• The next meeting will be on Thursday, April 9, 2015 7:00 PM at the Community Room of the Ballston Firehouse Station (located at Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive).

March 23, 2015

Arlington Greens recommend changes to Arlington housing assistance programs

Affordable Housing — @ 3:12 pm

Arlington Greens at their March meeting adopted the following recommendations to the County Board on ways to improve Arlington’s housing assistance program that spends many millions of dollars in local revenues annually:
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Arlington Greens urge the Arlington County Board in its deliberations over the 2016 budget to make significant changes to the nearly $36 million in local revenues spent for housing assistance to Arlington residences, as follows:

1. Fund more families and individuals earning less than 40% of the area median income (those earning less than $30,000 (single) to $43,000 (family of four) per year):
-significant housing assistance funds should be shifted to direct housing grants that could help another 2,000 families a year; and
-seek additional HUD dollars to fund subsidies to the poor/struggling/disabled/mentally ill in Arlington.

2. Increase Transparency/Advocacy:
-Authorize an independent auditor of all subsidized housing programs to verify that these subsidies actually reach intended persons in a cost effective way and are not misdirected

-Establish a single phone number, website, and housing division staffer to monitor rents charged, conditions and maintenance in the about 6,300 subsidized affordable apartments, and to allocate vacancies to eligible tenants as these units become available in a fair and open manner

-Begin a competitive bidding process in the housing division to allocate AHIF funds to selected and low-cost housing providers to increase competition among providers and reduce the per unit costs of all new subsidized apartments (so-called CAF units), and to provide more apartments for the same cost.

3. What the County does well and could expand:
-The housing grants program is an exemplary county assistance program that is efficient, transparent and goes directly to help the neediest persons in Arlington: recent recipients include those who earned less than $26,000 a year; 1,200 households of seniors over the age of 65, disabled persons and working families with children

-Like the Federal food stamps program (SNAP), the housing grants program allows tenants to rent anywhere in the county; the housing grants program could help another roughly 2,000 households with a monthly grant of close to $500 per month.

4. What the County Could Do Better:
-provide housing incentives and assistance to County employees, including first responders
-allow more families earning less than 40% to receive AHIF/-re-evaluate what income levels receive AHIF if at all/More broadly utilize Housing Grants in lieu of AHIF
-more evenly distribute the number of affordable housing projects all over the county

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March 22, 2015

Thinking of Running for Local Office as a Green or Independent in Arlington in 2015–Free panel discussion

Thinking of Running for Local Office as a Green or Independent in Arlington in 2015?

A panel of Four Experienced Local Candidates Share Tips and Ideas
Four former candidates for various local offices share their ideas with anyone thinking about a run for local office—school board, county board, Va General Assembly.

Scheduled panelists are: Joe Galdo (ran for Congress twice), Miriam Gennari (school board candidate in Arlington several years ago), John Reeder (twice candidate for Arlington county board), and Dan Robinson, candidate for General Assembly in Takoma Park, Maryland.vote  ballot

Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015
Shirlington Public Library
4200 S. Campbell Avenue, Arlington VA 22206
7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Free

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March 12, 2015

County housing assistance funds—mostly subsidies for the affluent, and little for lower income

Affordable Housing — @ 1:38 pm

Much of Arlington County’s housing assistance is wasted or directed to high income persons, doing relatively little for the low income and those particularly in need of Arlington.

Arlington County resident can be proud that our county government spends over $36 million annually from its local tax revenues for housing assistance, but unfortunately a high amount is wasted or used to subsidize either developers or high income persons, and relatively little goes to help persons earning less than $40,000 a year. Arlington is the second most expensive rental area in the Washington, D.C. region, and the housing cost burden is greatest for persons earning under $40,000 a year. Housing assistance should go to help the lowest income persons before helping those making over $60,000.

The largest county housing assistance segment is called “AHIF” (Arlington Housing Investment Fund), and it mainly benefits persons earning generally between 60-percent and 80-percent of area median income (roughly $60,000 to $85,000 for a family of four). Most of the $13 million housing subsidies for AHIF actually go to developers and operators of these apartments rather to tenants in the form of dramatically lower rents.

According to data of the Virginia Tech Center for Housing Research, there were 21,800 rental households in 2012 in Arlington who faced a housing cost burden (spending more than 30 percent of their incomes for rent and housing expenses), about 20 percent of all Arlington households. About 70 percent of these households earn less than $50,000 a year. Meanwhile a high proportion of Arlington’s housing assistance goes to the 25 percent earning above $50,000 a year. www.housingvirginia.org

One Arlington housing assistance program is well targeted, administered, and benefits lower income tenants–the housing grants program or direct rental subsidy. Under this program about $8 million is spent annually to directly help about 1,200 low income households with a monthly housing grant of $400-500. Only persons earning less than about $32,000 a year for a single person and up to $46,000 for a family of our can benefit and in addition must be disabled, a senior citizen or a working family with a child.

Thus, AHIF, the largest county assistance program, does little to help lower income persons and mostly provides funds to developers and little for tenants in the form of sharply lower rents. However, the second largest program–housing grants program is well targeted and efficient.

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March 4, 2015

Columbia Hills Apts: affordable housing for the well to do

solar panels commercialComments of John Reeder, treasurer of Arlington Greens, speaking at the county board hearing on Feb. 24, 2015 (these comments do not necessarily reflect the position of the Arlington Green Party):

Dear County Board members:

I oppose the approval of the zoning request and the $20 million in county AHIF funds to build these two apartment buildings in west Columbia Pike area located at 1010 S. Frederick Street, off Columbia Pike. APAH a nonprofit developer has requested about $20 million in county loans from the Arlington Housing Investment Fund (AHIF).

I have spoken several times against excessively costly affordable housing projects that are simply not affordable to low income people in Arlington. This is yet another such wasteful project. Please reject this proposal and send APAH back to the drawing board to come up with lower priced units for low income persons, namely those earning below 40-percent of the area median income (AMI) which is roughly $30,000 to $43,000 a year income).
Please read over details in the staff report presented to you:

l. 80 percent of the 229 units in the two new buildings are only affordable to persons earning above 60-percent AMI ($45,000 for a single person and $64,400 for a family of four).

2. Only 4 percent of the units are affordable to low income persons making less than 40-percent AMI. You have set your housing goal that at least 25% of new CAF units be affordable to 40-percent AMI renters: NONE of the AHIF projects for new CAFs have come close to your 25% goal.

3. Each new unit will cost about $$394,000 each–nearly four hundred thousand bucks. The $90 million total cost is very high–$7 million in developers fee, $6 million in “soft costs,” and $10 million in land/acquisition costs. The hard construction costs are $67 million or $227,000 per apartment which are well above Washington, DC regional costs. Are they building the Taj Mahal or affordable basic housing?

4. The land is quite expensive at $10 million or $44,000 per apartment. APAH claimed publicly that it owns the parking lot land and that the land is free. In fact, it does not own the land at all and it will cost taxpayers $10 million to buy a parking lot in western Columbia Pike. There are entire commercial buildings for sale in that area for less than $10 million.

Approving AHIF projects to build very expensive new CAFs which ipso facto cannot be rented to low income people in Arlington is a terrible waste of our public local dollars that could be used better t provide other forms of housing assistance to the needy rather than subsidies for developers and contractors like APAH.

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February 4, 2015

Battle for Brooklyn community continues in 2015 with Arlington very similar

We Greens showed the documentary Battle for Brooklyn last week at Central Library despite snow and bitter cold and we had a good turnout. The documentary highlighted the fight of community activists in Brooklyn to prevent the demolition and displacement of many moderate income renters and home owners to allow the building of a billion dollar project for a NBA basketball arena (now called the Barclays Center) and new luxury and so-called “affordable housing.”

The New York Times article in their February 4 edition, , Vivian Yee and Mirreya Navarro, “Some see risk in de Blasio bid to add housing,” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/nyregion/an-obstacle-to-mayor-de-blasios-affordable-housing-plan-neighborhood-resistance.html provides an interesting historical follow up to what happened to Brooklyn later and now that a progressive de Blasio replaced billionaire Michael Bloomburg as mayor. Bloomburg was an advocate for the sports arena and openly said he wanted more millionaires in New York, as the article describes:

“….But many New Yorkers feel that projects from the era of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg like Pacific Park, a multi-building complex around the Barclays Center formerly called Atlantic Yards, did not deliver on their promises of affordable housing quickly or comprehensively enough.”

NYC new mayor De Blasio says he wants to build more affordable housing, but like Arlington, this affordable housing is not affordable for most low income and even middle income renters. Now Brooklyn community activists are calling for no development at all if the only alternative is high rise buildings that mainly house high income person–80 percent luxury housing and 20 percent “affordable.”

The article indicates,
“Another common concern is that the financing deals to build affordable units do not serve those who need them most: extremely low-income residents making 30 percent or less of the area’s median income, or less than $26,000 a year for a family of four in the city’s five boroughs and Westchester County. Most new affordable units are now open to households in the range of 60 percent of the area’s median income.”

This is the rule for Arlington’s affordable housing–60% AMI is the minimum income needed to get into Arlington’s subsidized units.

Same development patterns here–promise affordable housing in the middle of a luxury project.

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January 28, 2015

Arlington Greens urge county board to expand recycling and ban styrofoam and single-use plastic bags, but board refuses

Arlington Greens Audrey Clement and Miriam Gennari spoke at the county board hearing on Jan. 27, 2015 urging the board to strengthen the proposed ordinance on solid waste and recycling at apartments and businesses in Arlington. Gennari spoke to the board and presented the AGP position on improving recycling and solid waste management in Arlington as follows:green recycling bag2

Unfortunately, the county board refused to heed the requests of Arlington Greens to modify the proposed ordinance and unfortunately single use plastic bags and Styrofoam will continue to litter our environment and be burned in our trash burn facility emitting dangerous gases. Billions of plastic bags litter our oceans, streams and planet, and Arlington Government once again passed up an opportunity to eliminate a harmful and unnecessary pollutant.

Position of the Arlington Greens on the proposed ordinance

January 27, 2015

Dear Esteemed Arlington County Board Members:

The Arlington Green Party is excited that the Arlington County Board is looking to improve its already successful residential solid waste program. Like all programs, there is always room for improvement and the Arlington Greens would greatly appreciate your consideration in the implementation of our suggestions.

Arlington County: Bans Plastic Bags
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality states that the County Board has the legal authority under Virginia law to ban single use plastic bags. The Dillon Rule does not bar the Arlington County Board from a “bag-ban” so long as taxes are not levied on bag use. In other words, Arlington County can ban plastic bags as a policy as long as it is not monetarily punitive.

Arlington County: Adopts a Styrofoam-Free Policy
Arlington County is as forward thinking as neighboring Washington, DC and Montgomery County and could be the ecologically correct example to the rest of Virginia in banning Styrofoam from Arlington County events. Further, events using independent coordinators could be required to follow Arlington County’s stricter standards of waste management.

Arlington County: Provides Additional Enforcement
As part of stricter waste management policy, we recommend more code enforcement personnel. These dedicated individuals are also tasked with safety enforcement such as the citation of “Inadequate lights at public corridors and stairways” in residential buildings and ensuring that individual property owners upkeep their homes and sidewalks, which neglected “might endanger the health or safety of other residents of the County.” It is clear that for these individuals to also adequately supervise commercial and multi-unit residential building recycling and waste management, the office of Code Enforcement would require additional staff.

Arlington County: Creates a Seal of Approval for Sustainable Practices
The Arlington Green Party is eager to collaborate with Arlington County Board and the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services to develop guidelines of sustainable and achievable practices. With this list of guidelines, new and existing businesses could be encouraged to implement concrete changes that would affect the environment in positive ways; these forward-thinking businesses could be commemorated or otherwise incentivized, luring consumers to Arlington County businesses.

Thank you for your consideration,
Marie Pellegrino Arlington Green Party Chair
Sandra Hernandez Arlington Green Party Co-Chair

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Sandra Hernandez and Marie Pellegrino elected as 2015 co-chairs of Arlington Greens

Events,green meetings — @ 11:44 am

Sandra Hernandez and Marie Pellegrino were elected as co-chairs for 2015 for the Arlington Greens at the December general meeting. Sandra and Marie are longtime Greens who have extensive community involvement in Arlington, and worked hard on many prior Greens political campaigns, including on the successful campaign of John Vihstadt, an independent candidate for county board who the Greens endorsed.

Marie Pellegrino and Sandra Hernandez at January Green Filmfest at Central Library

Marie Pellegrino and Sandra Hernandez at January Green Filmfest at Central Library

Sandra has worked for historic preservation of her Columbia Pike neighborhood for many years, and also is a parent of two children enrolled in Arlington Public Schools. As a bilingual Latina, she has been a strong advocate for affordable housing and for the county schools and government to meet the needs of lower income Arlington residents.

Marie is a longtime Arlington resident who recently completed the Arlington Neighborhood College course, and is an English tutor volunteer with REEP program (the English program in Arlington County for recent immigrants). She began her Green Party activities working with the Greens efforts to help the unemployed in Arlington in 2009-10. Greens proposed a Green jobs program for unemployed and homeless persons to be trained and employed weatherizing low income housing using then available stimulus funds, and advocating in Richmond for Virginia to expand its unemployment program.

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January 1, 2015

Greens support ending police violence rally and march December 2014

racial justice — @ 2:21 pm

Arlington Greens Sandra Hernandez and John Reeder attended the Dec. 13, 2014 rally and march against police violence against blacks at the Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. Tens of thousands of people from all over the U.S., including from Ferguson, Missouri and New York City attended in a peaceful and organized fashion to demand that police killing and violence against people stop. The NAACP, ACLU, churches, unions and youth groups participated.
police violence march pic1police violence march pic2police violence march pic3

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November 15, 2014

Providing public land and public funds to Arlington housing providers does not help tenants

Arlington Greens chair John Reeder spoke to the Arlington County Board on November 14, 2014
(his testimony was his own responsibility)

Good morning members of the board.
I am here to talk about affordable housing assistance and to caution you against just naively giving away public land to developers who fail to actually produce affordable rental apartments under the AHIF program.

AHIF is so ineffectual that it should be abolished, and its funding instead go to the housing grants program which directly and transparently helps mainly lower income people in Arlington. No public land and no more public funds should go to these developers.

The $12 million spent for the AHIF program in 2014 is really welfare for crony developers and delivers few benefits (in the form of lower rents and significantly more apartments) to tenants in Arlington.

In FY 2014, Arlington County spends $37 million from its local revenues for housing assistance, the largest category being the affordable housing investment fund (AHIF) with $12 million, and the second category being direct housing grants ($8 million).

The $12 million spent for AHIF may add at most 125 new CAF units this year (last year only 55 were added), and probably rent for $100 or so per month less than at market rate complexes, yielding a total benefit to low income renters of $150,000 a year. Even over 30 years, AHIF provides far fewer benefits even than its costs.

The new apartments added under the AHIF are very expensive; their rents charged are close to or at market rate rents; and the households served earning generally 60-percent of the area median income ($65,000 for a family of four).

On the other hand, the $8 million spent for housing grants directly and transparently helps about 1,200 households with about $500 per month each in lower rents paid. Its cost equals its benefits.

Households getting a housing grant earn no more than $46,000 (for a family of four), and must be 65 years or older, disabled, clients of county DHS programs (such as formerly homeless) or a working family with a child. Housing grants go to Arlington residents who are the most needy in our community.

The $12 million used today for AHIF could alternatively provide 2,000 households with a monthly rental grant of $500 versus 125 households receiving a $100 a month rent reduction in a new AHIF unit.

What is the better use of scarce local tax revenues to help low income Arlington residents?

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November 7, 2014

Rosslyn residents protest Wilson development of park, Sat. Nov. 8, 8:30 am at Key Elementary

Development,environment,Events — @ 10:43 am

wilson school photo2
Rosslyn residents gather to fight elimination of Wilson School greenspace

The Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) has proceeded over the past year toward its pre-designated conclusion to develop the Wilson site (School, Park, Playfields). The WRAPS recommendations are terrible for the Rosslyn community: preservation is dismissed, most of the site would be intensely developed with access roads and tall buildings; and very very little open space would be preserved for park and recreation. This in a community which is densely populated and provides limited public green space.

Upcoming on Saturday (tomorrow) starting at 8:30 AM at Key Elementary, county staff will lead a four and one half hour (!!!) presentation of WRAPS plans including some limited opportunity for citizen comment.

Rather than sitting through hours of power-point nonsense, a few of us plan instead to stand at the entrance handing out printed notices bearing statements like:

“Preserve Wilson School and Fields”

“Develop our Park ?? That’s Nuts !”

“Preserve our limited Green Space !”

I recommend people come to the meeting timely; grab a sign; hold it up awhile once you get inside; and then leave. You’ll do something to save our park, and you’ll save your Saturday for family and personal responsibilities.

Mark Antell

Co-chair of the CivFed Parks and Recreation Committee

CivFed delegate from the North Rosslyn Civic Association

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