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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
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Alexandria Housing Master Plan

This comment forum has been set up to provide an opportunity for members of the community to ask specific questions or provide targeted feedback on components of the draft Housing Master Plan. In making comments, please be as specific as you can in identifying the concerns or questions that you have, and if appropriate, suggest alternatives that could be considered. The collective community feedback will be used to revise the draft plan.

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5 Comments

The Alexandria draft Housing Master Plan is a fine platform from which Alexandria can craft a meaningful housing policy. Such a policy must prioritize the preservation of as much of the remaining affordable housing stock as possible.

The draft contains an excellent statement of need, but only provides a single strategy to create and retain committed affordable units. That strategy is to obtain committed affordable units as part of newly constructed communities. In the best of circumstances this strategy will replace three existing affordable housing units with one affordable unit while redeveloping a community and significantly increasing its density.

By adopting a three-prong program, Alexandria can do better than this. The prongs are:

1. Prioritize the preservation of affordable units as one of the most important considerations when a rental complex seeks public approval for renovations or condominium conversion. Alexandria should make full use of existing powers like the establishment of a special affordable housing district using Title 36 (as Arlington has done with the Rosslyn Ballston corridor and is doing with Columbia Pike.) The district would require all development to retain or replace existing affordable units. Decades ago,

Alexandria adopted the requirement of a special use permit when the renovation of existing development does not meet current parking standards. This is a lever that can be used to retain affordable units as a proffer. Alexandria does not need to see more losses like The Calvert.
2. Extend Resolution 830 to include the roughly 2,000 units of privately owned federally subsidized apartments in the City. (There are another 550 of such units that are committed affordable units and thus have already been preserved.) These are HUD mortgage insured properties that were originally developed using Sections 221d3, 236 and 8 Rehabilitation. The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) has demonstrated the capacity to perform this work and should be the preferred entity to preserve this housing.
3. Provide locally funded shallow rental subsidies administered by ARHA to protect Alexandrians from being displaced from existing market affordable housing due to rent increases. Alexandria is the only one of the three central city jurisdictions that do not provide such assistance. Both Arlington and DC have done so for years. Alexandria can prevent tenant displacement in its diminishing supply of market affordable housing by creating this program. This would not be an entitlement. Each budget year, the amount of funds going to the program would be determined, with funds committed to families on a first come, first served basis.

Some may say that Alexandria cannot afford to fund these initiatives. Alexandria used to be a City that was 75% renter occupied. That City might not have been able to afford to do so. Alexandria used to be a City that provided its homes to 14,000 more modest income households than it does now. That City might not have been able to afford to do so. 2013 Alexandria can afford to fund these initiatives. It simply needs to choose to do so.

Herb Cooper-Levy (328) | User | February 13, 2013 - 6:15 PM

Thank you for all the work and care shown in this report. It is vital to our community that we provide more affordable housing. We have heard promises in the past. Let's make this work for those in need in our city.

Kathy Richards (327) | User | February 11, 2013 - 11:12 AM

Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments on the City’s Draft Housing Master Plan. As a resident of Alexandria who has witnessed, first hand as a volunteer with ALIVE!, the struggle of many families and individuals in Alexandria to afford to pay rent in addition to food, child care and other necessities, I appreciate the significant effort that has gone into the drafting of the plan. It provides a comprehensive look at the tremendous need for affordable housing in Alexandria and offers a number of strategies to address this need.

Upon review of the draft, I would like to offer the following recommendations:

• While the Master Plan does an excellent job of identifying needs, tools and obstacles, it does not provide concrete and numerical goals and a timeline for achieving them. It should present specific goals and the resources needed to achieve them.
• While a range of strategies to achieve the goals are described, there is no process or timetable for implementing the strategies. Special emphasis should, I believe, be placed on:
o Increases in the voluntary contributions from developers to the Housing Trust Fund
o Increases in the density bonus for, and streamlined approval for, projects incorporating affordable units
o Fee waivers, pre development financing and loan guarantees
o Development of city-owned property
o Use of air rights and transferable development rights
o Permitting accessory dwellings.
• Use of City-owned property is mentioned frequently, but the Master Plan does not offer a discussion or an inventory of City and surplus land. This would be particularly helpful for developers who could determine the feasibility of developing these sites.
• Perhaps most importantly, the City needs to provide funding if Alexandria is to retain existing, and develop new, affordable housing. The City used to set aside 1 penny of the real estate property tax rate and the entire amount of recordation tax revenue to fund affordable housing. Both of these funding streams, along with an increase in the voluntary contributions from developers, should be designated to the Housing Trust Fund.

Many of us moved to Alexandria because it was known as a progressive and caring City. I hope that the City will continue to care for all of the individuals and families that live and work here. The City’s commitment to funding and implementing changes that will facilitate affordable housing would demonstrate the compassion so important to a vibrant community.

Cheryl Malloy (326) | User | February 9, 2013 - 1:03 PM

Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments on the City’s Draft Housing Master Plan. As a coalition of affordable housing developers, homeless service providers, community-based organizations and advocates who serve extremely low and moderate income individuals and families, we are unanimous in our support of the fact that securing safe, affordable housing is the greatest challenge facing the families we serve, so we applaud the City for addressing this issue in a thoughtful, comprehensive way.

Upon review of the draft, we would like to offer the following recommendations:

• While significant data was referenced in the Plan regarding the need for affordable housing, no goals or targets for developing units were identified. We recommend that a process to establish annual goals or targets be developed, as well as an annual review to assess whether those goals are met;
• Strategies to provide revenue for housing production and preservation should be adopted. In particular, a dedicated revenue stream would provide certainty for developments that seek public financing as a portion of a project’s source of funds. We support the City’s recommendation to increase developer’s fees on residential and commercial development to support affordable housing;
• Ensuring housing opportunities for households of all incomes is a regional challenge and one in which the entire metro area should be actively engaged. We support the City’s outreach to neighboring jurisdictions to share and learn best practices on preservation, regulatory and financial tools and land use planning to address unmet housing needs in Alexandria.

With the loss of over 10,000 market affordable units in the last decade, rising rents, and redevelopment of the Beauregard corridor, lower income families are being priced out of Alexandria. This Plan is an important first step to ensure that sufficient housing options help Alexandria remain a successful, diverse and sustainable community with fair and equitable opportunities for all of its citizens. We look forward to working with City staff and Council to refine the draft Plan and adopt a document that contains the implementation strategies and oversight mechanisms as well as the financial tools necessary to address the City’s housing needs.
Sincerely,
Alexandria Housing Development Corporation
ALIVE! (Alexandrians Involved Ecumenically)
Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless
Community Lodgings
Friends of Guest House
Governing Board of the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness
New Hope Housing
Nonprofit NoVA
Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance
Offender Aid and Restoration
Rebuilding Together Alexandria
Wesley Housing Development Corporation

M Krocker (325) | User | February 7, 2013 - 1:40 PM

We at Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia applaud the concerted and multi-faceted commitment of the City to address the growing need for affordable housing in Alexandria. Affordable rental units rightly remain as a desirable and worthy goal of the City’s efforts as these units address immediate and short-term needs of families, but not necessarily the long-term needs or goals of these families.

I strongly urge the City and the Office of Housing to keep on the planning table the many benefits affordable home ownership means to our community and to our families:
• GMU’s Center for Regional Analysis forecasts that for a stable, diverse, and culturally rich environment, there is a clear need for growth in the number of smaller, more affordable owner-occupied homes/units in the $200-399K range. The Habitat mission and model for affordable home ownership exactly targets families in the 35-60% range of AMI, placing them in homes in this price point
• Home ownership demonstrably promotes stable housing costs, greater commitment to building a neighborhood, and a launch pad for wealth creation through equity – with attendant generational financial stability, educational, and health impact
• Affordable home ownership creates a stable middle class and addresses the increasing wealth gap in our community

Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia stands ready to creatively address the growing need for affordable rental and ownership units in our community through public and private partnerships.

Thank you,

Rev. Dr. Jon Smoot, Executive Director

Jon Smoot (324) | User | January 24, 2013 - 4:39 PM