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Week in Arlington

Housing Commission Approves Loan To Buckingham Developer

The Housing Commission, a group created by the county to advise the Arlington County Board on housing issues, approved a $7 million loan to a developer remaking the historic Buckingham Village apartment complex last week.

Paradigm Development Company will use the loan, which will max out the county's affordable housing funds for this year, to provide 100 apartments in the redeveloped complex with rents lower than the market value.

The Buckingham Village issue has been a thorny one in Arlington ever since Paradigm, the owner of the property, proposed building luxury condos on the site early last year. The apartment complex, located off of George Mason Drive north of Arlington Boulevard, is home to many of Arlington’s low-income families.

Paradigm signed a memo of understanding with the County Board last summer stating that they would keep at least 300 of Buckingham’s apartments at affordable rates, which would allow many but not all of its current residents to stay.

Stan Slaughter is a member of Paradigm’s board and is also on the Housing Commission. He recused himself from the vote due to the conflict of interests.

Slaughter said that Paradigm would use the loan to make the 100 apartments affordable for people who make less than 60 percent of the county’s median income.

He also said that Paradigm would designate 60 additional apartments for people who make between 60 and 80 percent of the median income because close to half of the current Buckingham residents fall into this category.

"We have anecdotal evidence of [Buckingham] households with two jobs [that] wouldn’t qualify for affordable housing," Slaughter said. He said that with the 60 additional apartments for middle-income households, many of these residents wouldn't have to move.

Melissa Bondi, chair of the Housing Commission, also added, "Buckingham Village will not be rebuilt all in the same year or at the same time." She said that this staggered redevelopment will make it easier for displaced residents to find new housing.

Several Buckingham residents attended the Housing Commission's meeting to voice their support for the affordable housing loan. "I've been [at Buckingham] for 18 years," Del Roberts said, "And I want to be there for quite a while longer." "I hope everything works out [with the affordable housing]," Harry Anthony said.

The Housing Commission is strictly an advisory group. The final decision on the loan to Paradigm will be made by the County Board at their March 20 meeting. The meeting will be held at the County Government Offices at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. at approximately 6:45 p.m. and is open to the public.

— David Schultz

Swanson MS Teacher Named APS Teacher Of The Year

Colleen Dykema, an Englsih language teacher at Swanson Middle School, has been named Arlington Public Schools' Teacher of the Year.

Dykema specializes in the high intensity language training (HILT) program that teaches foreign students English. She has been at Swanson for seven years and has been involved in the language training program for four.

"Colleen ensures that Arlington's students will succeed in the classroom and in life," Superintendent of Schools Robert Smith said.

She began her teaching career in 1972 teaching English in a German high school. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s she taught at other Washington-area schools such as Ballou Senior High School and Montgomery Elementary School in the District.

Dykema earned a degree in French literature from the University of Aix-Marseilles in 1971 and received her masters in international affairs in 1978. But she did not receive her certification in teaching English as a second language until 2000.

"Through her experience with English language learners, Colleen was inspired to go back to school to complete her certification," said Chrystal Forrester, Swanson's principal.

Dykema has sponsored several student activities in her years at Swanson and is a member of Teachers as Readers, a group of HILT teachers who read, discuss and recommend novels for adaptation in the program.

She will be one of 20 Washington-area teachers honored at the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Awards on April 26.