Arlington, VA

After a long renovation, the Windsor at Shirlington Village apartment complex, at 3000 S. Randolph Street, is being rebranded as The Citizen.

The apartment complex is planning a grand reopening celebration on Thursday (May 16) to celebrate the completion of property-wide upgrades at the community. Move-ins for the facility are scheduled to start on May 31.

The Windsor was originally built in the 1990s and was purchased by Chicago firm Waterton for $144 million in 2017, according to the Washington Business Journal.

Renovations include new apartments with new smart home technology, full washer and dryers and new kitchen appliances.

The leasing center, conference area and cyber café were all renovated as well. The small gym in the apartment complex was upgraded into a 7,000 square foot fitness center with a racquetball court and treadmills.

Apartments range from $2,155-$2,800 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Two to three bedroom units are also available.

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Morning Notes

Rescuers Searching for Vehicle in the Water — “A vehicle apparently went into the water Sunday night near Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River, and a search was still under way Monday morning, authorities said. The search was being conducted near the island’s parking lot, according to the D.C. Fire and EMS Department. A witness reported that the vehicle went into the water.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Amazon Less Worried About HQ2 Housing Impact — “Amazon said its second headquarters in Arlington will not aggravate housing problems as much as the company has in Seattle because it will be able to plan for growth here in a way that it couldn’t in earlier years in its home base. Jay Carney, a senior vice president with the online retail giant, also said the company chose the Washington region for HQ2 and its 25,000 jobs partly because it is ‘a much more racially diverse area than the Pacific Northwest.'” [Washington Post]

Amazon’s Transformative Effect on Crystal City — “All of this points toward a vision of the future that was far-fetched even a few years ago: Crystal City as a place people would want to remain in after 5 p.m.” [Washingtonian]

County Had Cozy Emails with JBG Smith — “In a Dec. 6 email to Andy VanHorn, the executive vice president at JBG Smith Properties overseeing the development of Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, Schwartz pledged open and unfettered access to a roster of key county officials charged with overseeing the various pieces of the approval process.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Unemployment Rate: 2.1% — “Arlington will have to share the title of lowest jobless rate in Virginia for at least a month. With 150,932 county residents in the civilian workforce and 3,216 looking for jobs, Arlington’s unemployment rate for March stood at 2.1 percent, unchanged for a month before and tied with the adjacent city of Falls Church as lowest among the commonwealth’s 133 cities and counties.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Man Arrested After Police Chase — “An Arlington resident was arrested Thursday for allegedly stealing a Porsche and leading Fairfax County police on a chase through Tysons.” [Tysons Reporter]

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A new county initiative aims to help find ways to solve Arlington’s affordable housing shortage.

County Manager Mark Schwartz introduced “Housing Arlington” during Thursday night’s Arlington County Board meeting. Billed as an “umbrella initiative” for the county’s existing affordable housing programs, Schwartz said it will help officials and the public brainstorm solutions together.

During presentations Thursday night, county staff said Arlington has lost 17,000 market-rate housing units since 2005. With 58,000 more residents expected by 2045 and current rent for a 2 bedroom apartment averaging $3,000 per month, they said the squeeze for affordable housing is likely to worsen.

“If we are successful in this event, we will create and preserve more housing for Arlington residents,” said the Housing Division Chief David Cristeal.

The county currently creates affordable housing in a couple ways, including by subsidizing its construction with the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund (AHIF) and by subsidizing rent for low-income residents.

In 2015, the county officials pledged to create 15,800 affordable housing units before 2040, but have since fallen short of the yearly creation benchmarks.

“Housing Arlington is different first because it’s a County Board priority to bring solutions sooner… and the expectations are higher,” said Cristeal, adding that the initiative means the Arlington will be “even more focused on this challenge” and will be “more proactive” in collaborating between public and private sectors.

The initiative will focus on addressing the shortage of affordable homes for low-income and middle-income residents, per its website, and plans to leverage the county’s existing housing programs along with zoning tools and private-public partnerships to accomplish that goal.

Schwartz noted during last night’s meeting that Arlington’s “dilemmas of costly housing can’t, and should not, be solved with AHIF funding.”

He added that the money he and the County Board increased for AHIF’s budget this year “is a really good step” but that “it will never meet the full scope of the need.”

“We know residents across generations are facing pressures from multiple angles, and this interconnected solution allows our community to be responsive and efficient,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey in a press release.  The challenges don’t exist in silos and their solutions don’t either.”

Schwartz says the public has submitted ideas to the county before which are now research-able due to the Housing Arlington initiative. The ideas include:

  • Can publicly-funded housing be created specifically for teachers?
  • Should individuals let public safety staff live in accessory dwellings on their property?

Schwartz mentioned the initiative was also a response to the  “strong headwinds” the county faces in addressing affordable housing with Amazon coming to town.

The hearing to approve Amazon’s incentive package was dogged by activists who fear the company’s “HQ2” will hasten gentrification. Several residents shared how their rent has already increased since the company scouted its new headquarters in Pentagon City and Crystal City.

“What I’m sensing is a real concern about loss and vulnerability,” Dorsey during the March hearing in between protests.. At the time, Dorsey added that the “the history” of Arlington neighborhoods was that of gentrification and increasing property values.

“We never really had a way to stop it,” Dorsey said.

The Housing Arlington initiative will be housed in the Housing Division of the county’s Community Planning, Housing and Development Department (CPHD), per its website. Funding details for the new initiative were not shared.

The Housing Arlington initiative is scheduled to hold its first public engagement forum at Kenmore Middle School on Wednesday, May 29 from 6-9 p.m.

Flickr photo via woodleywonderworks

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations

Crystal City-based startup 4stay aims to help more students find affordable housing with ambitious plans to quintuple their current reach, thanks to some new funding.

On the heels of raising $1 million in angel investments, last week the state-funded nonprofit Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) announced that its CIT GAP Funds would be investing in 4stay, according to a press release. The size of the investment was not disclosed.

“As someone who has worked in student housing for almost 10 years and lived the pain of many housing challenges, we have seen firsthand the difficulties and frustrations of looking for housing on college campuses,” Akobir Azamovich, co-founder and CEO of 4stay, said in the press release. “4stay is solving these challenges by providing an online marketplace to book furnished rooms around campuses. We also provide $100K insurance, host pay guarantee, and zero deposit to protect students, parents, and hosts.”

The site’s functionality is similar to rental site Airbnb, with students searching for available off-campus housing based on a variety of factors like the number of roommates or length of stay. Types of homes range from apartments to basement rooms in someone’s house, but all locations are required to be fully furnished with students having a bedroom of their own.

“We are grateful for the support of CIT GAP Funds, whose investment will help us further the acceleration of our product development as well as help spread the word through increased marketing efforts,” said Faridun Nazarov, co-founder and COO.

The company currently partners with over 100 schools, but with the CIT investment announced plans to bring on an additional 500 schools over the next 12-18 months. Part of the expansion plans include opening up in new student housing markets in Canada and Europe.

Upcoming offerings planned for the site include features to match users with other residents and the ability to book with room providers like school dorms or student housing companies.

Photo via Facebook

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Arlington officials now look set to further loosen rules around the creation of “accessory dwelling units” sometime this spring, changing some zoning standards to allow more property owners to build the homes on their land.

County staff are now circulating a draft policy recommending that local leaders allow property owners to build the homes, commonly known as “mother-in-law suites,” with a five-foot setback from the street and property lines.

The County Board has long sought to see more people build “ADUs” around Arlington, viewing them as low-cost way to beef up the county’s housing options. Officials have become especially interested in the homes as they’ve debated ways to improve access to “missing middle” housing, or homes that offer rent prices somewhere in between new, luxury apartments and subsidized affordable homes.

The Board worked in 2017 to loosen regulations on ADUs and expand their creation in Arlington, but those changes only impacted apartments to be created within a single-family home, like in a garage or attic. The rule tweaks also allowed property owners to convert existing detached buildings on their lots into ADUs, but they did not allow anyone to build new ADUs unattached to other buildings on the property.

This latest proposal would change that. County staff examined the potential for one-foot, five-foot and 10-foot setback requirements, and they settled on the middle option as the best way to balance competing priorities.

“The five-foot setback balances privacy and separation concerns, design flexibility and the county’s housing goals regarding increasing housing options,” staff wrote in documents presented at an open house earlier this week.

Staff estimate that altering the setback requirements in that way would allow the owners of 42 percent of all homes in residential zoning districts to build new ADUs. They expect that a five-foot setback would allow some space between property lines and ADUs, and create enough room for direct sunlight to flow into all buildings on a given property.

Officials declined to side with a one-foot setback requirement, noting that it would allow for considerably less privacy, with buildings right up against property lines. Yet they found that it would only slightly increase the number of properties where ADUs could be built — 44 percent of residential properties would be eligible, staff estimated.

They also found that buildings so close to property lines are subject to more stringent fire safety-related building requirements, whereas buildings five feet away are not, “potentially decreasing the cost of construction for the owner.”

As for the 10-foot setback option, staff found it would substantially decrease the percentage of eligible properties — they calculated about 37 percent would qualify — while also creating the potential for buildings on sites to feel more clustered together, creating “the perception of greater massing on the site.”

It helped, too, that staff found that other, similarly sized localities around the country use the five-foot setback standard.

Staff found that Charlottesville, Seattle, Santa Cruz, California and Los Angeles County all use a similar guideline — only Portland uses the 10-foot standard, while no other localities staff examined use the one-foot setback. D.C., however, allows ADUs to be built right up to the property line, as the city has gone through its own efforts in recent years to expand access to the homes.

Staff plan to convene a series of additional meetings on the setback proposals in the coming weeks, with plans to send them to the Planning Commission for debate by May 6. The County Board could then take action by May 18.

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After months of work, Arlington officials are gearing up to advance a new round of regulatory changes designed to encourage the creation of accessory dwelling units around the county.

The county plans to hold an open house on the new regulations tonight (Tuesday), specifically on policies governing how far the homes can be set back from the street.

Commonly known as “ADUs,” or “mother-in-law suites,” the homes can include everything from basement apartments to those located above a house’s garage. The County Board passed a series of revisions to Arlington’s ADU regulations in 2017, in a bid to prompt more people to create those units and beef up the supply of reasonably priced homes in the county.

Those changes were primarily targeted at allowing homeowners to more easily create ADUs within existing structures, rather than building new ones. The rules changes also allowed property owners to create an ADU in an existing structure detached from a single-family home, like a garage, but they could not build any new structures on properties for such a purpose.

Still, the Board vowed to subsequently consider rules changes allowing people to build free-standing ADUs on properties. The homes are broadly seen as a key way to provide “missing middle” housing, or homes that fall in between luxury apartments and subsidized, affordable homes, and advocates have long championed additional ADU rules changes.

But, to allow for any new construction, officials would need to change the “setback” requirements, which stipulate how far the homes can be located from the street. County Manager Mark Schwartz has been developing proposals for such rules changes, but has yet to unveil them in a public setting.

That is set to change later this afternoon. The exact shape of the proposals remains unclear, however — a county spokeswoman could not immediately provide details on the proposed regulations. Michelle Winters, the executive director of the affordable housing advocacy group the Alliance for Housing Solutions, also said she was unsure when the county will release the details of the proposal publicly.

The ADU meeting is set for the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd) in conference rooms C and D from 4-8 p.m. Any zoning changes discussed there would likely need to be scrutinized by both the Planning Commission and County Board before they go into effect.

Courtesy photo

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When Amazon first started seriously considering Arlington for a new headquarters, the company went so far as to send employees out to local coffee shops and bars to gauge how people around here felt about the tech giant moving in.

The company’s head of worldwide economic development, Holly Sullivan, says Amazon employees were regularly surveying Crystal City locals about the prospect of becoming the neighborhood’s newest, and largest, occupant. And by the time the tech firm was ready to select Arlington for the project, she had full confidence that Amazon would be greeted with open arms.

“We have a lot of that local knowledge now,” Sullivan assured a crowd of hundreds of business executives and government officials at Bisnow’s HQ2-Apalooza event today (Thursday) in Potomac Yard. “Even before we announced our Arlington plans we felt welcome here.”

That sort of confidence in the community’s response was critical to Sullivan and the rest of the company’s executives — after all, when Amazon officials feared that New York City leaders were insufficiently welcoming for the other half of the company’s headquarters, Jeff Bezos’ firm simply pulled the plug.

“We think we could’ve gotten New York done, but at a certain point you have to ask, at what cost?” Sullivan said. “We want to locate in a community that also supports us.”

The company certainly received a warm welcome at Thursday’s event. Billed as a chance for business leaders to learn “how you can benefit” from Amazon’s arrival in Arlington, the high-priced gathering of executives offered a largely rosy picture of how the company might change the D.C. region.

Of course, not everyone around the county is quite so eager to see Amazon move in, and some of the company’s critics made their presence felt at the otherwise chummy event. A handful of protesters with the “For Us, Not Amazon” coalition temporarily disrupted the proceedings, holding signs and chanting “Pay to play is not okay, we want a public hearing today.”

Sullivan joked that she was glad the event “welcomed some of our friends that like to follow me around the country,” but the demonstration was organized by local activists, who have grown frustrated with Amazon’s approach to engaging with the community.

This is now Sullivan’s second appearance in as many weeks at a ticketed event for local business leaders, and some critics (and even county officials) would rather see the company engage directly with the communities that might be most affected by Amazon’s impact on the region’s housing market.

Sullivan argues, however, that the company has indeed already done some of that outreach work and is committed to doing more. For starters, she says the company plans to create a “steering committee,” pulling together Amazon executives, local government officials and education leaders to discuss the future of the new headquarters and its impact on the region.

Considering that the company has yet to outline any plans for aiding affordable housing efforts in the area, or even what its exact plans for construction in Arlington might look like — the company is still waiting on the County Board to approve an incentive package for the the new headquarters to formalize many of its plans — advocates in the region are enthusiastic to hear that the company is ready to come to the table with local leaders.

“Amazon has an opportunity to create a model of a tech community that is inclusive, that’s different than what we’ve seen in Silicon Valley and Seattle,” said Nina Janopaul, the CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.

For officials who have long struggled with working across jurisdictional lines, that sort of collaboration could also be quite meaningful, said Stephen Fuller, one of the region’s preeminent economic forecasters.

He argued during the event that Amazon’s promised 25,000 jobs may not put a strain on the region’s housing all on their own, but that the tens of thousands of additional jobs that flood into the area to support Amazon may well challenge the area.

For instance, Fuller’s researchers project that new companies moving into the region to support Amazon could induce demand for as much as 41 million square feet of new office space in the area — for context, Amazon plans to build anywhere from 4 million to 8 million on its own.

“The growth is really coming and we need to take a moment to think about this beyond Amazon,” Fuller said.

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County leaders have now given the green light to plans to redevelop the American Legion post in Virginia Square into an affordable housing complex, a project widely hailed as an innovative effort to provide reasonably priced homes to veterans.

The County Board voted unanimously Saturday (Feb. 23) to approve plans from the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to replace the Legion’s current home with a new seven-story structure. The building will have room for 160 apartments — half will be set aside specifically for veterans, and all of them are guaranteed to be affordable to people of more modest means for the next 75 years.

The development, located at 3445 Washington Blvd, will also include 8,000 square feet on its ground floor for American Legion Post 139 to stay on the property. The Legion has owned the roughly 1.3-acre property since the 1930s, but opted to sell it to APAH in 2016 after the nonprofit sketched out plans for a new complex decided to helping local veterans.

“Unfortunately, the high cost of housing has put Arlington out of reach for many,” APAH Board of Directors member Rich Jordan wrote in a statement. “But we are excited that this project, the first collaboration of its kind, will welcome more veterans home to our community.”

The building will include a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, all at varying levels of affordability. Most will be designed to be affordable to people making 60 percent or 80 percent of the area median income — that works out to a yearly annual salary of $49,260 and $65,680, respectively.

However, some will be set aside for people making 30 percent of the area median income, a level of affordability that projects around Arlington only rarely achieve. Someone would have to make around $30,000 a year to qualify for the homes.

“We are adding much-needed affordable units to our inventory, and many of them are large enough for families,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey wrote in a statement.

The project will also include an underground parking garage for residents, with a total of 96 spaces. Of those, 20 would be set aside to serve the Legion post specifically.

That represents a smaller number of parking spaces that the county’s zoning laws would typically allow at a development of this size. But county officials opted to sign off on the plans anyway, reasoning that many people living at the building will likely rely on the area’s Metro station and bevy of available bus stops to get around.

Even still, parking was a key concern for some neighbors. Some local leaders worry that the building’s larger apartments will attract families, who will bring cars and take up street parking in the neighborhoods adjoining the development.

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association and Lyon Village Citizens’ Association both floated the idea of tweaking zoned parking limits in the area — the streets surrounding the development, like N. Kansas Street and 12th Road N., are currently off-limits to people without permits from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Some neighbors proposed a 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. limit instead, but county officials weren’t inclined to grant that request.

In a staff report, the county noted that it’s still in the middle of a lengthy review of the residential parking permit program, with a moratorium on most changes to parking zones while that review moves forward.

That’s now set to wrap up sometime early next year, and county staff told the Planning Commission that they’re hesitant to make any zoned parking changes in the area until then — the County Board did, however, roll back some contentious restrictions in the Forest Glen and Arlington Mill neighborhoods earlier this year.

“In the future, if parking increases along 12th Road N. by non-Zone 6 permit holders, the hours of the RPP restriction could be evaluated based on the program’s guidelines at that time,” staff wrote in the report.

APAH also plans to construct a new section of N. Kansas Street running north-to-south between 13th Street N. and Washington Blvd, a move that staff hope will break up the area’s “superblock” feel. The new road will include some dedicated space for pedestrians and cyclists, and the developer is also planning to widen Washington Blvd near the project.

Eventually, the county also hopes to see 12th Road N. extended to provide an “east-west” connection across the property as well, though that will likely be finished only once the adjacent YMCA redevelops that property to allow for a new recreational facility and some new apartments on the site. A developer is also hoping to add 255 new apartments near the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road in the coming years.

APAH expects to fund the bulk of the $78.4 million project with federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit cash, though the nonprofit will also work to raise $3 million in private financing.

The Board also approved a $5.79 million loan for the project Saturday from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, a key tool designed to spur affordable development in Arlington. APAH expects to ask for another $5.375 million loan from the fund next year.

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A new bill just passed by state lawmakers could soon allow localities like Arlington to start waiving many fees for new affordable housing developments, a change that advocates expect could have big impact on the county’s housing crunch.

New legislation backed by Dels. Lamont Bagby (D-74th District) and Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) would let officials across the state pass ordinances to do away with any building permit fees or other local levies on affordable housing plans, in a bid to ease the construction of such projects.

The bill unanimously passed the state Senate last week, after earning similarly swift approval in the House of Delegates, and now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for his signature. The legislation was designed as part of a broader package of bills aimed at bringing housing costs down, due not only to rising concerns about Amazon’s impact in Northern Virginia, but also to new research showing the Richmond and Virginia Beach areas with some of the highest eviction rates in the entire country.

“Every Virginian deserves a safe place to call home,” Bagby wrote in a statement. “By supporting more affordable housing, we can address the devastating impacts of Virginia’s high eviction rates.”

Michelle Winters, the executive director of the Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions, told ARLnow that the county doesn’t currently waive fees for affordable developments, but could well embrace such a tactic in the near future.

She points out that a coalition of affordable housing advocates called for the county to take just such a step in a 2017 report outlining potential strategies for officials to meet their own goals for building more reasonably priced homes.

Arlington officials have already struggled to meet those goals for creating homes guaranteed to remain affordable to renters of modest means, known as “committed affordable” units, prompting housing advocates to pen the report and press for progress. And with Amazon bringing its 25,000 (or more) highly paid workers to the county, Winters believes its conclusions are all the more important for leaders to consider.

“The report estimated that waiving ‘permit and tap fees’ for affordable housing projects would save $1.4 million per year, or allow the addition of 16 more committed affordable units each year,” Winters said.

That would only be a small change in the grand scheme of the county’s housing needs — the county created or preserved 515 affordable homes last year, short of the 585 homes officials hope to produce each year — but housing researchers still expect waiving such fees would make a meaningful difference.

“Although the total amount of fees imposed by local governments during the development review process can vary by locality, affordable housing developments operate under extremely complex financing mechanisms and tight margins,” said Andrew Clark, vice president of government affairs for the Home Builders Association of Virginia, wrote in a statement. “Reduction or elimination of these local fees could be a significant incentive for a private-sector development considering an affordable housing development and could also help incentive the private-sector developer to re-invest those savings into amenities, building materials or labor.”

The report, titled “Fulfilling the Promise: Meeting the Production Goal of Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan,” uses the recently completed “Columbia Hills” project backed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing as an example of how county fees impact such projects.

APAH spent about $91.1 million on the project in all, but that included close to $701,000 in fees including building permit fees, sewer and water levies and zoning review costs.

“If all of these fees had been waived for this affordable project, it would have reduced the costs of development, freeing up resources for the development of eight (8) additional [committed affordable units],” the advocates wrote.

The report also notes that other cities around the country have already adopted such a strategy. In Austin, Texas, for instance, the city waives fees on a sliding scale based on what portion of a development’s homes are priced to be affordable to people making less than 80 percent of the area median income.

Of course, it might be a tough pill to swallow for county leaders to forego any revenue while times are tough for Arlington financially.

But officials have seen some reason for optimism about the upcoming budget recently, and Winters says county workers have already assured her that they plan to examine the impacts of waiving affordable development fees as part of a broader study of Arlington’s permitting process.

Photo via @APAH_org

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Arlington and other localities around the D.C. region have enough room to add the housing necessary to keep pace with the Amazon-driven population influx expected over the coming years — but actually realizing that potential won’t be easy, regional planners say.

Researchers with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, a coalition of local leaders, have warned in the past that the region needs to add about 100,000 more homes through 2045, or else risk seeing rent prices creep up even higher and more people pushed into the outer suburbs.

Their latest data, unveiled yesterday (Wednesday), suggest that localities across Northern Virginia, Maryland and D.C. have already put plans in place to meet even that large number.

The vast majority of that work was completed before Amazon announced its plans to head to Arlington (to say nothing of the news that it’s canceling its New York City plans as well), but officials are confident that region’s population boom of the last few years has spurred the right kind of planning work to account for the tech giant’s arrival as well.

But planners are also cautioning the region’s leaders that everything from land-use policies to the high cost of construction to “not-in-my-backyard” sentiments are sure to confound their efforts to actually meet that demand for new housing.

“We do think we have the capacity in our long-range plans to get there,” Andrew Trueblood, D.C.’s acting planning director, told the MWCOG Board of Directors Wednesday. “But that’s the first hurdle and there’s a whole number of hurdles to get past.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, restrictive zoning and land-use policies are one of the chief obstacles planners identified for local leaders to tackle as they seek to add more homes. Many activists and Arlington officials have already begun discussing the best ways to increase density in the county, and that’s included the fraught topic of up-zoning areas previously reserved for single-family homes.

But those considerations are only one piece of the puzzle, according to the COG’s analysts.

Trueblood pointed out that the region is getting better at concentrating housing in “activity centers” around Metro stops or other public transit options. But as land close to transit becomes more scarce, it also becomes more expensive, ramping up the costs of the sort of development planners are most enthusiastic about encouraging.

Trueblood added that the “unstable construction cost market” has also complicated other development efforts. Other developers have been frustrated by local opposition to dense developments, particularly when it comes in the form of legal action targeting even “by-right” developments, which don’t require extensive government review.

But, in Northern Virginia particularly, officials say that a lack of interest from developers is far from an issue.

“We are not having trouble with the development community coming and wishing to develop,” said Sharon Bulova, the chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “But making sure that those new residential homes and units are affordable is really the challenge.”

Arlington is certainly grappling with that issue as well. County officials are locked in a debate about the best way to meet their own affordable housing goals — possibilities range from setting aside more cash to spur affordable developments to opening up zoning rules to allow a more diverse array of housing types.

Helen McElveen, Alexandria’s housing director, expressed optimism that the private sector will step up in some regard on that front — she noted that dominant Crystal City developer JBG Smith has expressed a particular interest in funding more affordable homes.

But she also cautioned that local governments themselves will always have a dominant role to play in subsidizing apartments affordable to the lowest income renters.

“Affordability won’t happen unless governments act,” McElveen said. “We don’t live in a market with a lot of affordable stock or even workforce stock being delivered… We know we can neither build our way out of this nor preserve everything.”

The COG’s analysts expect that their next steps are to study “the specific challenges (public and private) to developing more housing” in those “activity centers” around mass transit options, and deliver recommendations for overcoming those issues.

That will surely take some time to sort out, but planners say they’re well aware of the urgent need for answers to the questions.

“If we can not keep up with the growth, employers will not expand and our region’s growth is hurt,” Trueblood said. “But if we can produce the housing needed for the region to grow and for economy to be vibrant, we’ll reduce the displacement pressures facing everyone.”

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Republican lawmakers have scuttled Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to ramp up state funding for affordable housing, a move that’s irked advocates hoping for more state help as Amazon starts to move into Arlington.

GOP leaders in both the state Senate and House of Delegates have now put forward budget proposals without the $19.5 million spread across two years Northam had hoped to see flow into the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, a program offering low-interest loans for developers hoping to build reasonably priced housing.

Though the fund would be available to applicants across the state, the governor’s effort to massively ramp up cash flowing into the fund was broadly seen as a small way the state could prepare for Amazon’s expected impacts on the housing market across the Northern Virginia region.

“We are outraged that selected members of Virginia’s money committees stripped this critical support for housing for Virginia families,” a coalition of 40 affordable housing advocacy groups wrote in a statement. Signatories include the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, the Arlington Housing Corporation, the Alliance for Housing Solutions, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network and the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance.

“At a time when the state is approving $50 million in subsidies to Micron and $750 million to Amazon, it is wholly appropriate and necessary to invest $19.5 million in housing,” they wrote.

The Senate’s proposed budget includes just $1 million for the fund over the next two years, while the House proposal includes no cash whatsoever.

Northam had planned to fund the increase as part of a suite of proposals to use $1.2 billion in new revenue generated by the federal tax reform passed in 2017. But Republicans, who hold narrow majorities in both chambers in the General Assembly, have been steadfast in removing those spending proposals from the budget as part of a broader fight over the tax revenues, arguing that the state would be better served by sending the money back to some middle-class taxpayers.

“We started building our budget with guidelines to remove from consideration any revenue based on the federal tax changes and to eliminate any spending based on that revenue,” said Del. S. Chris Jones (R-76th District), the head of the powerful House appropriations committee. “We are continuing our multi-year efforts to responsibly invest in a stronger economy, provide more funding and flexibility to local schools and make college more affordable.”

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) was hoping for an even larger, $50 million influx into the fund on a one-time basis, yet that push is seemingly facing an uphill battle given the latest GOP budget proposal. He’d also proposed a bill to establish a permanent funding stream for the fund to avoid yearly appropriations battles, but that died on a party-line, 4-3 vote in a House subcommittee.

The budget is still a long way off from being finalized, however. The House and Senate still need to reconcile the differences between the two proposals and, ordinarily, Northam would have a chance to negotiate for his spending priorities with Republican leaders.

But with the governor still facing pressure to resign, and Virginia’s two other top elected officials now engulfed in scandal, there’s no telling just how the remainder of the General Assembly session will play out. It’s currently set to wrap up on Feb. 23.

File photo

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