low- and moderate-income residents. AHC also manages properties elsewhere in Virginia and Maryland.
Amazon has made recent local headlines for its affordable housing contributions. During the Arlington County Board meeting this Saturday, December 14, the board will vote on approval of the first phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City, which would come with a $20 million contribution from Amazon to Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF).