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Votes

Letter to the Editor: Imposing User Fees on the Poor

To the Editor:

In Michael Lee Pope's article [“Smart Growth Vs. Affordable Housing,” Jan. 17], the premise is that Alexandria must choose between smart growth and affordable housing. Certainly, in its vote about the imposition of parking fees on the new building at 3600 Jefferson Davis Highway, that's the way that the Alexandria City Council seems to have framed the question.

The real question, and Council members Chapman and Silberberg deserve kudos for getting it, is imposing user fees on the poor. By charging for parking in this new building, no one has incentives to use the BRT or Metro whose work is not already accessible to public transit. People who work near transit will use transit. People who work far from transit need cars, just as people who shop for groceries need a car.

Imposing a fee on the poor to park their car requires a higher level of income to qualify to rent these new apartments. Federal guidelines call for a person's shelter cost (that is rent plus parking fees) to be no more than 30 percent of income. The $500 in parking fees will mean that renters will need an additional roughly $1700 in income each year to qualify to live in these new apartments.

$1700 doesn't sound like a lot, but every fee generates additional costs and before you know it, affordable housing doesn't serve those who need it the most.

Smart growth and affordable housing work together. The wise act by AHC to locate this development adjacent to BRT means that its residents have a transit option. The wise investment by the City Council in this development means that the city will assist in creating small affordable housing in the face of the tide it has lost, and continues to lose.

Locating affordable housing near transit and jobs potentially removes a vehicle from having to travel through our streets (and over a long distance) to get to a job in Alexandria. That's smart growth and affordable housing working together. Imposing a parking fee on renters of this housing, however, turned an "and" into an "or" and Alexandria's lower income workers lost out.

Herb Cooper-Levy