To the Editor:
Over the past year a majority of the current City Council has, through public conversation and legislative action, given the distinct impression that contributions to affordable housing preservation and creation are the highest priority of this local government. The Alexandria City Council has effectively placed affordable housing above schools, public safety, human services, transportation, sewer infrastructure, and the myriad of essential services of our city.
Our entire region has suffered the loss of a great number of market rate affordable housing chiefly due to rapidly escalating property valuations. We all want to ensure that our city remains a place where a variety of housing is available in order to ensure a diverse and vital community. This remains an important priority of government — but certainly not the only one.
We believe that the politics surrounding affordable housing are unfortunately trumping sound fiscal policy and allowing local representatives to make commitments that may ultimately be counterproductive. This overzealous desire may result in extensive cuts to schools, public safety, and human services at a time when our residents are relying on these services more than ever. Alternatively these commitments may force the city to levy higher tax increases than city residents, battered by an unpredictable economy and austerity at the state and federal level, can afford.
With our support, council recently approved the largest commitment of taxpayer dollars to affordable housing in Alexandria’s history as well as approving the largest developer contribution of affordable housing ever. Furthermore, we strongly support the robust collection of new land-use tools contained in our city’s draft Housing Master Plan that will place us ahead of our neighbors in aggressively using our zoning authority to create and preserve affordable housing.
Good stewardship of taxpayer dollars requires that we carefully weigh the priorities of our community and focus our resources on our most critical needs. Spending dollars that we have not even received before we know the demands of the future is no way to provide that stewardship and is not a prudent way to govern.
Paul Smedberg and
Alexandria City Council