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County Weighs Allowing More Renovations, Additions to Older Duplexes and Townhomes

Arlington could soon make it easier for owners of older duplexes and townhomes to renovate the buildings or tack on additions.

Plenty of Arlington homeowners looking to make a change to a home built before the 1940s have encountered a vexing conundrum in the county’s zoning ordinance; the building could well be deemed “nonconforming” with Arlington’s zoning rules, as it wasn’t built to match the standards the county’s been using since 1942. That means any sort of renovation or addition to the home would require extensive county review, and could ultimately be prohibited, restrictions that have persistently frustrated property owners over the years.

But the County Board is weighing a change to loosen some of those restrictions on two-family homes in some sections of the county.

Not only could the change result in less headaches for homeowners, but county staff expect it would help preserve more affordable housing around Arlington, a key conundrum officials have looked to address in recent years.

“Staff finds that the proposed amendments… allow for reinvestment in existing housing stock that contributes to the overall diversity of housing countywide,” staffers wrote in a report prepared for the Board ahead of its meeting this weekend. “These proposed changes are intended to remove zoning barriers that have existed for decades that limit the type of reinvestment and renovation activities for nearly all of the county’s supply of two-family, and some one-family, dwellings.”

County staff estimate that the change, targeted at homes zoned “R2-7,” would affect as many as 1,488 structures around the county, giving those homeowners the chance to make a range of changes “by right” instead of pursuing county approval first.

Staff noted that the Board of Zoning Appeals, which hears requests from the owners of nonconforming homes, has reviewed 12 cases involving “R2-7” homes over the last two years alone. In all, they believe the bulk of such homes are concentrated “along Lee Highway, Columbia Pike, Wilson Boulevard, and in Nauck.”

The county also doesn’t expect that these “proposed amendments will significantly alter existing neighborhood character where these one- and two-family dwellings occur,” a fear frequently cited by zoning officials reviewing previous cases.

Staff added that the county will “consider opportunities to encourage development of new, two-family dwellings” in the future, noting that officials could someday commence a more detailed study of “missing middle” housing in the county, or homes falling in the price range between affordable housing and luxury apartments.

The county’s ongoing review of “housing conservation districts” to promote the preservation, and perhaps redevelopment, of older apartments and duplexes will also offer more clarity on the matter in the coming months.

The Board will take up these zoning changes at its meeting Saturday (Oct. 20).

Photo via Google Maps

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County Board Contenders Split on How Much Cash to Send to Affordable Housing Loan Fund

There isn’t much daylight between the two contenders for County Board this fall on affordable housing issues in Arlington, but the pair is offering different answers on one key matter: how much money the county should chip in to encourage affordable development.

Independent incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti have both stressed the importance of preserving affordable homes in Arlington as part of their respective campaigns, and both did so once more in responses to a questionnaire from the advocates at the Alliance for Housing Solutions, released yesterday (Wednesday).

Both candidates also offered many of the same solutions for preserving affordable housing, like an increased reliance on housing conservation districts to protect older buildings. But their biggest divergence in answering the group’s questions came on whether the county should increase its annual contribution to its Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

Commonly known as AHIF, the fund is a loan program aimed at encouraging developers to build affordable housing by offering low-interest loans for new construction or redevelopments. Though the fund also draws in some federal funding, tax revenue and developer contributions, the bulk of the cash comes courtesy of a county contribution set in each budget cycle.

The Alliance for Housing Solutions asked each candidate whether the county should increase that annual contribution, particularly as rent prices continue to climb and the potential arrival of Amazon looms. For his part, de Ferranti offered a clear “yes” to that query, arguing that the county needs to strive to create substantially more “committed affordable” units per year, or homes with lower, more stable rent prices.

“We should use AHIF to work to reach our goals, and at the very least should work to get from [creating] 280 [units per year] to a much higher number of units,” de Ferranti wrote. “I fully realize that in this tight budget environment, increasing funding to those levels will be very difficult, but I do not think the levels we have at the moment are sufficient to say that we are truly making a real effort to fulfill our goals.”

Vihstadt would not be so definitive as to say he didn’t want to see an increase in the county’s AHIF contribution, noting that he’d like to reduce Arlington’s office vacancy rate and use the additional tax revenue to increase AHIF funding. But he also made no specific commitment to a funding boost, stressing instead that he wants to “move an increasing portion of AHIF funding from one-time to ongoing [in the county budget] to provide a more predictable and reliable funding stream for affordable housing.”

“This will have the helpful byproduct of allowing us to better plan for new projects,” Vihstadt wrote.

Michelle Winters, the executive director of the AHS, says her group won’t be evaluating the candidates’ answers to these questions, but does point out that “moving funds from one-time to ongoing does not equate to having more funds for AHIF in the budget.”

“It just theoretically helps insulate the ‘ongoing’ portion from potential budget cuts in the future,” Winters told ARLnow. “For example, in [fiscal year 2019], the total AHIF allocation dropped from $15 million to $14.3 million, but the ‘ongoing’ or base portion of that amount was increased from $4.9 million to $6.7 million.”

That difference aside, however, both candidates agreed that the Board should find new funding sources for the AHIF to ensure the program gets the money it needs to succeed.

Vihstadt referenced the possibility of “increased dedicated recordation tax monies and even special purpose bonds” to send more cash to AHIF, or somehow taking advantage of the new “Opportunity Zone” designation created by the Republican tax reform bill last year, which is designed to lure investment to disadvantaged areas through tax breaks.

De Ferranti also raised the possibility of setting aside “dedicated funding for AHIF through a specific revenue stream,” as the “community could more clearly understand the investment in affordable housing” if the county makes clear how it’s funding the AHIF. Like Vihstadt, he also proposed funding the AHIF with a bond as part of the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, which is normally set aside to guide funding for large construction projects around Arlington.

“This would require considerable public engagement to achieve, but it is worth considering,” he wrote.

Photo via Facebook

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Without a Surge in Construction, Planners Warn of a Massive ‘Housing Shortfall’ Across D.C. Region

Arlington and the rest of the D.C. region could face a massive “housing shortfall” in the coming years without a surge in new construction, according to a new analysis by regional planners.

A study presented to the board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments last Wednesday (Sept. 12) suggests that the region needs to add 100,000 more homes than are currently projected to be built between now and 2045.

Otherwise, planners expect the surge in workers moving to the region will drive up housing prices to even higher levels, imperiling the region’s economy and further driving workers out into increasingly distant suburbs.

“The projected gap — or housing ‘ shortfall’ — will only worsen without intervention,” MWCOG researchers wrote. “The region should continue to create and/or preserve housing at a higher rate than has been achieved in the recent past to close the gap and provide adequate housing options to be able to sustain strong regional economic growth.”

The researchers based that warning on population estimates for the region suggesting D.C. and its suburbs will see its employment base of 3.28 million jobs balloon to 4.27 million by 2045 — a forecast that only takes regional trends into consideration and doesn’t specifically account for the arrival of a tech giant like Amazon in the region. By contrast, the planners expect the D.C. metro area to see its housing stock rise by roughly half that amount, going from 2.08 million homes to 2.66 million.

Accordingly, they project that the region will need to add 690,000 new homes, rather than the 575,000 currently projected, in order to have a desirable ratio of workers to homes.

To reach that figure, the analysts expect that the region will need a “sustained housing production of 25,600 units each year” through 2045. The group noted that the region added about 23,500 new homes in 2017, and has persistently upped its housing production each year as the area’s recovered from the Great Recession.

Even still, the researchers note that in the early 2000s, the region was averaging nearly 30,000 new homes built each year, making such a boost feasible.

“Although we are on the right trajectory, it is possible to produce even more,” the analysts wrote.

The researchers urge leaders in Arlington and other localities with access to “high capacity transit stations” to take up such a challenge, particularly by identifying ‘planning and zoning tools and policies to ensure preservation of existing housing and production of new affordably priced units.”

“It is important to note again that this goal of increasing housing production by slightly more than 100,000 units is to ensure a sufficient supply of housing for workers to fill current and anticipated jobs,” the researchers wrote. “Although it will mostly address need from an economic competitiveness and transportation infrastructure standpoint, it will have broad significance for the future of our region and its residents.”

File photo. Chart via Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

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Density, Development Debates Take Center Stage as Lee Highway Planning Nears

In many ways, the Lee Highway corridor is the last part of Arlington that looks like the rest of the Northern Virginia suburbs.

With high rises coming to define both the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Crystal City, and neighborhoods along Columbia Pike becoming ever more dense, Lee Highway has remained persistently suburban in character with its procession of low-slung shopping centers and vast parking lots.

But should it stay that way as the county keeps growing? And if not, how should it change?

Those are the questions the community and county planners will try to answer as they embark on a years-long planning process for Lee Highway in the coming months.

With land-use policies last updated in 1955, Arlington officials have long seen the corridor as ripe for a new round of planning. Now, after years of back-and-forth, the county is set to hire a consulting firm and kick off the process in earnest this fall.

“The next big planning frontier is Lee Highway, from Rosslyn all the way out to East Falls Church,” said County Board member John Vihstadt. “The brewing consensus is that it’s appropriate for some increased density. We’re an urbanizing county, but we also have to be sensitive to the neighborhoods that flank Lee Highway.”

Certainly, the question of density along the highway will be among the most contentious issues to be resolved in the planning process. As Vihstadt puts it, “nobody wants to see the Clarendon-ization of Lee Highway,” considering that so many single-family homes sit directly behind the roadway.

Michelle Winters, the executive director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions and a board member for the Lee Highway Alliance, isn’t so sure about that.

The LHA, a coalition of civic associations and community groups along the corridor, helped spur the start of this new round of planning in the first place, largely out of concern that development was likely coming to the highway and needed to be managed appropriately. Winters reasons that there is room for dense, mixed-use developments along some sections of the highway — she feels it was only the “bad math” guiding the area’s current zoning that prevented the right mix of residential and commercial properties from moving to the corridor in the first place.

“Would the community want another Ballston? Maybe not,” Winters said. “But another Clarendon, especially if it looks like the less dense parts of Clarendon? Maybe.”

Natasha Alfonso-Ahmed, a principal planner on the county’s comprehensive planning team, allows that the county won’t know the best way to proceed until the process wraps up, noting that planners are “going to test every possible scenario” for the corridor.

But, as Winters suggested, Alfonso-Ahmed expects that certain “nodes” on the highway could be rezoned to allow for more density, perhaps creating more walkable communities on the otherwise car-heavy corridor.

In an initial “visioning study” in 2016, the community identified five such areas that could become home to taller buildings and mixed-use spaces — East Falls Church near the Metro station, the intersection with N. Harrison Street and N. George Mason Drive, the intersection with N. Glebe Road, the Cherrydale neighborhood near N. Quincy Street and Lyon Village near Spout Run. Alfonso-Ahmed believes the county could approach each of those “nodes” differently, allowing more density only where it makes the most sense.

“A lot of the communities in that area…want to be able to walk or bike to places like a restaurant or a coffee shop,” Alfonso-Ahmed said. “At the same time, they want to be able to get in a car and go to the supermarket or the cleaners. They’re not totally independent of the car yet, like in other parts of Arlington…The goal is to balance both.”

But what will become of the existing shopping centers on the highway? As Alfonso-Ahmed points out “it’s not like it’s a blighted corridor,” and is filled with plenty of successful small businesses that the county doesn’t want to lose.

That means Arlington officials will need to think critically about what “sort of incentives or tools will be needed for business owners to even entertain” moving, she added. Or perhaps the county could allow for the expansion of those existing commercial areas, which would then bump up into residential neighborhoods.

“Are they comfortable with the encroachment of the commercial properties?” Alfonso-Ahmed said. “If they are, how much of it are they comfortable with?”

Another possibility that intrigues Vihstadt is the expansion of affordable housing options in the area. County Board Chair Katie Cristol agrees, and suggested one “illustrative example” of a change the county might make is rezoning some areas meant for single-family homes to allow for “by-right duplex development” on the edges of neighborhoods.

But, once more, such a change would surely require extensive community engagement to allay concerns about the corridor’s changing character.

To that end, Alfonso-Ahmed expects the whole process will take three years in total, with both a large “community forum” and a smaller working group constantly weighing in on the effort and lots of chances for the community to see the county’s work.

It should all start “before the end of the year,” she said, once the county can pick a consultant to help guide the effort. Though the Board had to scale back some of the process’s funding, thanks to the county’s constrained finances, Alfonso-Ahmed says planners have everything they need to move forward, and are plenty anxious to do so.

“We really want to get it started,” she said. “We know it’s been too long.”

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Plans to Redevelop American Legion Post into Affordable Housing Complex Take Shape

Plans to redevelop the American Legion post in Virginia Square into a seven-story affordable housing complex are inching forward.

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has drawn up a preliminary proposal for the property at 3445 Washington Blvd, advancing plans to purchase the site and someday build 161 multifamily homes there. APAH would also include about 8,000-square-feet on the bottom floor of the building to let American Legion Post 139 stay on the property, which it’s called home for decades.

The proposal, which was submitted to the county last month according to the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, also calls for an underground parking garage at the site, and a new alley to access the building off Washington Blvd.

County planners started preparing in earnest for big changes in the area starting last year, approving a handful of zoning changes to clear the way for changes at the properties along Washington Blvd.

The adjacent YMCA of Metropolitan Washington is planning to build a new, 100,000-square-foot facility on its property at 3422 13th Street N., while another developer hopes to build a six-story apartment building at the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road.

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association plans to discuss the American Legion proposal in more detail at its monthly meeting tonight, at 900 N. Taylor Street starting at 7 p.m.

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Podcast: Democratic County Board Nominee Matt de Ferranti

Fresh off a commanding primary win, Democrat Matt de Ferranti has the next four months to make his case to Arlington voters about why they should oust incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt in his favor.

De Ferranti, a lawyer and local political activist, has the benefit of running as a Democrat in deep blue Arlington, particularly in a midterm cycle that’s shaping up to be quite favorable to Democrats at the top of the ticket. But Vihstadt, the Board’s lone independent, won his seat in another midterm year, back in 2014, and has incumbency to lean on as he campaigns for another term.

De Ferranti spoke with ARLnow about his vision for the county’s economy, how he sees the Amazon HQ2 debate, how he thinks he can beat Vihstadt, and much more.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Berkeley Affordable Housing Redevelopment Earns Key Loan Changes

A new affordable housing complex along Four Mile Run is moving closer to becoming a reality, now that county officials have signed off on additional financing plans for the development.

The County Board gave its final approval to more than $20 million in loans this week for the redevelopment of the Berkeley Apartments (2900 S. Glebe Road), in addition to a few policy changes that will help the project’s backers secure additional financing and kick off construction in earnest.

“We’re looking forward to the project continuing to take shape,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

The nonprofit AHC Inc., which is backing the development, started to tear down the existing apartment complex this summer, and plans to eventually construct two buildings on the property, located just across the county’s border with Alexandria. In all, the two five-story buildings will offer 256 apartments, all of which will be “committed affordable units” with rent prices tamped down to help people afford the homes.

Last year, the Board sent roughly $20.9 million in loans from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund to spur the project’s construction, with $7.4 million dedicated to one building and $13.5 million on the other

But as the project’s plans have developed, AHC asked the Board to shift about $1.5 million away from one building to the other, in order to cope with some unexpected construction costs. The developer also told the Board that it wouldn’t need roughly $333,000 of the previously approved AHIF loan, which it will redirect to help existing Berkeley tenants find new homes as the construction starts up — AHC started telling residents they’d need to leave around this time last year.

With those changes approved, AHC can set about securing the rest of the financing it needs for the two buildings, one with a final price tag of just over $51.5 million and the other at $47.7 million, according to a county staff report.

The developer plans to use a mix of bank loans and financing from the Virginia Housing Development Authority to afford the project, the report lays out.

Sara Pizzo with the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development told the Board that AHC hopes to ramp up demolition work once it closes on this financing.

Ultimately, the developer hopes to open one building by “the spring or summer of 2020,” and the next one by the fall of that same year, Pizzo said.

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Real Estate Tax Break Program for Seniors Set to Change Next Year

(Updated at 1 p.m.) Some changes are on the way for Arlington’s real estate tax relief program for seniors, though officials declined pursue the sort of sweeping overhaul favored by some in the community.

The County Board approved a series of tweaks to the program’s eligibility criteria Saturday (July 14), in a bid to better realize the county’s goal of helping older Arlingtonians stay in their homes even as values, and associated tax bills, creep upward.

Starting next year, the program will be open to homeowners age 65 or older and people with disabilities, with an annual income of up to $99,472 and household assets — excluding the home itself — up to $400,000, a slight increase from the old $340,000 limit. The county is also now letting people apply for an exemption from 75 percent of their tax bill, when the program previously only let homeowners try for an exemption from their full bill, half of it or a quarter of it.

“This is important not just for a compassionate community, but a community that works,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey.

To make up for some of this expansion in eligibility, the newly revised program stipulates that the top earners eligible to apply for tax relief — households making anywhere from $80,000 to $99,472 per year — can only apply for deferrals on their tax bills, not exemptions. Yet even that change frustrated some in the county, who would’ve preferred to see the Board move to a deferral-only system instead.

“I absolutely cannot understand why we want to help out the heirs in Spokane of people who are receiving an exemption,” Dave Schutz, a local activist and ARLnow comment section veteran, told the Board.

Caitlin Hutchison, an assistant director in the county’s Department of Human Services, said staff and a working group convened on the issue considered such a policy change, but ultimately decided against it. She noted that the city of Hampton moved to a deferral-only system, only to change course after many homeowners with reverse mortgages “almost immediately received notice that foreclosure proceedings would initiate” when tax bills came due.

“I have no interest in protecting inheritances,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol. “I am concerned that folks can stay in their home without a notification of eviction or having to leave the county.”

Hutchison also noted that the program broadly does not serve the wealthiest Arlingtonians — 76 percent of households who applied for the program last year had an annual income of $60,000 or less, and total assets of $100,000 or less. Since the tax relief changes were first proposed, the Board also added new limits on the eligibility of owners of properties valued at $1 million or more.

But Kathryn Scruggs, a longtime affordable housing advocate and member of the working group discussing the issue, argued that the program needs an even more substantial makeover to serve solely homeowners with “low incomes, low asset levels and lower than average home values.”

“There is no justification for increasing the asset limit, that just diverts resources from the people who need it most,” Scruggs said.

The revised program is indeed likely to cost the county an extra $154,000 in tax revenue each year. But Hutchison argued that the asset limit changes will help homeowners keep pace with rising home values, and stay in the county longer.

The tweaks will also help Arlington keep pace with its neighbors, Hutchison said, as both Alexandria and Loudoun County have higher asset limits for similar programs.

And as the county struggles to manage a surge in its student population, Dorsey argued that it can only be a good thing for Arlington to keep older residents in their homes for as long as possible.

“Typically when seniors leave their homes, they’re not replaced by seniors,” Dorsey said. “The more we concentrate our housing stock on families with children, the more it creates pressures in other areas.”

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Dorsey: Stop Trying to ‘Protect Neighborhoods’ from Density

County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey is urging people around Arlington to embrace density in their communities and abandon the idea of “protecting” certain neighborhoods from development.

Without that sort of shift in mentality, Dorsey expects the county will never meet its stated goals of bringing down housing costs and making Arlington more accessible for people of all income levels.

“We have to look inward and look at ourselves and some of the things that are holding us back,” Dorsey told the audience at last month’s annual Leckey Forum put on by Arlington’s Alliance for Housing Solutions. “We can’t kid ourselves into thinking we can have it both ways, to tout our progressive bonafides with housing and affordability while also accepting the framework that certain neighborhoods need to be protected. Ask ourselves: protected from what?”

Dorsey would concede that he doesn’t want to “change in any way the notion that neighborhoods are for people who want to grow their families and stay in Arlington for generations.”

But he did challenge people in wealthier neighborhoods to consider that fighting against more dense development often amounts to “preserving a level of unaffordability and segregation” that already exists across the county.

“Often, you hear, ‘We want to mitigate density, we want to concentrate density in certain areas, we want density to be something that we don’t deal with,” Dorsey said. “If that’s our framework and our paradigm, we are losing a key tool to deal with affordability.”

In the past, some critics have charged that the county is facilitating the overdevelopment of affordable housing in places like the western end of Columbia Pike while exempting large swaths of affluent North Arlington from more affordable development.

Dorsey sees the constant churn of redevelopment of small, single-family homes into ever larger homes on the same property as helping to contribute to this problem, arguing that “the whole idea that we have one dwelling per lot and we allow for the increase in footprint on said lots, that absolutely factors into our affordability challenge.”

“It restricts housing supply and increases the pricing of housing on those parcels,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey acknowledges that forcing this sort of shift in attitudes won’t be easy, however, and he lamented that “the pursuit of effective public policies to achieve these outcomes are often thwarted by political considerations.”

Yet he also has hope that “these considerations… are not immutable,” and he believes people in the county will prove to be receptive to his arguments, if they’re framed correctly.

“What I hear as often as, ‘We want to protect our neighborhoods and mitigate density,’ is that ‘I want my neighborhood to be a place where I can interact with people of diverse backgrounds, I want my kids to go to school where they interact with people from diverse communities and diverse life experiences,'” Dorsey said. “We need to hold people to that, and engage them on those levels and expose them to tools to actually make that a reality.”

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County Board Will Unveil Long-Debated Childcare Policy Overhaul Next Month

Arlington officials plan to unveil their long-awaited overhaul of the county’s childcare policies next month.

County Board Chair Katie Cristol announced those plans her first “State of the County” address today (Thursday) while speaking to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in Crystal City. The overhaul is a substantial step forward in the debate over how to improve the availability and affordability of daycare in the county.

While Cristol said she was broadly “optimistic” about the county’s future, she stressed that the Board needs to take action to bring down the cost of childcare and ease the financial burden on working families. County leaders have been examining a “draft action plan” to tackle the issue since December, and Cristol says the Board plans to unveil a final product and debate it in full at a July 24 work session.

“For many families, child care can cost more than rent,” Cristol said. “In just a few weeks time, the Board will consider a detailed plan to address this… including a new set of land-use strategies, public-private partnerships and more.”

She noted that county staff and a host of community partners have been studying the issue since early last year, and will finally be able to present a path forward in some “granularity” next month.

Some items will be able to put into motion immediately, while others will require more Board debate, particularly if they involve zoning changes.

Cristol also stressed the childcare plan would be just one of the Board’s priorities as it moves into the back half of 2018. Following the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county convened to spark conversations among county residents, Cristol said she’s newly hopeful that the Board will be able to revisit its zoning policies to increase Arlington’s supply of market rate affordable housing.

Specifically, she’s interested in tackling the problem of the county’s “missing middle,” or homes available for county residents who might make too much money to qualify for dedicated affordable housing but still can’t afford detached single-family homes or high-priced luxury condos.

Cristol is hoping to find new ways to encourage the development of duplexes, moderately-priced townhouses or even “accessory” homes small enough to fit on another single-family home’s property. The county has already loosened its rules for such construction, known as “accessory dwelling units,” but she believes there’s more work still to do.

“We cannot lose sight of affordability as the fundamental challenge of Arlington’s future,” Cristol said.

She expects that the “overdue” kickoff of planning along the Lee Highway corridor, which the Board found new funding for this year and will start in earnest in the coming months, will have some role to play in that conversation.

Cristol would acknowledge, however, that the specter of Amazon’s arrival in Arlington hovers over any discussion of affordable housing or any other pressing issue in the county.

She declined to “break any news” on that front, but would say that she felt the county’s pursuit of the tech giant’s HQ2 “will make the county stronger.”

“Whatever choice Amazon makes on HQ2, it means the national spotlight has found our county,” Cristol said.

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Despite Hefty Rent Prices, Arlington Ranked Among Top Places for Solo Renters

Arlington has one of the highest median rent prices in the entire country, yet the county still ranks among the top places people can afford to live alone.

That’s according to a new study of 100 of the nation’s largest cities and counties by the financial data research firm SmartAsset. The company ranked Arlington 17th among that group for places where renters have the financial wherewithal live alone, largely because of the robust median income level of the county’s workers.

SmartAsset found that full-time employees in Arlington have a median income of just over $90,000 a year, putting the county at the top of the list among the firm’s top 25 places where renters can afford to go solo.

The county’s median monthly rent of $1,657 was also the most expensive of any other city on the company’s top 25 list, yet Arlington still ranked ahead of other large cities for renters looking to live alone, including San Francisco and Denver.

For context, the median income in D.C. is just over $75,500 a year. SmartAsset didn’t immediately have median rent prices available for the District, but real estate listing firm Zillow found that the median rent in the city was about $2,146 a month last year.

Arlington also scored high marks in SmartAsset’s rankings for its stock of homes with less than two bedrooms. In all, the company found that 36.5 percent of homes for rent in the county have one bedroom or are studio apartments.

Cincinnati, Omaha and Minneapolis ranked as the firm’s top three cities where renters can live alone. The full rankings are available on the company’s website.

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Report: Arlington Has Lost More Than 14,500 Market-Rate Affordable Homes Since 2000

Rent prices on more than 14,500 homes in Arlington have surged past rates deemed “market affordable” since 2000, according to a new report.

In an evaluation of affordable housing around the region, the Northern Virginia Housing Alliance found that the county has seen steep declines in the number of homes affordable for people making 60 percent of the area’s median income. In Arlington, federal officials set those levels at $49,260 a year for a one-person household and $70,320 for a four-person household.

The county had only 2,245 homes on the market affordable for people at those income levels through the end of 2017, the group wrote. The affordable housing advocacy group also determined that the county lost 335 homes affordable for people at those income levels over the course of 2017 alone.

At the same time, the county added 276 homes with rent prices specifically “committed” to remain affordable last year, “despite significant expenditures of local resources,” the group’s researchers found. In all, the county had 7,729 committed affordable units last year, or “approximately half of what has been lost in the last 17 years.”

County officials have long eyed this issue, and Arlington is hardly alone among its Northern Virginia neighbors when it comes to dealing with spiking rent prices. The group found that Alexandria and Fairfax County are dealing with similar trends, particularly as the D.C. region’s population continues to grow.

But with the potential arrival of tech giants like Amazon and Apple, the researchers warn that Arlington officials need to take a hard look at these numbers and put a focus on preserving the affordable homes already available.

“Preventing the further loss of rental units available to low- and moderate-income households is critical to expanding economic opportunity and supporting the region’s growth,” the group wrote. “In a resource-constrained environment, bridging the affordability gap requires stemming the loss of the existing stock of affordable homes.”

The researchers awarded the county government high marks for how it approaches the issue generally, but it also urged leaders to move ahead with plans to provide additional incentives for developers to both build and renovate affordable homes.

Additionally, the group urged local officials to work with “non-traditional, mission-driven developers” to help them acquire properties that might otherwise be used for high-priced apartments or condos.

“As budgets remain constrained and competing priorities emerge, it is important now more than ever that the region’s leaders work together to develop a range of creative solutions to create mixed-income communities that provide a range of housing choices,” the researchers wrote.

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Morning Notes

Happy Trails to Barry TrotzArlington resident and Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz is stepping down as head coach of the Washington Capitals. (A number of Caps coaches and players call Arlington home, given that the team’s home base is the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.) [Washington Post, WJLA]

Crash Closes Departures Roadway at DCA — A vehicle crash and the subsequent cleanup effort closed the departure level roadway for an extended period of time yesterday. “A car with three occupants accidentally ended up on a jersey wall and rode along it for approximately 100 yards before coming back down,” an Arlington County Fire Department spokesman told ARLnow.com. “One occupant had minor injuries, but none were transported.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Neighborhood Battles to Save Tree — “Another development-preservation battle is gearing up in Arlington, this one focused on the fate of a dawn redwood on Ohio Street… A petition was recently initiated by Todd Murdock who lives several houses away from the tree. In a day the petition had 500 signatures and by June 10 the number of signatures had grown to more than 700.” [Arlington Connection]

Kaine on Housing Affordability, Amazon — U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) swung by Clarendon on Monday to speak at a forum on housing affordability. He believes localities like Arlington that are dealing with skyrocketing rents need help from the federal government, but he lamented that the Trump administration’s policies could be actively making the problem worse. Afterwards, he told a reporter that rush hour traffic may be a significant detriment to Northern Virginia’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2. [Twitter, Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Wawa Coming to Georgetown — Rosslyn residents and workers may be able to walk — or take a gondola? — to the next D.C. Wawa. The convenience store chain plans to open in the former Restoration Hardware space on Wisconsin Avenue NW. [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy @NineTiger

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Morning Notes

Primary Voting Underway — It’s an election day in Virginia. On the ballot in Arlington is the Democratic race for County Board, between Chanda Choun and Matt de Ferranti, and the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, with candidates Corey Stewart, Nick Freitas and E. W. Jackson. Voting will continue through 7 p.m. [Twitter]

Post-Parade Party in Courthouse — Those heading to the Capitals Stanley Cup victory parade downtown today can head on back to Arlington for an afterparty at Arlington Rooftop Bar & Grill, hosted by the Caps blog Russian Machine Never Breaks. The event starts at 3 p.m. [RMNB]

Final Issue of ‘The Citizen’ — Arlington County’s “The Citizen” newsletter is publishing its last issue this week. The county-run publication is ceasing its print issues due to budget cuts. The move was lamented by the Sun Gazette, which wrote that The Citizen provided “information that, most likely, many local residents will now not get, despite the government’s plethora of online-centric public-relations efforts.” [InsideNova]

Clement: Strip Washington from W-L Too — Independent Arlington School Board candidate Audrey Clement says it is “hypocrisy in the extreme” for the “Lee” in “Washington-Lee High School” to be removed without also removing “Washington.” Wrote Clement: “Had not George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson — all Virginia native sons and all slave holders — greased the skids of institutionalized slavery by agreeing to write it into the U.S. Constitution, Lee would not have taken up arms against his own nation.” [Audrey Clement]

Apartment Building to Get Free Broadband — “Arlington’s Digital Inclusion Initiative, announced in December 2017, will leverage the County’s fiber-optic network, ConnectArlington, to bring free broadband Internet access to low- and moderate-income households in Arlington, including those with school-age children. Arlington Mill Residences, a low- and moderate-income residential development, will serve as the demonstration project for the initiative.” [Arlington County]

Paving on Lorcom Lane — Crews are paving Lorcom Lane between N. Fillmore and Daniel streets today. [Twitter]

Nearby: Second Northside Social Opens — The new Falls Church outpost of Clarendon cafe Northside Social has opened in the Little City. “The business itself will offer a menu similar to its Clarendon location, but a basement that allows for a commercial-sized bakery and chef Matt Hill’s creative inklings will provide new lunch and dinner options.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Podcast: A Conversation with ARLnow Intern Anna Merod

For the last four months, you might’ve noticed Anna Merod’s byline here at ARLnow; regrettably, that won’t last much longer.

Anna’s time as a spring intern is almost up, but before she leaves, she stopped by for a podcast conversation with ARLnow’s Alex Koma.

Topics included some of Anna’s favorite stories, like an analysis of racial disparities in suspensions in Arlington Public Schools and in-depth look at why millenials struggle to buy homes in Arlington, and what she’s learned in her time growing up in and covering the county.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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