A Good Place for Affordable Housing in Fairfax County?

A Good Place for Affordable Housing in Fairfax County?

Proposal could be a step toward 5,000 unit goal.


Board Matters: James Walkinshaw

Braddock Supervisor James Walkinshaw located prime real estate to create 200-250 family units of affordable housing: two parking lots of the Fairfax Government Center.

“It has been a priority of this Board since before I was elected to identify county owned land to devote to the construction of affordable housing. I don’t know that there is a better location in the county than this,” said Walksinshaw, at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. “We have an opportunity to provide high-quality housing in an area where there are thousands of employment opportunities, transit access, commercial offices nearby, retail nearby, and an elementary school in walking distance.”

The Board of Supervisors reports that at least 15,000 net new affordable housing units are needed during the next 15 years to help meet the housing needs of residents at all income levels.

“The market is obviously not providing low income housing. It’s up to us to figure out a way to do it,” said Dranesville Supervisor John Foust

THE COST OF HOUSING, including rentals, in Fairfax County is out of reach for many who work in Fairfax, said Lee Supervisor Rodney Lusk. “Housing is foundational,” he said.

“There are people working here in this building right now who need affordable housing,” said Chairman Jeff McKay.

“It absolutely cannot be overstated what a need we have for housing in our community,” said Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchik. “It’s not the easiest to find opportunities, I appreciate the opportunity to see what can be done here.”

“The Board made a commitment,” said Sully Supervisor Kathy Smith. “This is a good place to see what could happen.”

Environmentally, taking existing parking lots at office parks to create housing in the county, is better than open space projects that require the destruction of trees.

“The idea of taking our parking lots which are underutilized [and] in some cases utilize them for public housing particularly when they are publicly owned is a no brainer. This is something we need to look at in a number of other different places in the county,” said Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

The Redevelopment Housing Authority in 2017 created 270 units at Residences at Government Center. Walkinshaw recommended advising the housing authority that this could be another viable project.

CHAIRMAN, Jeff McKay reminded everyone about the necessary land use process that includes the requirement of public input. He said the Board’s action Tuesday simply advises the Redevelopment Housing Authority of the possibility, not that the Board has approved any specific project.

Mason Supervisor Penny Gross and Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity voiced concerns.

“I understand there’s no plans for this to be senior or disabled low income housing; those are my thresholds for approving certainly workforce housing,” said Herrity.

“I have mixed feelings on this one. This gives me pause,” said Gross. “I do not object asking the question, and support this Board matter for asking the questions but do have concerns for the location.”

“We need to be very careful about the public space that we have here at the government center and the opportunities for large events that we don’t have any place else,” she said.