Diversity

Would you rather have...

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diversity and affordability with 1940's garden apartments

or

millionaires' row townhouses of the 2010's and 2020's?

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ASF supports an inclusive Arlington that reflects a multiplicity of races, ethnicities, gender orientations, abilities, ages, religions, and occupational skills.  However, the increasing pace of development beginning in the 1990's has priced many residents out, many who made our community more diverse.  We continue to lose our well-rounded a mix of federal or local government employees, racial and ethnic minorities, seniors, refugees, and low-wage earners. 

We support emphasizing the creation of apartment coops and non-market solutions to affordable housing such as community land trusts and rent vouchers for existing residents. 

We acknowledge the county’s efforts through the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF), but believe builders are not and never will be able to produce enough non-market rate units.

ASF supports increased compensation for our teachers and first-responders.

Current Developments

The county has encouraged development that has caused a net loss of 14,000 market-rate affordable units (MARKs), units that do not require any government or builder subsidy, from 2000-2018.   Partly to address this loss of MARK's, in 2012 the county required -- through a zoning overlay known as Form-Based Code -- new development for Columbia Pike to include 25-35% affordable units, for both rentals and condos.  The builders were given in exchange substantial "bonus density" that allows them to recoup these investments in affordable housing.  FBC was designed to limit displacement while still allowing more intense development.  In early 2020, the county began reviewing options to amend the FBC, and staff proposed in October 2020 to open the affordable ownership (but not the rental) program to households earning 80%-100% of area median income.  County staff report the current cap at 60% of AMI has shown that owners at that income level struggle to keep up with HOA/repair costs.

As the affordable programs allow builders to gain density, ASF believes that the change to income qualifications for residents along Columbia Pike would have incentivized owners of rental units to convert their holdings to condos, adding MORE density than planned with the current zoning code.  It would be tantamount to a displacement incentive in the midst of a pandemic.  The proposal was deferred in October 2020, but the idea is likely to resurface in the review of the Affordable Housing Master Plan.  See resources below for the original staff proposal and the ASF recommendation it be rejected.  You may also find extensive community inputs at the Columbia Heights Civic Association.  See also ASF's analysis of how the Form-Based code review fits into other county initiatives, including Missing Middle Housing, that would elevate middle income over lower income earners. 

Arlington's Record on Diversity

  • In 2016, the county begins redevelopment of arteries such as Columbia Pike, demolishing affordable shopping area for diverse  communities in Green Valley and Arlington Mill, among others. 

  • Langston Boulevard (originally debuted as Plan Lee Highway) project that is awaiting Spring 2022 Preliminary Concept Plan will affect traditional African-American community in Halls Hill and remove several market-rate affordable apartment complexes, while Columbia Pike,  Shirlington, and Foxcroft Heights "upscaling" puts pressure on  longstanding African-American  communities in Green Valley, Penrose, Arlington View, and other nearby communities.

  • Arlington welcomes Vietnamese refugees in the 70's but loses them again due to redevelopment starting in the 1990's.

  • Arlington welcomes Salvadoran refugees in the 1980's. The 1980's and 1990's continue to see rise in Arlington's Latino population, especially from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Bolivia.  Some redevelopment negative impacts these communities, reducing available market rate housing, such as Arna Valley.

  • The rapid influx of government workers during WWII (which also displaced African-American communities and closed the main source of employment for African-American men in Arlington) is reversed in the 90's and 2000's through rezoning and development, as well as economic changes that exacerbate uneven income distribution.  These shifts away from government employment also remove source of middle-class employment and access to home ownership for many Arlington minority populations.

  • Arlington seniors and many on fixed income are priced out in the 2000's as development raises property taxes and fixed incomes don't keep pace

Resources