On Tuesday, March 12, at the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee Meeting, Fairfax County took a major step forward in addressing the need for affordable housing in the county. The Affordable Housing Resources Panel (AHRP), a panel of stakeholders appointed by the Board, presented recommendations for Phase 2 of the county’s first-ever Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan; which looks at long-term strategies, tools, policies and resources needed to develop and preserve affordable housing in the county.
Based on data provided in Phase 1 of the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan, it is estimated that the county has a need for approximately 15,000 additional homes over the next 15 years that are affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), which is approximately $70,300 a year for a family of four. In an effort to address this need, the panel met on a monthly basis to (1) recommend an achievable goal for new production over the next 15 years using public resources, and (2) to identify resources and strategies to achieve that goal. Key recommendations presented to the Board include:
A goal of producing a minimum of 5,000 new homes, as a floor, affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of AMI over the next 15 years;
An increase in the “Penny for Affordable Housing Fund” by the equivalent of one additional cent on the real estate tax rate;
A priority of the current “half penny” for preservation projects;
A goal of no net loss of existing “market affordable” rental apartments; and
Housing affordability as a critical element of the Countywide Strategic Plan, which is currently in development.
These recommendations were developed in conjunction with other community-led initiatives, including the Embark Richmond Highway Housing Advisory Group and the recommendations included in Phase 1 of the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan.
“In order to ensure a healthy economy, reduce traffic congestion and maintain an excellent quality of life, it’s important for residents to be able to live near where they work in housing that is affordable,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said. “The Board of Supervisors tasked the Affordable Housing Resources Panel to provide us with concrete recommendations regarding affordable housing goals, as well as strategies to consider to achieve those goals. This group has presented the Board with an excellent roadmap to consider during a future budget cycle.”
Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan
Led by Fairfax County’s Department of Housing and Community Development on behalf of the Board, the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan looks to address the growing need for price-appropriate housing in Fairfax County.
Phase 1 of the Plan, adopted by the Board in June of 2018, identifies 25 short-term strategies that can be implemented, without major policy or revenue impacts, to encourage and produce additional housing units. Many of which are already underway. Most recently, the financing to preserve Murraygate Village and Parkwood Apartments, benefited directly from one of the strategies identified in Phase 1; specifically, the streamlining of the Housing Blueprint application. The process is now better aligned with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) application cycle; increasing the efficiency of the financing process, lowering local developer costs, and increasing opportunities for the development of housing for low- and moderate-income working families in the County.
“I was proud to support adoption of Phase 1 of the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan and was happy to make the motion for the creation of the Affordable Housing Resources Panel in July of 2018,” notes Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, Hunter Mill District. “The recommendations provided by the panel are a wonderful step forward in ensuring we remain committed to finding creative and innovative solutions to addressing affordable housing here in Fairfax County.”
The Phase 2 recommendations presented to the Board will inform the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Guidance; which could be incorporated in the county’s Adopted Fiscal Year 2020 Budget.
“I applaud the work of the AHRP in helping to address such a critical need in our community,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay, Lee District. “As Chairman of the Budget Committee, I look forward to moving the recommendations from the panel forward. Affordable housing must continue to be a top County priority. While the county budget includes funding for affordable housing programs, there are more things operationally and financially that we can do. As Embark comes to fruition and Amazon HQ2 arrives, we know we need to continue creating and preserving affordable housing for all.”
The county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (AHAC), a group consisting of non-profit leaders, stakeholders, members of the business community, and the real estate industry that advises the Board on affordable housing issues, will monitor and track the recommendations and progress.
The Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan supports Fairfax County’s Countywide Strategic Plan process and marks a continuation of Fairfax County’s emphasis on building and maintaining a vibrant, resilient community. For more information on the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan and the AHRP recommendations, please visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/housing/communitywideplan.