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Letter: Small Area Plan Disaster

To the Editor:

As some of you may know, I voiced an opinion about the proposed Arlandria Re-Development plan that praised the concept, the new tax revenue, the revitalization of the area and the addition of developer funded affordable housing units. As this letter progresses, please keep in mind that as the developer in Arlandria adds affordable units, it is not tearing a single one down.

Just hours ago I returned from the Beauregard Small Area Redevelopment Planning meeting.

As was made public, six different developers are planning a phased demolion of multiple buildings to make way for high end multi-family buildings meant to revitalize the area and, presumably provide housing for the 6,000 or so new BRAC-133 employees; in essence, this is the city’s way of sponsoring a multi-company "un-BRAC-ing" of BRAC. And while the city failed miserably in bringing the BRAC-133 building here in the first place, it now intends to spend an additional $60,000,000 to assist this redevelopment, assuming by 2040 when the project is complete it will have been paid back approximately $30,000,000 of its initial investment.

The public is being led to believe a number of very positive things, some of which are true but, the lies are not merely lies, they are horrifying.

Some truths and positives:

The site plan is beautiful, connects other neighborhoods, increases tax revenue and adds open spaces.

A new Fire Department housing nearly 30 employees on an Engine, Ladder Truck and EMS Vehicle is priority #1.

A botanical reserve is be instituted.

Additional Mass Transit options are going to be added.

But as is often the case, here lays the "rub."

The developers, specifically one very vocal representative of the multi-billion dollar JBG Companies suggest that by 2040 they will have added more than 700 "dedicated" Affordable Housing Units.

So this begs the question; what is "affordable"?

According to the City and its partner developers, the plan calls for these Affordable Housing units to be available to individuals and families, depending on unit, who earn as a household or individual somewhere between 50 percent and 80 percent of our regions AMI (average median income). For the record, our area’s AMI is a little bit over $100,000 per year. So now we know that the new 700+ Affordable Housing units are to be reserved for individuals who earn nearly 8X the American and Virginia Poverty Line Threshold.

So my first question is this? $80,000 per year is worthy of dedicated Affordable Housing?

As these building in the Beauregard Small Area Redevelopment Plan are, as the city says, "demolished" and 700+ "affordable units" are built in conjunction with thousands of luxury market rate units, one can only assume that the forced relocation is happening to tenants who may or may not meet that 50-80 percent AMI? Maybe close? We don’t know.

The city and its partner developers have refused to survey the area’s current residency to assess the AMI of the site as it stands now. The city and their partner developers are toasting champagne over the fact that they believe 700+ "affordable" units will represent the largest single cluster of Affordable Housing in the city. What they do not know is this; it is highly likely that the current residency of the area represents the largest single cluster of affordably priced multi-family units in the city.

So as the existing Beauregard Small Area infrastructure is torn down and the developers provide so called "relocation assistance", where do we expect these residents to go? Are there enough units in the city for which a $30,000/year income qualifies? What about incomes even lower than that? Are there enough units in general?

When I asked what the city will do or recommend should say, 1,500 or so people be displaced without any available housing options, the response was simple … there was no tangible response. One city official suggested they may just have to move outside of Alexandria.

This is despicable.

Keep in mind that as a Republican candidate for Alexandria City Council I am a huge proponent of retail and residential development, increased tax revenue and the lowering of taxes but, I am never for the dehumanization of our citizens.

I am for Alexandrians first and right now, as we’re mere days away from this redevelopment plan being put into force, it seems the City and I disagree on that point.

It seems the City is aligned entirely with these six different developers and are placing Alexandrians second.

We are about to forcefully remove nearly 2,000 individuals and families from a housing environment they can afford and replace them with around 700 "affordable" units meant for renters who earn enough to drive a Lexus to work.

What does the city say about the forced expulsion of these tenants? "Attrition will take care of most of it."

If you were unsure, this is what attrition really means … the raising of rents so high that residents can no longer afford to stay.

Be aware Alexandria, you are not a priority. Not right now anyways.

Scott Gordon

Alexandria