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Affordable Units for $2.2 Million

Five units will be accessible to people with disabilities.

Fairfax County paid $2.2 million to Athena Renaissance, LLC, Friday to buy 10 affordable dwelling units in Reston as part of the county’s continuing effort to preserve affordable housing.

“The preservation of affordable housing within Fairfax County moves quickly and strongly ahead with the purchase of these units,” said Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), who represents Reston.

The 10 units, located at ParcReston across the street from the Reston Town Center, were purchased after a year’s worth of work using money from a Community Development Block Grant, according to housing authorities. Five of the units will be made accessible to people with disabilities.

The county plans to add the units to its rental program and expects they will be lived in “within weeks,” according to Paula Sampson, director of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

Half of the accessible units, Sampson said, will be “custom-fitted” to five households that will go through the waiting list process and have need for accessibility.

Roughly a third of the 9,000 households on the county’s housing wait lists include someone with a disability, according to Kristina Norvell, director of public affairs, DHCD.

COUNTY REPRESENTATIVES have long recognized the loss of affordable housing within the county, which has cited a 30,000-unit gap in affordable housing needs.

Two years ago this month, the county created the Affordable Housing Preservation Initiative, which employs a variety of tools to increase the amount of affordable housing that is preserved.

For the past two years as part of that effort, the county has dedicated one penny from each taxpayer’s real estate tax to go toward affordable housing, totaling $18 million from last year’s budget and $22 million this year.

In addition, the county intends to preserve 1,000 affordable housing units by 2007. With the addition of the 10 units at ParcReston, the county has preserved 879 units.

“We’re losing so many [affordable] units because of the value of land and the power of market redevelopment,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D), explaining why the county adopted the measurable goal of preserving 1,000 units. “It’s not good enough to talk the talk.”

Connelly said similar preservation efforts are ongoing, specifically one near Fairfax City and another in Mt. Vernon along Richmond Highway. “We’re leaving no stone unturned in terms of how we can preserve affordable housing.”

THE COUNTY entered discussions with Athena Renaissance almost a year ago. The developer is in the middle of an application process for plans to build two, high-rise buildings with a total of 360 units at the same site.

“We approached the developer after preliminary discussions with Supervisor Hudgins to get the units here,” said Tom Devaney, a county housing specialist who helped negotiate the deal.

Athena Renaissance gave the county a “good deal” for the units. “It was well below the original market value rate. There was no formula. We just agreed to a number that the county thought would work for them,” said Sonny Small, president of Renaissance.

This is the second move the county has made to preserve affordable housing in Reston in as many months. In February, the county agreed to pay the Mark Winkler Co. $49 million to buy the 181-unit Crescent Apartments near Lake Anne. Monthly rents at the complex, considered “affordable,” run an average of $1,023 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,170 for two bedrooms.

Connolly said Friday that the 16-acre Crescent site may be considered to further support affordable housing. “We can bank that land for future development of affordable housing or do other things that might finance future affordable housing,” said Connolly.