• The next meeting will be on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015 7:00 PM at the Community Room of the Ballston Firehouse Station (located at Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive).

July 27, 2015

Reforming Arlington’s housing assistance program: Housing grants are twice as effective as subsidies for developers of new apartment buildings

house_sketchA key missing item in the debate in Arlington today over the proposed Affordable Housing Master Plan is consideration of the effectiveness of Arlington housing assistance and whether today’s program is efficiency helping tenants . There is no question that Arlington needs to expand funding for its housing assistance to lower income renters, but just expanding ineffective programs is unwise.

Arlington County spends in 2015 about $36 million of its own tax revenues (as distinct from Federal HUD funds) for housing assistance. The largest program is the $12 million for the AHIF program that provides loans and grants to developers to build or renovate apartments that are then rented to lower income tenants (called committed affordable units (CAFs). Most of the households in the CAFs earn 60-percent of the area median income. The second-leading program is housing grants with $8 million that provides monthly rental subsidies to about 1,200 households (averaging about $555 a month). Most of these households are below the 30-percent AMI (about $30,000 a year or less).

The question occurs as to which of the two leading programs provide more effective assistance to low income renters? In recent years, each new CAF has required about $100,000 from the AHIF. On average the rents charged in CAFs averaged about $150-200 per month below the rents in comparable private market complexes. For every million dollars of AHIF funds, about 10 households receive a total of $24,000 in benefits as lower rents charged per year. Most CAF households are in the 60%-AMI income level.

With regard to the housing grants program, 1,200 households received in 2015 an average $555/month grant each or about $6,000 annually. Thus for every million dollars spent for housing grants, 167 households received benefits of one million dollars in lower rents charged. All of these households earned well under $30,000 a year and most under $20,000 a year, including disabled, seniors and working families with children. This is what a million dollars spent for AHIF versus housing grants yields:

Number of households helped…… 10 AHIF 167 Housing grants
Median income level of households 60-% AMI 30%-AMI
Monthly rental reduction per
Household…………………………….. $200 $555
Duration of assistance……………… 30 years 1 year
Total 2015 value of assistance over
30-years………………………………. $480,000 $1 million

If one compares the benefits of a one year housing grant of $1 million to spending that amount in AHIF, the difference is still large over 30 years: the ten CAF apartments yield $720,000 in lower rents, but this economic value in 2015 of such lower rents (considering time and interest rates), falls to $480,000. (The lump sum value in 2015 of receiving $24,000 a year in payments at a 3% interest rate over 30 years). All benefits of the housing grants are received in the first year, whereas the benefits of lower rents in the CAFs accrue over 30 years.

In summary, the housing grants program provides about twice the benefits to renters than the same amount for new construction of subsidized apartments over 30 years. In the first year with a million dollars, housing grants help 167 households, versus only 10 households in CAFs. Housing grant households are the lowest income persons in Arlington, and in addition must be a senior over 65, disabled or a working family with a child, and thus are arguably the neediest group in our community.

It stands to reason that if Arlington County wishes to help the identified 7,000 households living in Arlington earning under 60-percent AMI, the cheapest way to do so is expanding the housing grants program.

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July 13, 2015

Why did Arlington County give $4.5 million away to a profitable company to move to Rosslyn?

The Washington Post reported on July 13 that Arlington County gave $4.5 million (and the State of VA gave $9.5 million) to lure CEB Inc. to move from NW DC to Rosslyn into a new yet to be built high rise office building.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/digger/wp/2015/07/12/high-stakes-battle-ensues-over-advisory-board-co-headquarters/

This article is mainly focused on Arlington and the State of Virginia’s efforts to get the Advisory Board to rent the empty Rosslyn office building with over 500,000 square feet in a 390 foot high building. If Arlington county gave CEB (a company associated with Advisory Board) $4.5 million to go to a smaller building, then you can bet Advisory will get double or triple that to move into the white an existing massive office building that has been vacant since being built for the past two years.

Taxpayers should NOT be giving subsidies to get big businesses to move across jurisdictions in Arlington or anywhere in the U.S. (or the world for that matter). The developers who built 390-foot empty office building with no commercial tenants in mind and have left it empty for two years are to blame. That’s capitalism for you: there are winners and losers, but the government shouldn’t finance the losers. Otherwise we are into crony capitalism or lemon socialism. Risk should be borne by investors who make mistakes and not local Arlington taxpayers who urgently need to pay for more schools, parks, and safety net aid for things like homeless assistance and housing assistance.

What does Arlington County really get for its $4.5 million and Virginia’s $9.5 million? Many of CEB employees will never live here in Arlington or even Virginia; the amount of sales taxes obtained from stuff these employees might buy in Rosslyn at lunchtime is trivial. The main revenue Arlington gets is property tax, and if the county gives away $14 million of that initially, how long will it take to get it back?

County Board members apparently have accepted the idea that Arlington County has to start giving out subsidies to big business to locate here in empty space. The economic development spending is now about $12 million, up a $1 million from last year. The $4.5 million given away to CEB is about equal to the increase in county spending this past year for all programs except public schools. Our county’s legitimate needs are overwhelming our tax revenues and we cannot afford any white elephants such as tax give aways, the now cancelled Pike trolley, the now closed Artisphere, and the yet-to-be build $60 million aquatic park in Crystal City.

The best economic advice for these billion dollar developer corporations and realty trusts: lower the rent asked for your vacant office space or convert it into residential use. Government dollars should be used to fund our community needs and not go into the treasuries of major corporations.solar panels commercial

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June 22, 2015

Green Karaoke Social at LA Bar in Arlington on July 9 was a fun event

Events,green meetings — @ 10:48 am

Green Karaoke Fun Social at LA Bar on July 9

A dozen turned out on July 9 to socialize and sing karaoke at LA Bar on Columbia Pike led by Greens Sandra Hernandez, Kirit Mookerjee and Marie Pellegrino. Thanks everyone for turning out! Below is cochair Sandra Hernandez with husband Carlos singing a duo, and then Sandra and Miriam Gennari singing a separate song.

arlington greens karaoke social july 15 pic 2

arlington greens karaoke social july 15

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June 20, 2015

Green cochair Marie Pellegrino asks for delay in adopting the Arlington County affordable housing draft plan, June 12

Affordable Housing — @ 12:11 pm

Arlington Greens co-chair Marie Pellegrino spoke at the Arlington County Board public hearing on June 12 to consider whether to proceed to public consideration of a draft report and recommendations for affordable housing in Arlington.

Good morning Arlington County Board Members:

My name is Marie Pellegrino. I am Co-Chair of the Arlington Green Party, a long time resident of South Arlington and former Columbia Pike small business owner.

Thank you very much for addressing the lack of affordability in Arlington. I plead w you, however, to delay your vote on the Implementation Framework and Affordable Housing Plan for the following reasons:

1.Too many of your consultants are developers and it appears a conflict of interest as these individuals stand to make a great deal of money on new housing development; there has been insufficient community input on this document

2. Arlington has about 3,000 market rate affordable units left; they will not be be preserved under the current plan. These units currently provide affordability to families earning less than 60 thousand dollars a year

3. By adding a disproportionate amount of affordable housing density surrounding Columbia Pike, the county will NOT share in full social and ethnic diversity, and neither will Public schools

4. Lastly, the proposed document makes it too easy for investors to gobble up single family rental homes and permanently displace people who are a vibrant part of Arlington’s diversity

Thank you for listening; please hold off on voting on item 436, the draft affordable housing master plan and the affordable housing implementation framework.

Marie Pellegrino (left) and Sandra Hernandez, co chairs Arlington Greens

Marie Pellegrino (above, left) with Sandra Herndez, AGP co-chairs

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June 1, 2015

Arlington County to sell Reeves farmland–Greens say sale is a bad idea

Development,environment — @ 8:42 am

The Arlington County Board voted the week of May 20, 2015 on a divided 3-2 vote to sell the historic, 90-year old Reeves Farm House located next to the Bluemont Park in Arlington. Arlington Greens oppose this decision.
reeves farm house arlington va Photo: courtesy of Michael Pope, Arlington Considers Future Of Its Last Dairy Farm, July 11, 2011, WAMU Radio, http://wamu.org/news

The accelerated, sparsely publicized final decision to sell the Reeves’ farmhouse to a private enterprise is distressing. Government transparency and historic preservation are two core values of the Arlington Green Party. The sale of this farmhouse (circa 1900) does not uphold these principles.

While the AGP has yet to take an official stand, I feel that not maintaining the Reevesland farmhouse misses educational opportunities to teach at-risk students hands-on, marketable skills of restoration and preservation. Skills such as these are transformative and can provide a less traditional student with a passion to learn.

The Reeve’s farm house could have also been transformed into a place that the public might pay to visit, thus creating a destination for tourists and generating tourism revenue for Arlington. Internships to learn and assist with the inner workings of a living museum could have provided other practical skills for children.

Sandra Hernandez
Marie Pellegrino
Arlington Green Party Co-Chairs

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April 21, 2015

Earth Day 2015, Some Green Party reflections

environment,Events — @ 12:28 pm

Some Green Thoughts on the 2015 Earth Day.
Earth Day began in 1970 as a spontaneous U.S. wide day of call for action on the environmental degradation facing the U.S. and the world. It has resulted in some major improvements in the U.S., but the event has now become captured by commercial and political interests looking for a feel-good event that does not confront our hideous worldwide capitalist systems.

Here below is the U.S. Green Party’s call for Ecological Sustainability that should mean every day is Earth Day.

Ecological Sustainability
.
The human community is an element of the Earth community, not the other way around. All human endeavors are situated within the dynamics of the biosphere. If we wish to have sustainable institutions and enterprises, they must fit well with the processes of the Earth. The ideology of industrialism, in both capitalist and communist countries, insists that modern society lives on top of nature and should rightly use and despoil the rest of the natural world as we desire – because any loss of the ecosystems is merely an “externality” in economic thought and because any problems can be addressed later by a technological fix. We are now living through the painful consequences of that arrogant, ignorant perspective. Many of our children suffer from accumulations of mercury and other toxins in their neurological systems, environmentally related cancer is on the rise, and our air and water are increasingly polluted. Meanwhile, our ecosystems are being compromised by the spreading presence of genetically engineered organisms.

Our houses and buildings, manufacturing processes, and industrial agriculture were all designed with the assumption of an endless supply of cheap and readily available fossil fuels. Pollution and despoiling the land were not part of the thinking. The Green Party, however, is optimistic about the alternatives that now exist and that could be encouraged through tax policy and the market incentives of fuel efficiency. We also challenge the grip of the oil, automotive, and automobile insurance industries that have managed to block or roll back progress in public mass transit. The gutting of subsidies for the railroads has meant not only fewer passenger routes but also the addition of thousands of large freight trucks on our highways, decreasing public safety and increasing pollution. We are committed to extending the greening of waste management by encouraging the spread of such practices as reduce, return, reuse, and recycle. We strongly oppose the recent attempts to roll back the federal environmental protection laws that safeguard our air, water, and soil.

The health of the life-support systems – the ecosystems on our continent – is of paramount importance. Inherent in the efficient dynamics of those ecosystems is a vital profusion of biodiversity. Therefore, the Greens call for a halt to the destruction of habitats, which are being sacrificed to unqualified economic expansion. We humans have a moral responsibility to all of our relations, many of which are facing extinction because we carelessly and permanently halt their long evolutionary journey.

The Green Party also supports the spread of organic agriculture and the careful tending of our nation’s precious remaining topsoil. We support planetary efforts to slow the ever-increasing numbers of humans pressuring the ecosystems, and we especially support the reduction of consumption of the world’s raw materials by the industrialized Northern Hemisphere. We are appalled by our country’s withdrawal from serious efforts to limit greenhouse gases that are contributing mightily to global climate disruption. The Green Party strongly urges the United States to adopt an actively responsible position in this crisis and to take significant action to address the problem.

~ 2012 Green Party Platform

http://www.gp.org/ecology

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April 19, 2015

Observations from Mark Antell, a longtime Green and community activist on the County Board’s meeting on April 18 on the Wilson School Building in Rosslyn

Wilson School

Wilson School

I attended the County Board meeting this AM (April 18). Almost all business was focused on my neighborhood greenspace: the Wilson School and adjoining Rosslyn Highlands Park. To no ones surprise, the plan emerging from today’s meeting remains: ‘knock down the historic school, cede parkland to a developer (in exchange for his building a firestation). Walt Tejada was the sole dissenting voice, a tongue far less silver than the rest of speakers, but far more honest.

I was particularly disturbed by Mr. Vihstadt’s arguments. He spoke highly of the “robust” (his words) Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) which the county set up to engage the community on plans for this site. But WRAPS wasn’t ‘robust.’ Most of my community, most community activists throughout Arlington, know that WRAPS was a staged event to provide cover for a prearranged deal. Most WRAPS meetings occurred after the County had already secretly signed an MOU to cede land to the developer. On one occasion the WRAPS process slipped and allowed citizens a poll. Participants voted overwhelmingly against putting a road through a diminished Rosslyn Highlands park. But the road is still in the plans.

I recommend we think long and hard about ever endorsing Mr. Vihstadt again.

Mark Antell

Rosslyn resident and long-time member AGP

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April 9, 2015

Arlington Greens candidates panel discussion

Candidates,Events — @ 4:36 pm

Editor’s Notebook: What third-party and independent candidates need to do
by SCOTT McCAFFREY of Sun Gazette Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 7:00 am
About 20 intrepid souls gathered at Shirlington Library amid last evening’s darkening skies for a forum put on by the Arlington Green Party, discussing ways that independents and third-party candidates could find success in running for local office.
(For the purposes of this discussion, which will focus on Arlington, I’ll include the Republicans as a third party. Not intended as a slight, just a reflection of the difficulties the GOP faces in an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning community.)

At the event, there was a fair amount of bash-the-media for failing to give alternative candidates equal coverage with the major-party contenders. It is a familiar refrain.

But the reality is this: While there is a relatively low bar set to get on the ballot in local elections in Virginia (just 125 petition signatures will land you on the Arlington County Board ballot, for instance), we in media-land tend to set a far higher bar for considering a candidacy worth covering in a more substantial way.

I think I said it last year, when John Vihstadt was embarking on his candidacy to topple the Democratic County Board monopoly: Candidates who aren’t Democrats and want to have a chance on Election Day in A-town would need to raise at least $100,000 during campaign season before I’d be particularly inclined to give them a shot at winning, and providing a commensurate level of coverage.

Why? Two reasons:

• Raising that much money is necessary to get the word out about a candidacy, and to build the campaign infrastructure needed to compete against the extensive Democratic precinct-operations efforts.

• Raising that amount of campaign cash would show that a candidate has a network of supporters willing to, literally, put their money where their mouth is.

Vihstadt was very competitive in his fundraising efforts, picking up as much, and I think more, campaign cash than his Democratic opponent, Alan Howze.

But it’s been a vicious cycle for other candidates taking on Democrats: They say they can’t get traction because their candidacies aren’t publicized, but the media isn’t likely to take seriously a candidate unwilling to do the grunt work of raising cash. It’s a necessary evil in the political arena.

I stayed for the first 75 minutes of the program before having to head out into the night. Was an interesting and informative discussion. We’ll see if the Greens field a candidate this year, and time will tell the fate of independents who plan on running in November.

Goes to Show My Prognosticating Skills Are Worthy Zip

Yesterday also brought a drawing to determine ballot order among the first four candidates to file for the Democratic primary for County Board. As they all got their paperwork in on the first day (March 9) of filing, they were deemed by Democratic leaders to have filed simultaneously, and the elections office held a drawing to determine who would go where on the ballot.

Earlier in the day, for funsies, I guessed that the ballot order would be Katie Cristol/Andrew Schneider/Peter Fallon/Christian Dorsey.

I got the No. 2 and No. 3 slots correct, but flipped No. 1 and No. 2. The order, drawn from a bowler hat provided by Electoral Board secretary Allen Harrison Jr., was Dorsey/Schneider/Fallon/Cristol.

James Lander and Bruce Wiljanen, who filed their paperwork later in the filing season, will round out the six-person ballot in the June 9 primary.

Sometimes Police Chases Should Come with Soundtracks

Ay-yay-yay: Yesterday brought not only the prisoner that a security contractor let escape (as Maxwell Smart would have said, “sorry about that, Chief”), but also that wild police chase on the Beltway, one that in retrospect seems a bit, mmmm, ill-advised on the part of law enforcement.

The only thing missing was the chase music from Benny Hill’s old British TV show playing in the background. Would have been fitting, given the Keystone Kops-esque performance.

– Scott

http://www.insidenova.com/blogs/editor-s-notebook-what-third-party-and-independent-candidates-need/article_d9a645f8-d855-11e4-a257-b377ce19ffa7.html

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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:
solar-power-house1

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

Panel for first time candidates in Arlington had interesting tips and ideas

Arlington Greens panel for first time candidates had about 15 people at Shirlington Library on March 31. The four panel members were Joe Galdo, former candidate for Congress in Fairfax, Dan Robinson, candidate for the Maryland General Assembly from Takoma Park, Maryland; Miriam Gennari former candidate for Arlington School Board; and John Reeder, former two time candidate for Arlington County Board. All candidates ran as Greens. Also on hand was Gretchen Reinemeyer of the Arlington Voters office to explain the legal issues of filing for office in 2015. There are two county board seats, one school board seat, all four General Assembly seats and the state senate seat open in 2015, and all the constitutional offices such as sheriff.

Panelists left to right" Gretchen Reinemery of the voters office, Joe Galdo, Miriam Gennari, John Reeder and Dan Robinson

Panelists left to right” Gretchen Reinemery of the voters office, Joe Galdo, Miriam Gennari, John Reeder and Dan Robinson

Arlington Greens are looking for qualified first time candidates to run. Greens are independents; accept no corporate or PAC funds, and run against the two major parties.

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