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Two Op-eds on Affordable Housing Master Plan

On Sunday, we growled about the 47-29 vote by the Arlington County Civic Federation to support Arlington County's latest iteration of a so-called affordable housing plan. The main concern is that the County Manager suggests that a 50% increase in the annual supply of s0-called affordable housing comes free, or at least she told the Arlington County Board the freshly minted affordable house master plan will "impose no immediate financial commitment."

In his "Right Note" column today at ARLnow.com, Mark Kelly addresses several partisan issues that resulted from Tuesday's primary elections, but comments on affordable housing in Arlington County, writing:

"Throughout the last decade, the County Board has had a stated goal of improving housing affordability. And, this has been a County Board controlled exclusively by Democrats until last year. Yet, there is little the County Board has tried on the housing front over the last decade has changed the trajectory of housing affordability. In fact, our Board relies on these ever-increasing property values to fund its lavish spending habits.

< . . . >

"At some point, maybe we will all just admit that housing is simply not going to be affordable in Arlington over the long haul. It is the laws of supply and demand at work. Arlington is conveniently located to our nation’s capitol and people are willing to pay a premium to live here. At the same time, governments have been trying to change the laws of economics for years, so I wouldn’t look for the Arlington County Board to stop claiming it can now."

In a more analytical op-ed, Peter Rousselot uses his "Peter's Take" column to say the plan "needs much more work." Rousselot writes:

"The County Board might adopt in July a new “Affordable Housing Master Plan.” There is justified concern in the County about “affordability.” But, rising property taxes also adversely affect affordability.

"I support an appropriate level of taxpayer subsidies for affordable housing. However, it is poor public policy to commit the County to specific numerical affordable housing goals and other controversial policy changes without a thorough community conversation about:

  • direct costs to taxpayers of these subsidies,
  • opportunity costs (i.e., what tax dollars cannot be spent on core services (e.g., schools, parks, roads) in order to fund these subsidies), and
  • other neighborhood impacts (i.e., increased density).
"The County has neither requested from its staff nor provided the community with these dollar costs and impacts. Therefore, final Board action on the plan should be deferred."

He also reviews the key points of the Arlington County Civic Federation's Revenues & Expenditures (R&E) committee report that was also presented to Federation delegates at last Tuesday's Federation meeting.

Rousselot says the county needs to do two things:

  1. Provide a detailed analysis of the impact of this plan on other County services, our neighborhoods and our taxes.  The analysis must include estimates of the impact on our already overcrowded schools.  Up to 15,800 new housing units means a lot of new families and new students.  Where will we put the schools?  How will we pay for them?
  2. Then facilitate a balanced community conversation about all of the plan’s potential impacts.

He also acknowledges that time is needed to do the detailed analyses as well as time to communicate and discuss those results with the community. Consequently, he says the final adoption of the plan should be postponed until after the November 2015 elections, giving the new Board -- with two new members -- the opportunity to approve and implement the plan.

Given the fiscal implications for taxpayers of Arlington County, we urge Growls readers to review not only the two policy documents -- 1) Affordable Housing Master Plan and 2) Implementation Framework -- but also the R&E committee's report cited by Rousselot in his column -- repeated here -- and then contact members of the Arlington County Board. You can reach them by clicking-on the link below, or call them:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

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