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Editorial: Small Steps to Fight Homelessness

Efficiency apartments would serve 20-somethings, service workers, retirees and more.

One way to prevent homelessness is to think small.

It doesn’t take much space to house one person. Sure, many houses in our area have 1,000 square feet and sometimes two or three times that much per person, but that’s really not necessary.

In fact 350 square feet can provide space for an excellent efficiency apartment for one person. We have certainly heard a variety of anecdotes about apartments in New York City that are smaller than 150 square feet, and expensive to boot.

A proposal in Fairfax County would allow for the construction of efficiency apartments in a variety of settings, each one subject to approval individually. Efficiency apartments near public transportation could provide reasonably priced housing not just for individuals in danger of being homeless, but also for recent college graduates, for service workers, for older folks who don’t want or can’t afford to stay in single family homes when they retire.

The move to smaller apartments and condos close to jobs, shopping and public transportation is a national trend. Fairfax County needs to move forward with a flexible proposal to allow construction of efficiency apartments in certain settings, and compatible with existing neighborhoods.

Some neighborhood associations are concerned about the proposal. They envision builders poised to build many apartment buildings filled with nothing but tiny apartments or single family homes split up into small apartment complexes.

There is no chance of such an outcome. The proposed amendment does not allow single family homes to be converted into efficiency apartments.

In fact, as a county, we would be very lucky if this proposal resulted in any efficiency apartments being built at all. The current restrictions are such that developers are unlikely to find incentive to build.

The proposed amendment requires that RSUs “shall be designed so as to be compatible with any existing development on the lot in terms of intensity, uses and scale. Additionally, the development shall be harmonious with the development on neighboring properties in terms of character, building size, height, intensity and use.”

Jeans Day

Jeans Day, coming Oct. 18, is a simple way to fight homelessness, designed for companies and their employees to make a difference.

In partnership with the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and Apple Federal Credit Union, the Connection Newspapers is a sponsor of the 3rd Annual Jeans Day to Put the ZIP on Homelessness, scheduled for Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.

Employees are allowed to wear jeans to work on Friday, Oct. 18, (Jeans Day) in exchange for a $5 employee contribution to the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness. Companies and organizations are encouraged to match employee contributions, but a match is not required. Companies and organizations that sign up by Sept. 20 will get extra exposure.

Sign up for Jeans Day 2013: Putting the ZIP on Homelessness at http://jeansday2013.eventbrite.com/.