As the costs of housing skyrocket in Alexandria, those without the means to keep up with trends are often shut out. For years, community leaders have been scratching their heads in an effort to figure out ways to preserve affordable housing. Behind the scenes, though, one organization has been consistently pushing the envelope — encouraging City Council members to set aside a dedicated source of funding and pushing for the creation of a city-organized housing corporation.
"One of the best ways to preserve affordable housing is to forge relationships between public and private sectors," said John Porter, chairman of the United Way. "And Housing Action has led that charge for a long time."
As part of the United Way’s annual reorganization meeting in which Porter was elected chairman, several awards were presented to individuals and organizations in an effort to award distinguished community service. The Alexandria Gazette Packet Award went to Jim Hoben and Nancy Carson of Housing Action for "mobilizing community support, providing information and creating a strong community voice to encourage the city of Alexandria to preserve and provide affordable housing."
"One of our biggest goals is to preserve remaining affordable housing units in Alexandria," said Hoben. "We’ve lost too many."
Hoben said that one of Housing Action’s major accomplishments was the group’s advocacy for one penny of the real-estate tax rate to be preserved for affordable housing. This year alone, the program is expected to set aside $3.4 million. Another major accomplishment of the group, Hoban said, was the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation — a private, non-profit owner and developer of low and moderate-income housing.
"The original role of the AHDC was to develop affordable housing," said Hoben. "But a new role has emerged for the group in terms of managing affordable housing units."
Housing Action is a coalition of citizens committed to finding and implementing constructive approaches to preserving the availability of affordable housing in Alexandria. Its leaders support a community-wide effort including faith groups, the business community, non-profit organizations and neighborhood groups.
"The next step for the city is to set a target for how many units of affordable housing are needed in this city," said Carson. "Then we need to find a funding source."