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Letter: City Can’t Subsidize Rents

There have been recent discussions in Alexandria about whether the city should purchase apartment complexes and convert them to subsidized affordable housing units. There are several factors why this is not the most economical approach to retain affordable housing, which is an important challenge that needs to be addressed.

Alexandria's population of 140,000 residents consists of approximately 50 percent renters and 50 percent homeowners. The core responsibilities of the city are to provide police and fire services, road maintenance and improve the school system. The advantage of being one of the most prosperous communities in America is that our property values have remained strong through the great recession. The average non-condo home is assessed at $620,000 in the city. One of the disadvantages, however, is that Alexandria is an expensive place to call home, where the average one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,380 per month.

Housing has become a major challenge for people in our city, and the City Council continues to do what is within our control to provide affordable housing to residents. Virginia is one of 45 states that does not have rent control. This means that the government cannot tell a private landlord what to charge for rent. The city's role comes into place during negotiations with developers who plan new projects in the city. Recently, Council approved new developments in Arlandria, Braddock Metro and the Eisenhower Valley, and we will be voting on the Beauregard plan where millions of dollars have been negotiated to preserve affordable housing for hard-working Alexandrians.

The city needs to be selective in its spending and the major projects it undertakes. Purchasing apartments and subsidizing rents are not economically viable for the city. When the debt grows, the results are usually answered by increased taxes on our citizens and businesses. With thousands of additional market-rate apartments in the construction pipeline throughout the city, increased competition for new apartment tenants will likely keep rents from rising rapidly. In the meantime, City Council will continue to negotiate with developers for more affordable housing options for our citizens to continue to call Alexandria home.

Frank H. Fannon, IV

Alexandria City Council