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by Buzz McClain — January 19, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, photo by Jon Grant

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

by ARLnow.com — January 12, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

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.”

by ARLnow.com — December 28, 2015 at 9:30 am 0

Cherry blossoms blooming in Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk)

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

by Jennifer Currier — December 14, 2015 at 12:30 pm 0

Arlington Presbyterian Church (photo via Google Maps)

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.

Plans for affordable apartment building on Arlington Presbyterian Church site

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.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — December 10, 2015 at 10:25 am 0

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audrey Clement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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

Mixed income housing discussion flyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Housing Distribution forecast map (via Arlington County)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a CARD press release:

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

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

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

Affordable Housing Month logo (via Arlington County)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following events are also part of Affordable Housing Month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Editor,

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Jim Whittaker
Chairman, A-SPAN Board of Directors

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

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