• The next meeting will be on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 7:30 PM at the Community Room of the Ballston Firehouse Station (located at Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive).

September 29, 2015

County Board Affordable Housing Master Plan—Likely Annual Cost of $17 Million to $51 million, depending greatly on type of program

County Board Affordable Housing Master Plan—Initial Annual Cost of $17 Million to $51 million, depending on type of program

The Arlington County Board adopted on September 19, 2015 the Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) that has useful data and some broad goals. Unfortunately, there was no cost or budget information on how these optimistic goals can be achieved in Arlington over the next 25 years, and nothing on how these funds can be raised or considering alternative ways to achieve the same goal. http://newsroom.arlingtonva.us/release/county-board-adopts-first-affordable-housing-master-plan/
Below is an effort to provide costs and compare two ways of providing these benefits.

The plan’s primary goal is to have a supply in Arlington of 22,800 affordable units by 2040, a rise of about 16,000 units from the current supply of 7,000 committed subsidized units (CAFS). This is an annual goal of adding 640 CAFs over 25 years. Today, an average CAF rents for about $200 per month below comparable private market rents. Another way to effectively add 16,000 affordable units in Arlington would be to provide 16,000 housing vouchers on existing private rental units.

Cost of building or adding 16,000 CAFs
Based on cost data over the past two years, the county affordable housing investment fund (AHIF) has supplied $80,000 per new CAF; thus $51 million of AHIF funding is needed annually to add 640 CAFs. Over the past 14 years, the county added 250 CAFs annually. Since the county now contributes about $12 million for AHIF, another roughly $40 million is needed annually for AHIF. However as housing construction costs rise as they have over the past five years, the required AHIF contribution will have to increase as well.

Most of this additional funding will have to come from local tax sources or developer contributions (that only amounted to $3 million annually over the past decade). Some funds will come from re-payment of prior AHIF loans, but in most cases AHIF loans are for 30 years, and repayments are likely to fund only a small portion of the annual $51 million required. Over the 25 years, the budget cost will be $1.3 billion (current dollars). AHIF funds must continue indefinitely or the CAFs will cease to exist.
Cost of providing housing vouchers for 16,000 households within 25 years

An alternative way to obtain the same effect would be to provide 16,000 housing vouchers. A housing voucher for $200 per month would cost $2,400 per year per household, and the one year cost of 675 new vouchers is $1.6 million. In 2040, 16,000 vouchers would cost thus $38 million. This is still $13 million less per a one year cost of building new 640 CAFs. Vouchers are provided during the entire 25 years, unlike building new CAFs which will only fully appear 25 years from now and provide little housing relief in the next ten years.

Over the full 25 years voucher costs are half those building 16,000 new CAFs. The number of vouchers to meet the full needs of all households earning less than 60-percent AMI is 7,000 in 2016, and then rises by 640 annually reaching 16,000 by 2040. The cost to provide $200 per month vouchers during 2016-40 is $687 million, only half of the cost of providing the $1.3 billion to build 16,000 CAFs.

Vouchers provide about 43 percent more benefits to renters during the 25 years than slowly building new CAF units.
Measured in benefits over the 25 years, vouchers provide 287,000 household-years versus only 200,000 household-years for the CAFs. Vouchers also go to much lower income renters than those in a CAF who are predominantly at the 60-percent AMI.


September 14, 2015

Arlington Greens suggest changes to affordable housing plan

Below is the written position of Arlington Greens on the proposed Arlington affordable housing taskforce:

September 10, 2015
Arlington Green Party
Affordable Housing Master Plan, Implementation and Framework and General Land Use Plan

Preserve MARKs
The Affordable Housing Plan should explore creative ways to preserve MARKs (as in offering
renters the “first right of refusal”, incentives to building owners, extended land use for affordability, preservation of existing zoning, etc).

Single Form Based Code Policy
All Form Based Code projects throughout the County should include at least 10% affordable units (including those projects that have commercial spaces). Form Based Code projects could conversely represent an equal array of economic strata.

Cost-Saving Housing Options
The County should implement other housing programs that give priority to help Arlington residents who earn less than 40-percent of the area median income ($43,000 for a family of four or $30,100 for a single person).

The County Board should shift at least three-quarters of the (AHIF) funds that are being used today to finance the construction of new subsidized apartments, approximately $12 million to direct housing grants to low income residents. About $9 million of current AHIF funding could be diverted to housing grants, and another $10 million of new local tax revenue should come from raising fees on housing developers.

The County Board should broaden the use of grants which are twice as effective per dollar spent; they provide benefits to low income renters to use all over the County. By contrast, the AHIF fund mostly helps people earning 60-percent or higher AMI.

In examining 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. However, this economic value in 2015 (of such lower rents with regards to time and interest rates) falls to $480,000 ( present day “value”). This equates to a lump sum value in 2015 of receiving $24,000 a year in payments at a 3% interest rate over 30 years. By contrast, benefits of the housing grants are received in the first year; whereas, the benefits of lower rents in the CAFs accrue over 30 years.

Thus, expansion of the housing grants program could provide about double 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 or children; thus, they are arguably the neediest group in our community. This group represents the most vulnerable segment of our population.


Integrated and Inclusive Schools
Affordable Housing Projects should encourage ethnic and social diversity in Arlington Public Schools, as well as address the achievement gap between affluent and less affluent schools by creating more equitable housing distribution throughout the County.

Infrastructure, Services, Densification/Gentrification
There should be coordination of Affordable Housing projects with ALL Arlington Government entities (Schools, parks and recreation, transportation, libraries, etc). Every effort should be made to preserve intact neighborhoods, and avoid relaxed zoning that achieves “densification and gentrification” and displacement of those of moderate means.

When new projects are accepted, special accommodations should be made for those who are disabled, the poor, and the carless who depend on stores such as Food Star for affordable food and ethnic fare. A project such as the one proposed on the Pike near market rate affordable housing would leave many with nowhere to shop. The upscale offerings replacing Food Star would push those of moderate income to shop elsewhere, taking business away from Arlington County.

The County government should incentivize small businesses (particularly those offering cultural food and products) in efforts to maintain “mom and pop” entrepreneurship and international character.

The County should utilize the tried and tested Circulator Bus which could travel down Columbia Pike and up to the Pentagon or Pentagon City, for a dollar. This would prevent additional costs to road infrastructure and could be implemented immediately. The Circulator Bus could work in conjunction with other transit systems, while offering better alternatives to those of moderate and fixed means.

Strict Oversight
For new apartment buildings which were to include bonus density, 10 percent affordable units should be provided. Additionally, a new policy should require developers to pay mandatory fees that would cover the construction of new affordable units elsewhere, at the very least $250,000 per unit built, with the goal for developers to contribute about $10 million more annually to the housing program costs. This policy should cover all such new zoning-required apartments (up from 5 percent today).

Thank you very kindly for taking time to consider the Arlington Green Party’s analyses and solutions. We understand that there are many stake-holders in the Affordable Housing decision-making process. We thank you for providing us an opportunity to be part of this important process.


Arlington Greens recommend major changes to proposal affordable housing plan

The Arlington County Board will hear testimony on Saturday, Sept. 19 on a proposal affordable housing plan. Greens who have been longtime promoters of more and better affordable housing programs have provided their position below and asked for major changes to the plan.

To: The Arlington County Board September 10, 2015

2100 Clarendon Blvd #3 Arlington, VA 22201

Dear County Board Chairperson, Mary Hynes:

The members of the Arlington Green Party want to thank you and your staff for your tireless leadership on the Affordable Housing Master Plan, Implementation Framework and General Land Use Plan. It is heartening that the Board is addressing the shortage of affordable units and dilemmas facing the aged, the poor and those who are struggling in this very competitive and expensive rental-housing market.

Our members look to be part of this collaborative process and have met with members of your staff numerous times to offer ideas that could help you reach Arlington County’s affordable housing goals. At the same time, we do feel that there are many ideas you and your staff have proposed that are quite innovative and forward-thinking, especially the idea of accessory dwellings and geographic distribution of affordable units.

The Arlington Greens have always believed and stated publicly that numerous Affordable Housing providers should have to bid on all such projects so that the County can have the best possible housing experience at the best value to the Arlington County tax payer. We are extremely encouraged that this principle will be part of the creation of new housing projects. Arlington County is a marvelous place and its residents deserve the best at the best value.

Our members wish to also thank you for your insight and your staff’s willingness to look the Affordable Housing Master Plan, Implementation and Framework and General Land Use Plan holistically with regards to schools and services. This conversation will make possible pluralistic and well thought out smart-growth. Your thinking will further Arlington’s success in schools and community inclusion, as well as in life quality.

Please take a moment to view the enclosed attachment and view additional ideas the Arlington Green Party has put forth. You will note that The Greens have included some cost-savings measures. Thank you again for your time.


The Arlington Green Party
Co-Chair Sandra Hernandez
Co-Chair Marie Pellegrino
Treasurer John Reeder
Miriam Gennari
Steve Davis


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.


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.


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


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


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:

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


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.


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.


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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