Arlington, VA

Aspiring to be in the top 20% of Arlington households by income? You’ll need to make more than three times what someone in Cleveland earns to crack the same top quintile.

Arlington is No. 4 among the 100 largest cities and Census-Designated Places in the U.S. in terms of income needed to be among the top earners, according to new rankings from the website SmartAsset.

The entry level for the top 20% of working households in Arlington is $216,605 in annual income, SmartAsset reports, based on Census data.

The top 3 on the list, ahead of Arlington, are all in the Bay Area:

  1. San Francisco (>$250,000)
  2. Fremont, Calif. ($243,080)
  3. San Jose, Calif. ($219,023)

Arlington’s fellow Amazon headquarters city, Seattle, was No. 5 at $190,348. By contrast, Detroit had the lowest income level for its 20% ($65,603) and Cleveland has the second-lowest ($70,632).

The rankings also highlight income disparities, even in prosperous cities.

“In 2018, the working households that comprised the top 20% of earners nationwide made at least $125,322 throughout the year,” SmartAsset noted. “In contrast, the working households in the bottom 20% of earners made $25,434 or less. As a ratio, top-earning households made almost five times as much as bottom-earning households.”

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Special Election Voting Starts Today — “Arlington election officials have announced plans for two Saturday dates for in-person absentee voting in advance of the July 7 County Board special election. Saturday voting will be available on June 20 and July 4, augmenting the usual Monday-to-Friday early voting that will begin May 22.” [InsideNova]

Big Food Donation to Green Valley Church — “3,300 lasagna and vegetable meals donated by chef Jose Andres’ @WCKitchen were given to those in need at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington [on] May 21.” [@ZoeyMaraistACH/Twitter]

Flags In at Ceremony Despite Pandemic — “The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment has continued their tradition of placing American flags at every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.” [NBC 4]

Arlingtonian Aims to Run Every Street — “Before the pandemic hit, I hadn’t taken a big vacation in years. Since I’m at a dramatically reduced salary from not working full-time and, like so many Arlingtonians, dealing with underlying stress and anxiety while still feeling incredibly thankful, I’ve decided to use this time to discover my own city by walking or running every street.” [Arlington Magazine]

Local Wages Were Rising at the End of 2019 — “The average weekly wage for those working in Arlington (wherever they may live) stood at $1,963 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data reported May 20 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s an increase of 4.7 percent from the same period a year before, well above the national growth rate of 3.5 percent (to $1,185).” [InsideNova]

Local Artist Creates Virus Sculptures — “The sculptures seem to be inspired by the latest breaking news headlines. A figure in a stark white face mask. A giant virus cell mutating into a tentacled sea creature that morphs back into a virus… The centerpiece was a spiky model of “a virus, with seven figures running away,” said [Hadrian] Mendoza, 46, a ceramic artist, sculptor and full-time art director at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington since 2017.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Rain and Storms Today — “Waves of showers or storms are a good bet as the slow-moving upper level low pressure system finally decides to wander by. Round one will end in the morning to midday, but skies remain mostly cloudy. If we do see enough sunshine and heating, it’s not impossible some severe storms will develop nearby.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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Morning Notes

For Families, $100K Doesn’t Cut it Here — “An analysis by personal finance site MagnifyMoney found that in some pricey cities it’s particularly hard to make it on $100,000. ‘The worst metro area for a family earning $100,000 includes Washington, D.C. and neighboring cities Arlington and Alexandria, Va. After factoring in monthly expenses, families would be $315 in the red.'” [MarketWatch]

AWLA Helps Kitty with Gruesome Injury — “Today we urgently need your support for a young orange tabby with a horrific injury. On Valentine’s Day, we received a call from one of our rescue partners in West Virginia who had just taken in a cat who had been shot in the head with an arrow.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington, WJLA]

YHS Athletes Prepare for Collegiate Competition — “On Feb. 5, I watched the ceremony in the cafeteria of Yorktown High School, where 20 male and female seniors announced plans to play collegiate-level football, soccer, lacrosse, swimming, baseball, tennis and track. Only 1 in 50 high school athletes play at competitive colleges, said activities director Mike Krulfeld.” [Falls Church News-Press]

New Head of School for DJO — “After an extensive national search, and at the recommendation of the search committee, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, has named Mr. William Crittenberger the new Head of School at Bishop O’Connell High School, effective July 1, 2020.” [Press Release]

Nearby: Opening and Closing in Seven Corners — A new Food Star store has opened in Seven Corners, following the 2017 closure of the Food Star on Columbia Pike. Meanwhile, the Gold’s Gym in Seven Corners is reportedly closing on March 13. [Annandale Blog, Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Eric

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Money

(Updated at 7 a.m.) Young people in Arlington have some of the best credit scores out of any community in the entire country, according to new rankings.

Experian, one of the “Big Three” consumer credit reporting agencies in the country, released a new report today (Tuesday) showing that single women in Arlington from ages 24 through 32 have the highest average credit score in the entire country.

The agency found that, when examining data from the third quarter of 2018, women in the county in that age range averaged a FICO score of 735. The metric tops out with a score of 850, and most lenders around the country use the scores to assess credit risk.

Arlington ranked slightly ahead of women in San Francisco, who have an average score of 729, and Boston, where the average is 726. Seattle’s average of 724 and Irvine, California’s score of 714 round out the top five communities.

Young, single men in the county fare nearly as well as their female counterparts. Men from ages 24 through 32 in the county boast an average credit score of 737, tied for second in the country with Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sunnyvale, California ranks tops in the nation in that category with an average score of 738. Boston places fourth with a score of 728 and San Francisco comes in a fifth with an average of 725.

The solid fiscal health of Arlington’s millenials should probably come as no surprise, as previous studies have found that the county has some of the highest-earning young people in the country. Arlington’s proximity to D.C. and desirability to young people have helped contribute to that trend, as has the area’s recent tech boom, which looks set to continue with Amazon on the way.

Of course, like other wealthy communities across the country, opportunity for young people to succeed differs wildly across the county’s neighborhoods.

File photo

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For people fearful about how Amazon will impact Arlington, a single question tends to rise above all others — will the company’s arrival price me out of my home?

There are certainly plenty of other concerns surrounding the company, and the 25,000 jobs it has promised to bring to its new home in Pentagon City and Crystal City, stemming from its highly criticized business practices to its potential impact on roads and transit in the region.

But concerns about housing affordability have most consistently come to the fore since Amazon’s announcement that it would be setting up shop in Arlington, as renters worry that the company’s army of well-paid workers will set off an explosion in home prices and push them deeper into Northern Virginia’s suburbs.

In selling the proposed deal to bring the Amazon headquarters to the county, officials have argued that these fears are largely overblown. Over the last few months, all manner of local leaders have claimed that the company will arrive slowly enough for Arlington to absorb the new residents, and that the county won’t be forced to house every single one of the workers who will spend their days in the new office space.

And, in general, academics, advocates and real estate watchers around the area agree with that line of thinking. For the most part, the experts surveyed by ARLnow on the issue don’t believe that Amazon will have the sort of apocalyptic impact on housing and gentrification that some skeptics fear.

Yet they also caution that the company will almost certainly still push many people out of the county, particularly those of more modest means living in South Arlington neighborhoods. While the county may not face the same massive disruptive impacts as Seattle, which is still struggling to integrate one of the world’s largest companies into its metro area, observers warn that it would foolish to minimize the size of the challenge Arlington is facing.

“I don’t agree with the view of impending doom that Arlington will become San Francisco due to housing problems, but there are real concerns here to address,” said Eric Brescia, a Fannie Mae economist and a member of Arlington’s Citizens Advisory Commission on Housing.

The case against Amazon panic

Fundamentally, the argument minimizing Amazon’s impacts on the housing market includes the same key points.

First of all, the company plans to bring its 25,000 workers to the new headquarters over the next decade or so, not all at once. And, even then, not all of them are likely to live in Arlington, the thinking goes — many could choose to move to other Northern Virginia suburbs, or even to Maryland and D.C., to take advantage of Arlington’s connection to public transit networks.

Many other employees set to work at the headquarters probably already live in Arlington, considering that Amazon says it chose the D.C. region due to its bevy of “tech talent” already in the area.

That means that county leaders are planning on seeing closer to 15 to 20 percent of Amazon’s workers relocate to Arlington specifically, an influx of (at most) 5,000 people. In fact, a report prepared by George Mason University’s Stephen S. Fuller Institute as part of the state’s courtship of Amazon estimates that more than twice as many of the company’s workers will move to Fairfax instead of Arlington.

“This isn’t based on a wish, but based on our prior experience with other large employers,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. “Can we guarantee it? Of course not… but this is the best we can do in projecting how this investment does and does not look like other investments that we’ve had.”

County Board member Erik Gutshall also points out that the D.C. region as a whole has been in the midst of a massive explosion in growth in recent years, and Amazon could merely feel like a drop in the bucket. Based on regional projections, Gutshall says the company’s is “expected to account for about 5 percent of regional job growth over the next 12 years.”

“That, to me, says this alone is not going to be a major driver of housing affordability problems,” Gutshall said.

Regional observers believe that the broad strokes of that argument are accurate.

Brad Dillman, the chief economist for national real estate developer Cortland, points out that Crystal City and Pentagon City both have slightly higher residential vacancy rates than the D.C. metro area as a whole, leaving some room for Amazon employees moving in.

And Christopher Ptomey, the executive director of the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, notes that it’s hardly uncommon to see large government agencies (or other big companies) move into communities around the Northern Virginia area. Based on Arlington’s own past experiences with such changes, he sees no reason Amazon employees would behave any differently.

“Some people come here and decide Arlington has great schools and is convenient, so they’re willing to pay a little bit more to stay here,” Ptomey said. “Others prefer a bigger house and a wider lot and lighter traffic. I don’t think Amazon employees going to be particularly unique in that way.”

Uncertainties abound

Yet, with so many unknowns about the company’s plans still remaining, experts caution that it’s hard to make too many definitive declarations about the make-up of the company’s workforce just yet. That complicates efforts to make predictions about how they might behave when they arrive.

“We need to know: what’s the age range and family type of these workers?” said Jenny Schuetz, who studies housing policy as part of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “A bunch of 25-year-olds will want to live nearby, but they pay a lot more in taxes than they consume in services. More older families will require more space in high-performing schools, but some will want to live farther out.”

Indeed, Schuetz and other analysts warn that the county shouldn’t offer too much certainty about Amazon’s precise impacts until officials start to see how the company’s arrival changes the region.

Arlington officials have simultaneously downplayed the number of people arriving along with Amazon, while also trumpeting how other high-priced tech companies will likely flock to the area to do business with Jeff Bezos’ firm. Until Arlington can evaluate just how real that downstream impact is, experts say it might be useless to simply study just Amazon’s workforce.

“Will just Amazon come here or is this the beginning of D.C. becoming a major tech hub?” Brescia said. “That’s really unknown.”

But Schuetz notes that research shows, in general, “each new tech job spins off roughly five additional jobs.” That might be good news for the county’s economy, but it also complicates the math of predicting how many people will flow into Arlington.

“We know that big headquarters like this have a multiplier effect,” Schuetz said. “They will need supportive services and restaurants to serve the campus directly.”

However many people associated with the company ultimately arrive in Arlington, analysts point out that they are likely to be quite wealthy. The terms of the state’s proposed deal with Amazon require an average annual salary of $150,000 for the company’s employees, and other tech workers bound for Arlington are likely to pull in similar sums.

Even still, Dorsey believes those salaries “are not out of scale with typical earnings in the area,” minimizing the impact they’ll have on the county’s home prices.

A ‘housing crisis’ for low-income renters?

But critics of the county’s pursuit of Amazon believe that sort of mindset ignores the current conditions in Arlington, which already pose problems for renters. Tim Dempsey, a member of the steering committee for the progressive group Our Revolution Arlington, points out that many Board members (including Dorsey himself) won office based on pledges to combat the county’s pre-Amazon “housing crisis” for low-income people and the middle class alike.

“We already don’t have housing for middle-income earners, whether that’s school teachers, firefighters or policemen,” Dempsey said. “The county never asked the community if it was a good idea to bid for this, and when we raised these issues, we were told it was premature to even talk about this.”

Ideally, Schuetz says that Amazon’s workers and their peers won’t be competing for the same types of housing as the people Dempsey is worried about. In all likelihood, “if they’re displacing people, they’ll be displacing other high-income households” by moving into Arlington’s high-rent Metro corridors.

Dillman also foresees developers adding plenty of new housing around the new headquarters, noting that the pace of development has been especially slow in Crystal City as the area’s office vacancy rate has skyrocketed. That should, in theory, provide plenty of new, high-end homes for Amazon arrivals.

The “danger point” that Schuetz fears is what becomes of the “low-cost, older housing” in neighborhoods elsewhere in South Arlington, particularly along Columbia Pike, or in North Alexandria.

“Those could be the targets for redevelopment, where you could potentially charge higher rents,” Schuetz said. “And that’s the area where we’d see displacement.”

Michelle Krocker, the executive director of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, agrees that the fate of apartments running from the Pike to Bailey’s Crossroads and even Seven Corners is one of her prime concerns. But her research also suggests that observers “shouldn’t assume everyone will jump on the bandwagon and sell.”

“Many of these buildings have been in the same family for generations, going back to 1950s, 1960s,” Krocker said. “That means there can be tax consequences and liabilities if they entertain selling. And, for many, the buildings are cash cows.”

Of course, the county could take additional steps to preserve those sorts of buildings to address the issue. And officials say they’re already mulling all manner of strategies to combat housing affordability challenges.

To Brescia, how the county follows through with those plans could provide the clearest answer for anyone searching for the exact extent of Amazon’s impacts.

“It will all really depend on the policy response to this, across the region,” Brescia said.

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(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) It’s not cheap to live in one of the best places for millennials.

That’s according to figures from the Economic Policy Institute, which has come out with an interactive calculator to determine how much it costs individuals and families to comfortably live in Arlington and other U.S. counties.

For a couple with two children in Arlington, it costs about $9,493 per month to live comfortably, according to EPI, or just over $113,915 per year.

The highest monthly costs were attributed to housing, at an average of $2,040 per month — for a “modest” but “sanitary” two-bedroom apartment — but childcare costs in the county were just behind it at $1,801 per month.

Couples without children can make a lot less while still living comfortably in Arlington. Annual pay of $67,840 is what it takes for two people to live here comfortably, without kids, childcare costs and the requisite additional bedrooms.

Single Arlingtonians, though, have to make $56,221 annually to live comfortably — only $11,619 less than a couple does.

Across the Potomac, a D.C. family with two kids needs to bring in $123,975 a year, according to the EPI analysis, while the same family in Manassas City can get by comfortably on $96,314.

Notably, EPI’s methodology didn’t mention any consideration for student loans. There is, however, is a category for “other necessities.”

File photo. Hat tip to James Breiling.

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Morning Notes

Arlington No. 6 on Highest-Income List — Arlington County is the No. 6 highest-income county in the country, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. Three other local counties — Loudoun County, Howard County and Fairfax County — were Nos. 1, 2 and 3 respectively. D.C., meanwhile, was one of the only urban centers in the country to see a decline in its median household income. [Washington Post]

Local Oktoberfest List — A Reddit user has created a master list of local Oktoberfest celebrations and German restaurants. Among the events on the list is the annual Capitol City Brewing Oktoberfest in Shirlington, scheduled this year for Saturday, Sept. 30. [Google Docs, Reddit]

Arlington Ladies Auxiliary Van For Sale — For $3,500, you can be the proud owner of a 1967 Dodge van that once was used as the Arlington Professional Firefighters Association Ladies Auxiliary coffee wagon. [Craigslist]

Arlington Combating Opioid Epidemic —  Arlington County is reminding residents that opioid addiction remains a significant problem in the county and around the U.S. “Opioid use and cases of overdosing continue to rise,” the county said, on a webpage that lists resources for those trying to overcome addiction. [Arlington County]

Mobility Lab Director Touts Success — “We calculated that on a typical workday, our services in Arlington County helped shed about 40,000 trips from vehicles into biking, walking, et cetera,” says the Managing Director of Arlington County’s Mobility Lab, in an interview. “That’s equivalent to seven lanes of urban highway.” [Arlington Magazine]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Road Closures for Bike Races — As a reminders, there will be significant road closures in Clarendon and Crystal City on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, for the Armed Forces Cycling Classic.

Arlington Woman Invented ‘Monopoly’ Precursor — An Arlington woman may have been the “real” inventor of the board game Monopoly. Lizzie Magie, who died in Arlington in 1948, created a board game very similar to Monopoly. Three decades later, Charles Darrow, taking inspiration from Magie’s game, created Monopoly and sold it to Parker Brothers. [Arlington Magazine]

I-66 Tolls Expected to Start in December — New tolls on single-occupancy vehicles on I-66 are now expected to take effect in December. Electronic toll signs have started going up near I-66 on-ramps. [Twitter, NBC Washington]

Krupicka Having Fun Running Donut Stores — Former member of the Virginia House of Delegates Rob Krupicka is enjoying his second act: owning Sugar Shack donut stores in Arlington, Alexandria and now D.C. [Washington City Paper]

Wages Drop in Arlington — Mirroring regional and national trends, average weekly wages in Arlington dropped 1.4 percent, to $1,677, in the last three months of 2016. Arlington ranked as the seventh-highest average weekly wage in the country. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards

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Morning Notes

A man carries barstools away from Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon while workers remove the awnings

Average Paycheck Decreases — The average weekly paycheck in Arlington was $1,734 in the first quarter of 2016, down 0.2 percent compared to one year prior. Nationally, however, the average paycheck was down 0.5 percent. Arlington ranked in the top 10 of U.S. counties with the highest pay. [InsideNova]

New Media Venture Based in Clarendon — Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei’s next media venture is headquartered in Arlington. VandeHei, along with Politico’s Mike Allen and the publication’s former Chief Revenue Officer, are among those helping to found the venture, which has reportedly secured $10 million in financing and is said to be “a media outlet targeting corporate executives and other professionals with a mix of business and political news.” While Politico remains in Rosslyn, VandeHei’s new venture is based in MakeOffices in Clarendon. [Wall Street Journal]

Porn Discussion at DJO — Last night Bishop O’Connell High School hosted a public discussion, aimed at parents and teens, about “the effects of pornography on teenagers.” Today the founder of the website The Porn Effect will address DJO students and “present the reality behind pornography to the entire student body.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]

First Responders Cup This Weekend — The annual First Responders Cup fastpitch softball tournament will take place in Arlington this weekend. Among the participants, one team from Salem, Va. is paying tribute by wearing the name of fallen firefighters on the back of their jerseys. The players, who also wrote letters to the families of the firefighters, will be visiting Arlington’s Fire Station No. 5 near Pentagon City today. [WDBJ]

New Website for Chamber — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has launched a redesigned website. [Arlington Chamber]

AHC Seeking Volunteer MentorsUpdated at 2:15 p.m. — Affordable housing organization AHC Inc. is seeking volunteers to serve as mentors and tutors for middle- and high school students. Before the start of the school year, AHC provided backpacks filled with school supplies to more than 900 low-income, school-aged children living in its apartment communities. “Along with scores of generous individuals, several local organizations donated funds or supplies, including Arlington County Community Outreach, BM Smith, Boeing, The Reading Connection, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington,” AHC noted in a press release. [AHC Inc.]

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Chart showing the percentage of Millennials in a city making more than $350,000 per year

(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) For every dozen Millennial-led households in Arlington, one is making more than $350,000 per year.

That’s according to the real estate website Zillow, which just compiled a list of places that are home to the most affluent Millennials in the U.S.

“Not everyone in the 22-34 age group is scraping by,” Zillow says. “Whether they made their money lobbying lawmakers at the Capitol or cashed in on a tech IPO, rich millennials are clustered in cities where there are lots of high-paying professional jobs.”

Arlington topped the list, with 8.7 percent of Millennial-led households making more than $350,000. That’s even higher than the percentage of Arlington residents 55+ making more than $350,000, which is 7.9 percent.

(A “household” counts both singles and the combined income of a couple or group of people living in the same house or apartment.)

San Francisco, which has almost double the median home value and rent of Arlington, is second on the list with 7.8 percent of Millennial households making more than $350,000. Another California city, Huntington Beach, in the L.A. area, is third with 5 percent.

See the full top list from Zillow.

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Millennials and taxes (image via SmartAsset.com)Arlington County has the highest-earning Millennials in the U.S.

That’s according to the website SmartAsset, which says that 18-to-34-year-olds in Arlington have a median income of $61,620, the highest in the country.

The bad news is that Millennials in Arlington, by virtue of their high earnings, pay the second-highest taxes of any locality in the U.S. The average person age 18-34 in Arlington pays 26.36 percent of their income as taxes, SmartAsset roughly estimates.

San Francisco is No. 1 on the last, paying 26.84 percent in taxes, while D.C., New York City and Baltimore round out the top five.

From SmartAsset:

The country’s wealthiest millennials live in Arlington. The median income among 18-to-34-year-olds in Arlington is $61,620, highest in the country. That means they also pay the highest federal income taxes. While the state income tax in Virginia is not quite as high as that of California, most taxpayers still pay a top marginal rate of 5.75%. For a millennial in Arlington earning median income, that adds up to over $3,040 in state taxes.

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