Comment Board

Comments By DateComments By Board

Herb Cooper-Levy (user 328) - Comments by Date

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 | Alexandria Housing Master Plan