In the latest edition of The Herrity Report, Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity proposed "redirecting developers’ $3 per square foot contribution for buying rent-controlled housing units into a trust fund to pay for public school renovation and construction."
The report proceeds to make several unsubstantiated claims regarding the number of people living in subsided housing and the growth in both the number of subsidized units and number of households in Fairfax County. However as in the past, The Herrity Report does not provide the full picture of the housing policy under discussion, and misrepresents the facts.
The Board of Supervisors adopted its housing policy in 2010 as a part of the larger plan for the redevelopment of Tysons. It is now under consideration, at the request of the board, for application in other designated high density, transit and business centers in the rest of the county. Called the ‘3-2-1’ policy, the proposal by county staff would apply a contribution from commercial development to support the construction of workforce housing in the transit or business area, as it does in the Tysons plan. The contribution would be applied on a sliding scale based on a proposed development’s proximity to a transit station. This proposal will go before the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors in the first quarter of 2014.
Why is this policy important?
To accommodate projected job growth and remain competitive within the region, it is important to ensure housing opportunities for the workforce of the future at all income levels;
Developing housing at transit stations and adjacent to employment centers encourages use of mass transit, walking and biking which can lead to fewer cars, and less congestion; it also enhances Metro revenue and reduces the pressure on local government to provide subsidies for the system;
Linking commercial development (jobs) and housing via a linkage program is an acknowledged "best practice" in hundreds of communities across the country to ensure an adequate supply of housing to support job growth.
It recognizes the changing preferences of workers/taxpayers/voters, particularly young people, to live near where they work.
The proposed policy anticipates that the contributions will be made to a housing trust fund used by the county to leverage private sector financing to develop the needed housing.
The housing that is constructed will not be owned or purchased by the county. In fact, very little of the affordable housing in the county is owned by the government.
Securing decent housing that is affordable remains a challenge for Fairfax County households earning less than $60,000.
Meeting the growing needs of our school system is also an important issue. Both education and safe, decent housing are fundamental to the well-being of our community, and residents want leadership that seeks to find workable solutions. Failing to recognize the importance of both and pitting one issue against the other are not the answers, and the citizens of Fairfax County deserve better from elected officials.
Michelle Krocker is executive director, Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance. Jim Edmondson is president of AHOME, which promotes affordable housing opportunities for families at all income levels.