This Saturday, Arlington County’s top prosecutor, its Circuit Court clerk and some attorneys will help people who want their criminal record expunged for free.
The clinic will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday (Dec. 3) at Arlington Presbyterian Church, located off Columbia Pike at 918 S. Lincoln Street. It will provide everything attendees need in one place to request arrests that did not result in convictions be removed from their record.
“Even if you’ve been arrested and not convicted, that arrest can follow you every time you apply for a job, school, or an apartment,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow. “That harms people, their families, and the community. This clinic is one way we can mitigate that harm and give people a chance to live productive lives.”
She says this is the first time Arlington has offered an opportunity like this, but she hopes it isn’t the last.
“We wanted to do this for a long time but had to delay because of Covid,” she said. “Prince William has done it recently but I am not aware of any other jurisdictions in Virginia, though it is possible.”
Courts do not identify who is eligible to have their record expunged, so the aim of the clinic is to let people know what is available and what is possible, she says.
“The biggest difficulty is twofold: people don’t know they’re eligible and don’t apply, or others who are not eligible and apply are surprised to discover they are not,” she says. “So, one of our main goals is public education.”
2/2 The point of our clinic is simple: People who are committed to contribute to our community deserve the opportunity for a second chance.
— Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (@parisa4justice) November 27, 2022
Ahead of the clinic, her office partnered with the public defender’s office, the defense bar, local churches, and other community organizations to reach people who may be eligible.
Attorneys will provide pro-bono assistance and clinic sponsors are covering the $86 filing fee on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Attendees need to bring the arrest warrant or final letter of disposition for each charge they would like to be expunged.
Currently, Virginia law limits expungement to narrow circumstances, Dehghani-Tafti says. The Virginia General Assembly passed a new law that would expand eligibility for record sealing, but the changes won’t take effect until July 1, 2025. Even so, there is still room for improvements, Dehghani-Tafti adds.
Clinic sponsors include the Arlington Branch of the NAACP, the Arlington Coalition of Black Clergy and Black Parents of Arlington, as well as local nonprofits Bridges to Independence, Offender Aid and Restoration, Arlington Thrive, Arlington for Justice and the D.C.-based Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, where Dehghani-Tafti used to serve as legal director.
OAR Associate Deputy Director Mustafa Saboor said in a statement that this clinic is an important first step in helping people overcome unjust barriers.
“Our criminal legal system is overly punitive, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the way arrest records destroy people’s ability to work and live,” Saboor said. “Because Black and Brown communities are overpoliced throughout this country, barriers to work because of arrest records fall disproportionately on those communities, further entrenching deeply racist lines in this country.”
Dehghani-Tafti’s former deputy prosecutor announced on Tuesday that he will be challenging her in the 2023 Democratic primary.
Flickr photo by Joe Gratz
A proposed apartment renovation project in Shirlington could receive an additional $2.6 million in loans from the county.
Tomorrow (Saturday), the Arlington County Board is set to review a proposal increasing the size of an existing loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) for renovations to the Park Shirlington Apartments, a 1950s-era, garden-style complex with 293 units along 31st Street S., on the edge of the Fairlington neighborhood.
The loan under consideration would bring the total amount Arlington is lending to the property owner, Standard Communities, to $31.9 million. This number includes a $22.8 million loan approved last summer, an existing $6 million loan used to assist Standard Communities with the purchase of the property in 2017, and a more than half-million dollar deposit.
The owner intends to set the renovated units aside as committed affordable units to people making 60% of the area median income (AMI) for 75 years.
Pending County Board approval, renovations could begin this fall and be completed in 2024.
The “extensive” planned work includes new kitchens and bathrooms, new boilers and chillers, rooftop solar panels, a new community building with a fitness center, hallway upgrades and exterior work, according to a draft report outlining the project.
The current leasing office will be converted into a two-bedroom apartment, and the leasing and management office will move to the new community building.
Renovations will take approximately three weeks per unit, and approximately 10 units will be under renovation at a time.
Park Shirlington Apartments is nearly at-capacity, with only two vacant apartments as of March, according to a report outlining the renovation and relocation process.
Standard Communities says it’s taking several steps to minimize disruptions for tenants who stay and to assist tenants who earn too much to remain.
“Residents will be allowed to remain at the property during renovations,” said Erika Moore, a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “Residents would temporarily relocate from their current unit, with all of their furniture and belongings, into a vacant ‘hospitality’ unit, which would be comparable to their current apartment.”
Standard Communities will provide residents with boxes and packing materials and a renovation coordinator will “schedule, coordinate, and supervise the moving of their packed belongings and furniture from their home to the hospitality unit and then back again using a licensed, bonded and insured professional moving company,” Moore said.
The owner will also arrange for packing and unpacking assistance for elderly residents and residents with disabilities, as well as “any other reasonable accommodation requests,” she added.
But an estimated 40 households will have to relocate, as they earn over 60% of the AMI. For an individual, that’s $59,820 a year.
A family of four living on 60% AMI ($85,380) and living in a 3-bedroom apartment would still meet the federal government’s definition of “rent burdened,” paying slightly more than 30% of their income on rent.
They will receive four-month notices and moving cost assistance, according to the relocation report.
Under the new threshold, rents would be $1,602 for a 1-bedroom, $1,921 for a 2-bedroom and $2,220 for a 3-bedroom apartment.
Arlington County was initially planning to buy and build up part of the property with a partner developer, Washington Business Journal previously reported, but that plan was eventually scrapped.
The county assisted Standard Communities with the acquisition in 2017 to prevent market-rate developers from taking it over, according to the draft county report. The owner then converted the complex to committed affordable housing for people making up to 80% AMI.
The Arlington County Board took two steps over the weekend to preserve and upgrade existing affordable housing while building hundreds of new units.
During its meeting on Saturday members unanimously approved a nearly $23 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) for renovations to the Park Shirlington Apartments, a 1950s-era, garden-style complex with 293 units at 4510 31st Street S., on the edge of the Fairlington neighborhood.
The Board also approved $124,000 in rent assistance to offset potential increases resulting from the renovations.
“This project has a long history and is very important as one of the larger affordable housing developments in the county,” said Melissa Danowski, a staff member in the housing division of the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development.
The vote marks a change in plans for the county, which was initially planning to buy and build up part of the property with a partner developer, Washington Business Journal reports. Instead, Standard Property Co. and the National Foundation for Affordable Housing Solutions will oversee soup-to-nuts renovations and pledge to keep the rent affordable for 75 years.
The renovations will begin in winter 2022 and end in 2024, with 10-20 units redone at a time. Residents will have access to vacant “home-hotel suites” so they do not have to find another place to stay while their unit is redone, said Steven Kahn, a director of Standard Communities.
Each unit’s interior will get new appliances, fixtures and cosmetic upgrades. Building systems such as HVAC will be modernized and common areas will be renovated. The developer is considering including free- or reduced-price internet.
“I’m very happy that this thought about preservation has led to preserving a community, while essentially rebuilding the units,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said. “That’s a really positive step. It is a huge victory for our community as a whole.”
Following the vote, the Board took action to approve an agreement with Amazon to develop affordable housing near its HQ2. Amazon will donate a $40 million parcel of undeveloped land on the Crystal House Apartments site to the county to be developed into new affordable housing.
“This is a gift beyond any of our requirements, but it’s a partnership really that helps serve affordable housing,” de Ferranti said.
More than 550 units could be developed as affordable for moderate- to low-income households. At least 148 will be committed to households earning 50% or less of the area median income (AMI), and a minimum of 406 will be for households earning 80% or less of the AMI.
The county aims to partner with an affordable housing developer, to be selected later, and complete construction by Jan. 1, 2028.
Starting this Friday, Arlington County is holding free clinics to assist residents with tax preparation.
The clinics are intended to serve residents with “low or moderate income.” Several of the clinics are vague about income levels, but others specify a maximum income.
Those seeking assistance must bring a photo ID, social security cards for each family member, earnings statements (W-2, W-2G, and all 1099’s received) and a copy of last year’s federal and state returns. If applicable, participants should also bring interest and dividend statements, daycare expenses paid in 2012, student loan interest payments, a record of any sales tax paid on new vehicles purchased in 2012 and a record of any real estate taxes paid in 2012.
The schedule for the clinics is as follows:
- Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) — Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., February 5-April 11. No appointments are necessary, customers are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Spanish speakers will be available.
- Columbia Pike Branch Library (816 S. Walter Reed Drive) — Tuesdays from 1:15-7:45 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., February 1-April 13. No appointments are necessary, customers are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Spanish speakers will be available.
- Arlington Department of Human Services (2100 Washington Blvd) — Tuesdays from 5:30-7:00 p.m. (or when all available slots are filled), February 5-April 9. No appointments are necessary, customers are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Maximum income is $35,000 for one person or $51,000 for families. Spanish speakers will be available.
- ECDC Enterprise Development Group (901 S. Highland Street) — Tuesdays and Fridays from 6:00-9:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., February 1-April 13. No appointments are necessary, customers are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Maximum income is $51,000. Spanish speakers will be available.
- AARP Travel Team — (Only available to people unable to leave their homes.) Call 703-594-6576 to schedule an appointment.
As the warm weather ramps up, Virginia’s Cooling Assistance Program is starting to accept applications from local residents.
The program, which is administered by Arlington County, helps residents in need with the cost of cooling their homes for the summer. Funding can assist with acquiring or repairing cooling equipment, and with paying utility bills.
To be eligible for assistance, a household must have a person with a disability, a person aged 60 or older, or a child under the age of six. Eligibility is also based on income and the number of people residing in a household.
Every year, the state determines what the maximum payment will be to each family participating in the program. Some years it’s around $100 for the summer, and last year it was $600. The applicant is responsible for any costs in excess of the limit. The state has not yet announced this year’s maximum payment.
Applications are currently being accepted, but can’t be processed until June 15. The last date applications and utility bills will be accepted is August 15. For more information contact Kay West at 703-228-1490 or Ive Ruiz at 703-228-1488.