2020 “Out of Reach Report” Highlights Need for Lower Income Housing, Fairfax County Housing is Making Huge Strides
The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently released its 2020 Out of Reach Report, and the data continues to reveal the ongoing gap between renter income and the high cost of housing – particularly in Fairfax County.
Affordable Housing: A Fairfax County Priority
The Coronavirus has revealed a new breed of hero in our communities. These include healthcare workers, childcare providers, restaurant workers and servers, grocery store clerks, construction workers, custodians and many others who are risking their health day in and day out to keep us healthy, safe, and to keep our communities functioning during these unprecedented times. The fact of the matter is that many of these workers do not earn sufficient income to afford a home in Fairfax County.
Any way you slice it, our entire community pays a steep price with a lack of sufficient price-appropriate housing for households of all income bands – for example:
Traffic: More vehicles on our roadways transporting workers who can only afford to live in surrounding jurisdictions and do not have access to public transit networks.
Environmental: More carbon emissions generated due to increased traffic.
Economic Development: Businesses seek to invest and bring jobs to communities that can support and sustain their workforce – housing affordability across a variety of income levels is a major component.
The One Fairfax Social and Racial Equity Policy is built on the fundamental idea that we all do better when WE ALL do better. The strength of our collective community is predicated upon the strength of our residents, and that strength is born in the home. An affordable, safe and stable home environment is a critical contributor to a quality education and childhood development, good health, and economic self-sufficiency.
“Affordable housing continues to be a priority in Fairfax County, and despite the impacts of COVID-19, the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Redevelopment and Housing Authority are re-doubling our efforts to find new and creative ways to build, finance and incentivize housing affordability countywide,” said Tom Fleetwood, Director of the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development. “We need affordable housing options in every community—bringing opportunity to islands of disadvantage that exist throughout the county and providing access to every advantage, resource and service Fairfax County has to offer to all our residents regardless of race, income level or zip code. Affordable housing development will be a critical component of our recovery from the pandemic.”
Progress Continues Toward Affordable Housing Goal
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors established a minimum goal for the county to produce no fewer than 5,000 new units of affordable housing within the next 15 years. The Board has also established a goal of “No Net Loss” of the county’s existing stock of affordable housing. The Department of Housing and Community Development and the Redevelopment and Housing Authority are making substantial progress along a number of fronts in promoting additional affordable housing opportunities:
Building New Affordable Housing
The county recently broke ground on the Residences at North Hill Housing Development which will create 279 new affordable multi-family units along Richmond Highway in the Mount Vernon District.
The county has a robust pipeline of projects in various stages of development including Oakwood Senior Apartments (150 independent living apartments, Lee District), One University (240 multifamily apartments to be located adjacent to George Mason University, Braddock District), and Autumn Willow (150 senior independent living apartments, Springfield District).
Investing in Affordable Housing Construction and Preservation
The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority provided loans and applied project-based vouchers to The Arden (126 multifamily apartments, Mount Vernon District), and the New Lake Anne House (replacement/preservation of 240 units of affordable senior living, Hunter Mill District).
The FCRHA recently issued a Notice of Funding Availability for more than $20 million in local and state funding to support non-profit and for-profit developers to build new or preserve existing affordable housing.
The FCRHA is continuing to receive and allocate state and federal resources for the construction and/or preservation of affordable housing to benefit the county’s most vulnerable residents – including extremely low-income households, residents with developmental disabilities and permanent supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness.
Incentivizing Affordable Housing Development
The Workforce Dwelling Unit Task Force recently submitted recommendations to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for updates to the WDU Policy in order to align it with current market conditions and ensure that incentives are properly directed to better serve lower-income households. Staff will begin community engagement to introduce proposed policy changes in fall 2020.
The Board of Supervisors also commissioned the Affordable Housing Preservation Task Force to include a wide range of industry expertise to study the existing conditions threatening the county’s aging stock of affordable housing. The task force will review and recommend policies and practices the county may consider to achieve the Board’s objective of “No Net Loss” of existing affordable housing units.
Today the need is greater than it has ever been, and Fairfax County is more resolved than ever before to accept nothing less than success when it comes to providing affordable rental homes for our most vulnerable residents; helping prospective first-time homebuyers enter the market; and providing the assistive services needed for all our residents to advance on the path of self-sufficiency and independence.