- Board deems draft Affordable Housing Master Plan and Implementation framework ready for broad public review
- Multiple ways for public to weigh-in between now and June 2015
- Community forum scheduled for Saturday, March 28
The public will have multiple opportunities in the coming months to weigh-in on a draft Affordable Housing Master Plan and Implementation Framework through a series of meetings, events and online engagement, the Arlington County Board agreed during a recent work session.
The Board reviewed the drafts, which outline affordable housing goals, objectives, policies and tools to meet the community’s shifting needs, in a March 23 work session with the County Manager and the Affordable Housing Study Working Group.
The County is seeking a comprehensive approach to providing the full range of housing affordability in Arlington. Ensuring a range of housing options, affordable to persons of all income levels and needs throughout the County, creates community sustainability because it supports our people, improves our neighborhoods and strengthens our economy.
“The Working Group has done a terrific job of quantifying the critical housing gaps we face, identifying the issues surrounding affordable housing in our community, and crafting both a vision for the future of affordable housing in Arlington and a framework for implementing that vision,” said Arlington County Chair Mary Hynes.
“While many of the ideas in the report build on our current affordable housing practices, the Board discussion highlighted several new suggested strategies – using proximity to reliable multi-modal transportation as a critical factor when siting new affordable units, considering whether to explicitly build in preferences for Arlington residents and workers in our programs, exploring adjustments to our existing accessory dwelling ordinance and other single family home regulations that could better serve aging owners and provide smaller units while respecting existing neighborhood character. Now we need to engage the broad community in a robust conversation on these ideas.”
The draft plan is a result of a three-year collaborative process with the community, the working group and County staff’s project team. Recommendations in the plan were based on research, a thorough needs analysis, in-depth forecasting, working group meetings and community workshops. The draft plan proposes three goals that focus on housing supply, access and sustainability. The implementation framework proposes modifications and potential new tools in the areas of financing, land use and services.
Specific locations or areas for affordable housing are not identified in the draft plan. Several proposed policies, however, will affect the location of affordable housing. The Board agreed during the work session that these policies should be brought to the community for discussion.
One of the plan’s objectives is to preserve the County’s existing affordable units. Preservation of committed affordable housing units (policy 1.1.2) and market rate affordable housing units (policy 1.1.3) means that affordable housing, such as Arlington’s historic garden apartments, will remain in areas where they currently exist.
A second strategy in the plan supports the location of affordable housing in proximity to transit, including bus services (policies 1.1.8; 3.2.2). Pairing housing units with reliable transportation options is a sustainable way to reduce traffic, allow easy access to jobs and services and promote a walkable community.
The plan also proposes that affordable housing be included in the processes of future sector plans. This is intended to support greater distribution and integrate land use, transportation and housing affordability (policy 3.5.1).
Preference for County residents
The Board directed staff at Monday’s session to add language to the draft plan that would establish a preference for County residents during the application process for committed affordable housing (CAFs). Currently, there is no preference policy in place for CAFs. Approximately 75% of today’s CAF residents were residents or employed in the County prior to moving in.
Currently, the Federally funded-Housing Choice Voucher program has a preference for Arlington residents or for those employed here and the Housing Grants program requires a lease within the County.
Flexibility in single-family neighborhoods
High housing costs and changing family structures can mean that existing homes don’t always meet the needs of Arlington residents. The Board recognized this issue in yesterday’s session and was in favor of further study around flexibility of housing types beyond the County’s urban corridors (policy 1.1.9 and 1.2.3).
Land use and zoning policies could allow different kinds of homes and families in single-family neighborhoods to provide quality, affordable choices for multi-generational households, older individuals living on their own, young working people and others. Further study will investigate what changes could maintain neighborhood character while allowing housing choices to evolve.
The next steps for the working group and staff team will be an extensive civic engagement effort that will foster community discussion around the proposed policies and tools. Through a series of meetings, events and online engagement, staff will hear from commissions, advisory boards, associations and residents. The feedback will guide revisions to the Affordable Housing Master Plan, which the Board will consider for adoption in July 2015. At that time, the Board also will accept the Implementation Framework, with recommendations for further study.
The public is invited to a Community Forum on the Affordable Housing Master Plan and Implementation Framework on March 28, 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School.
Due to rising property values many households can no longer afford to buy or rent in Arlington, and the County has seen a dramatic decrease in its affordable housing stock even as the County has experienced more success in creating committed affordable units than most surrounding jurisdictions. Median incomes have not kept pace with the steadily rising housing costs. Between 2000 and 2013, average home sale prices increased by 140.3% while the average rent increased by 90.9%. Over the same timeframe, the County lost 13,500 affordable housing units, primarily to rent increases.
The County Board initiated the Affordable Housing Study in 2012 to evaluate existing policies; assess current programs and resources; and identify needs and gaps in provisions for affordable housing. The result will be a set of goals and policies that further the community’s values of diversity, inclusivity, choice and sustainability. These values are central to the County’s vision and help make Arlington a desirable place to live, work, learn and play.
The County Manager appointed a 19-member Affordable Housing Study Working Group to shape the community’s affordable housing vision. Together with County staff, the group has drafted an Affordable Housing Master Plan and will seek Board approval in July 2015 to include it as an element of the County’s Comprehensive Plan.
To learn more, visit the County website.