- Sets goals for increasing supply, ensuring access, improving sustainability
- Addresses geographic distribution
- County Board identifies priority next steps drawn from accepted Implementation Framework
The Arlington County Board today adopted the County’s first Affordable Housing Master Plan as an element of the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The plan, a culmination of a three-year community effort, will prepare Arlington for the next generation of sustainable, affordable housing that supports our people, improves our neighborhoods and strengthens our economy. The plan’s Implementation Framework, an accompanying document, was accepted by the Board as administrative guidance.
“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.” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “Hundreds of community members have contributed deeply to creating this updated policy blueprint. Their ideas, incorporated in the Affordable Housing Master Plan and implemented over time, will guide future County Board decisions and investments that sustain our diversity, our great neighborhoods, our outstanding schools and our local economy. In the end we — and the generations that follow us — will all benefit from the great thinking that went into this plan.”
The County Board vote was 5-0 to adopt the Master Plan. To read the staff report for this item, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #45 on the Agenda for the Saturday, Sept. 19 County Board Meeting.
Three primary goals
The plan is organized around three goals that address the County’s growing affordability challenges:
- Increase supply
Arlington’s success at attracting residents, visitors, investors and businesses has brought many benefits to the community. At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult for the County to retain a sufficient supply of housing affordable to households with low- and moderate-incomes.
Rental Supply: 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. 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).
Growth projections show that by 2040, 17.7 percent of Arlington’s households are projected to be low-income renters – at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). 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.
Ownership Supply: The rapid increase in home prices in the early 2000s have placed the single-family detached home beyond the reach of many middle-income families. At present, the primary ownership opportunities for these families are in the County’s stock of condominiums.
The plan’s ownership supply goal is for 28.4 percent of the County’s added ownership housing stock affordable for households at or below 120 percent AMI. In terms of units, the plan’s goal is to supply 2,700 affordable ownership units by 2040.
- Ensure access
Housing supply alone does not address all of the community’s housing needs. Enabling access to both market rate and affordable housing is a necessary component of addressing housing needs, particularly for very low- and extremely low-income individuals and families. The plan’s second goal is intended to aid the County in fulfilling its vision as a diverse and inclusive community where all segments of the population can access housing, including those living with disabilities or aging in place.
- Contribute to a sustainable community
The third goal of the plan is to contribute to environmental, economic and community sustainability. Policies within this goal ensure safe and decent housing, coordinate land use and transportation and incorporate environmental best practices.
Addresses geographic distribution and implementation
The plan addresses geographic distribution with a three-tiered solution:
- Preserve existing affordable units where they currently exist
- Locate affordable housing close to transit corridors, including bus routes
- Further study land use and zoning policies to allow a variety of housing types beyond urban corridors
The Implementation Framework, which the Board accepted as administrative guidance, identifies existing and potential tools the County can use to achieve these goals. The Board directed the Manager to focus on four implementation areas over the next 2 years:
- Develop indicators and evaluation tools to support annual monitoring of the AHMP goals (June 2016).
- Propose revisions to the AHIF guidelines and associated procedures that advance the AHMP’s goals and bring to the County Board for consideration (Fall 2016).
- Develop zoning ordinance proposals that advance the AHMP’s goals, including (Spring 2017):
- adjustments to the existing accessory dwelling unit ordinance;
- identification of land use tools for use adjacent to currently unplanned transportation corridors with dependable transit service; and
- identification of existing MARK-heavy areas that could be candidates for small-area plans.
- Develop tools for the County Board’s consideration that could support the preservation of existing affordable condominiums (Spring/Summer 2017).
- Review the Real Estate Tax Relief Program history, goals and guidelines, and consider redefinition of income levels, asset levels and criteria for exemption or deferral. Report back in the context of the FY 2017 budget deliberations.
Arlington has a history of affordable housing leadership
Arlington’s affordable housing legacy began as the first modern wave of federal employees searched for a home close to their work in downtown DC or the Pentagon during World War II. This legacy evolved over the last half century as Arlington planned for and opened the Orange and Blue Metro rail lines, precipitating more multi-family housing and bringing tens of thousands of additional jobs.
Over the years, Arlington adopted a series of housing policies and tools to support housing programs. These efforts resulted in the production and preservation of nearly 7,000 affordable units.
In 2012, the County Board recognized that market forces continued to raise the cost of housing and threatened a continued loss of affordable units. Therefore, it initiated the Affordable Housing Study to evaluate existing policies; assess current programs and resources; and identify needs and gaps in provisions for affordable housing.
The County Manager appointed an 18-member Affordable Housing Study Working Group to shape the community’s affordable housing vision. Together with County staff, the group drafted the plan based on research, a thorough needs analysis, in-depth forecasting, surveys, working group meetings and extensive community outreach and input.
View the Affordable Housing Master Plan.
View the Implementation Framework.
Read more about the Affordable Housing Study.