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Board-Approved Amendment to WDU Policy Enhances Housing Affordability

Following a public hearing, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the Workforce Dwelling Unit Policy (WDU Policy) contained in the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The policy amendment comes as the result of a two-year effort which included the formation of a multi-disciplinary WDU Task Force and extensive public engagement.

The Countywide and Tysons WDU Policies incentivize developers to include affordable units for households with low- and moderate-incomes within their market-rate residential developments.

The WDU Policy provides developers with a “density bonus” in exchange for the inclusion of committed affordable units as a component of their residential development. Simply put, developers can build more market rate rental units if they commit to the provision of WDUs at below-market rents to serve residents with low- and moderate-incomes. Today’s amendment enhances the County’s affordable housing policies by increasing the affordability of the committed rental units to households earning between 60 and 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).

“This is a very positive development and really helps us adapt the WDU policy to the realities of the 2021 housing market in fulfilling the housing needs across income tiers among our residents,” said Dranesville Supervisor John Foust, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Housing Committee. “In recalibrating the allocation of affordability in the WDU Policy, we are ensuring that future WDUs provided by the program are being targeted for our essential workers earning low-to-moderate incomes.”

The following chart compares the previous policies to those adopted.

The blue text in the table identifies the units serving households earning below 80% of AMI.

According to the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan, Fairfax County has a countywide goal of producing a minimum of 5,000 new affordable homes by the year 2034. Fairfax County works to enhance the development of affordable housing by building new and preserving existing affordable units; investing local funds and allocated state and federal resources to facilitate private and non-profit development; and promoting housing policies – like the WDU Policy – which incentivize the inclusion of affordable units in market-rate developments. Since the approval of the WDU Policy, about 1,700 WDUs (nearly all of them rental units) have been created.

“Providing more housing opportunities for our residents is a community-wide priority that requires partnership and unity of vision when it comes to local government and housing providers,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay. “The WDU Policy has long stood as an example of how such cooperation can be successfully achieved in striking a balance to responsibly incentivize housing providers to include committed affordable homes in their market-rate housing development plans. With an increasing share of our families experiencing severe housing cost burden, now is the time to ensure we have mechanisms in place to provide new affordable housing to our workforce across lower income levels throughout the County.”

The Board of Supervisors may consider amendments to the WDU Policy specific to Reston through the Reston Comprehensive Plan Study Task Force. Policy discussions and recommendations will take into consideration the specific requirements and expectations of development in Reston.

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