Opinion: Commentary: Affordable Housing – A Braddock District Tradition

Opinion: Commentary: Affordable Housing – A Braddock District Tradition

Despite our community’s incredible collective response to COVID-19, the pandemic has shined a light on the areas where we have room to improve. Ensuring access to housing that is affordable for families at all income levels is one of those areas.

In the Braddock District, you need to earn $64,000 per year to afford the average one-bedroom market-rate apartment. To put that into context, based on 2015 figures, the average salary of a retail salesperson was $29,552. For a security guard, the average salary was $31,850. For too many in our community, the market is failing to provide housing that is affordable relative to their household incomes.

Many of those who have been priced out of Fairfax County or are being forced to spend too much of their monthly income on housing are the very frontline workers that we have all been celebrating over the course of this difficult year, including home health care workers, nurses, grocery store employees, delivery drivers, and even police officers and firefighters.

To address this challenge, the previous Board of Supervisors set a minimum goal of delivering 5,000 new affordable housing units over the next 15 years. Given that the cost of land is the most significant obstacle to building affordable housing, identifying under-utilized county-owned land is a key strategy. The award-winning Residences at Government Center, spearheaded by former Chairmen Gerry Connolly and Sharon Bulova, is a prime example. This project used a public-private partnership to provide 270 apartments affordable to teachers, police, and firefighters on the Government Center campus. The financial strength of this project came from leveraging county land and using Low-Income Housing Tax Credits for funding.

I believe a similar opportunity exists to redevelop a portion of the existing parking lot at the main Government Center with approximately 200 to 250 multi-family units and up to 15,000 square feet of support services for future residents. With access to nearby transit, employment opportunities, retail, recreation, and an elementary school within walking distance, this site contains the features necessary for a successful neighborhood. The area is already paved, so there would be no loss of trees or other environmental features.

Here in the Braddock District, we have a proud tradition of finding creative ways to deliver affordable housing. Thanks in large part to the work of my predecessor, John Cook, we are adding 240 affordable housing units with the One University project and approximately 80 affordable units targeted to seniors on the former Northern Virginia Training Center site. We are also moving forward to add 60 new units for seniors at Little River Glen. Delivering high-quality, affordable housing on the Government Center campus would be a continuation of that Braddock District tradition, and I look forward to engaging the community over the coming months to discuss this exciting opportunity.