Arlington must be an affordable place to live for the middle class and where our neighbors in need can find a home. Teachers, police officers, nurses, restaurant workers and construction workers must be able to afford to live in the community in which they serve. Seniors seeking to age in place must be able to find a way to stay here. Millennials must be able to afford to rent and, one day, realize their dream of owning a home. And, yes, we must commit to affordable housing for our neighbors in need.
Our housing affordability challenges are a byproduct of Arlington being a great place to live. We cannot afford to subsidize homeownership for everyone, but we can and should support programs and land use policies that make it easier for middle class families to afford to buy a home or rent. First and foremost, we should work to preserve Market Rate Affordable Units (MARKs). Programs like the Moderate Income Purchase Assistance Program (MIPAP) are worth investing in so that first time homebuyers can buy in Arlington. And we should work relentlessly to develop new tools to keep Arlington affordable, such as affordable duplex development, exploring conversion of office space into affordable units and other innovative ideas.
Affordable Housing for our Economy and Our Neighbors in Need
While we work to maintain housing affordability for middle class Arlingtonians, we must also commit to affordable housing for our neighbors in need, both because it is good for our economy and it is the right thing to do. Research on the economic benefits of affordable housing is part of what led the Arlington Chamber of Commerce to support the Affordable Housing Master Plan, adopted in 2015. Arlington’s commitment to the challenge of affordable housing has been strong and is demonstrated by reaching a functional zero for homelessness among veterans in 2016.
We should pursue policies to continue and strengthen our commitment to affordable housing by funding the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) and the Housing Grants Program. AHIF is a revolving loan fund that generates more than $2 in additional development funding for each dollar we invest. The Housing Grant Program keeps those at risk of homelessness in their homes with limited rental assistance. Both programs are critical components of our affordable housing policy that we should fiercely support. We should also be on the lookout for new and innovative tools that may help us increase the stock of affordable units.
A commitment to affordable housing is what led me join the Housing Commission, where I serve as Vice Chair. I was also compelled to serve from 2014 to 2016 with the Affordable Housing Study Working Group, which was awarded the Ellen Boozman Affordable Housing Award in 2016. In the coming weeks, I look forward to discussing the merits of new ideas in the affordable housing space, including:
– Funding the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) to reach out affordable housing goals;
– Finding market driven approaches to increase the availability of MARKs in Arlington;
– Fair implementation of Housing Conservation Districts that takes the full range of stakeholders into account;
– Consideration of community land trusts and other innovative zoning tools to increase affordable housing stock