Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Voters Should Consider Housing Affordability in BOS Chairman Race

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Voters Should Consider Housing Affordability in BOS Chairman Race

With the democratic primaries in the race for Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approaching on June 11, it is important that voters take into consideration candidates’ views on the most pressing issues.

One such area of interest is a lack of affordable housing, unfair housing practices, and the threat of rising home and rent prices.

During the past few years, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has neglected this need for a greater focus on development and infrastructure that will benefit the lives of all Fairfax County residents, and has enabled the continuation of unfair housing practices that have severely impacted housing choices for people of color and those living in poverty.

As a concerned citizen, and younger resident, I am confident the Ryan McElveen will support progress that will positively impact the lives of many. As a voice from outside of the Board of Supervisors, he knows that there must be change.

This issue matters to me because, nationwide, there is a housing crisis that has prevented many young adults from taking the steps towards purchasing homes, has sapped many low-income renters of an unsustainable amount of their income, and put older individuals and those with disabilities in tenuous housing situations. According to a report from the Urban Institute, 48 percent of renters across the country experience issues with affordability. That narrative, unfortunately, is not unfamiliar to residents of Fairfax County, where more than 43 percent of renters and over a quarter of homeowners with monthly mortgage payments spend over the recommended 30 percent of their income on housing.

The Fairfax County Consolidated Annual Performance Evaluation Report (CAPER) has also shown a disparity in housing options for the county’s black population due to discriminatory lending practices. This has led to clusters of black neighborhoods and a decreased proportion of black residents in 82 percent of the county’s tracts. Minorities searching for housing are also disadvantaged due to higher rejection rates for mortgage applications and a higher rate of receiving subprime or otherwise risky loans than their white counterparts.

Additionally, I am concerned with the arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters in Northern Virginia. Reports indicate that this will most seriously impact renters, as landlords capitalize on worker influx and the boost to the local economy. For some homebuyers, the increase in housing prices may come as a positive, but many residents may be priced-out. Households with a median income in Fairfax County could not afford a median-value single family home in 2014.

Ryan McElveen is committed to protecting our population of seniors, those with disabilities, and lower-income residents by ensuring that the supply of affordable housing in Fairfax County matches demand. As Chairman, he would invest in building the 15,000 affordable housing units deemed necessary in order to do so.

Always a proponent of diversity and inclusion throughout the county, McElveen knows that there are many challenges and roadblocks that residents of color face in purchasing homes or renting at affordable rates, and that these difficulties must be addressed. McElveen advocates for a deep examination of the ways in which Fairfax County policies may be contributing to these challenges and will work hard to provide solutions to support these communities.

McElveen recognizes the interconnectivity between housing, transportation, education and opportunity, as well as other aspects of life in Fairfax County. He has seen how the divide present between the haves and have-nots has placed strains on public services and community service organizations as they work to make up for the deficits.

Strong development policies that build community, expand opportunity, and promote fair and equal practices will greatly increase the quality of life in Fairfax County. There is none better to make this change than Ryan McElveen, candidate for Board of Supervisors Chairman.

The writer is an intern working on Ryan McElveen's campaign for Board of Supervisors Chairman.