• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, June 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm at the Community Room of the Arlington County Fire Station 2 Ballston, 4805 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA 22203

May 18, 2018

Westover Village Historic Preservation—County turns its back on preserving apartments and history

The Arlington County Government affirmed on May 16 that it prefers demolition of 70-year old apartments and their greenspace to their preservation. Their news to Arlington renters and historians: drop dead. The county Historic Affairs Landmark Review (HALRB) Board at the urging of the county staff and manager (and presumably the county board) voted in May to allow the bulldozers to continue to operate in Westover for at least another year.


On May 16, the HALRB refused to designate any of the over 700 units as historic, and instead voted to postpone any action on the historic petition for eight months or more. During 2016-18, a developer demolished garden-apartment buildings with about 100 moderate-cost rental apartments, and the county government refused to do anything to stop the destruction even though it accepts that these apartments are historically significant and contribute the largest number of affordable market-rate rental apartments in any North Arlington neighborhood.

Arlington Greens along with 160 Arlington residents filed a historic preservation petition with Arlington County in June 2016, and the county then began a historic study of historic Westover Village. Then over the next two years, the HALRB held two hearings, and in addition there were a half-dozen other community meetings over Westover historic preservation. Meanwhile, the county professional historic staff who were supposed to prepare a detailed architectural and planning study and inventory of existing historic buildings did nothing.

Now, two years later in May 2018, the HALRB voted to defer any decision for another at least 8 months until the county government implements another ordinance called Housing Conservation District, a novel and new idea never actually tried. The HCD has no legal relation to anything the HALRB is charged with doing under state historic law and county ordinance.

The county staff and board exhibit a bias against keeping older garden apartments in Arlington, and instead favor high rise development including infill in Westover. The county government believes that historic preservation and moderate income apartments are incompatible despite the example in Arlington of two other large historic garden-apartment complexes with many moderate income units, Colonial Village (since 1978) and Buckingham (1980s). Both complexes contain a mix of moderate cost rental units and condos and a mix of income and ethnic groups. Why not in Westover in a historic district? Does every neighborhood have to look like Ballston?

The county board’s bias in favor of developers and against current residents is very clear: build very expensive high rise apartment buildings and demolish existing low rise garden units that house renters. The failed policy of building new subsidized units as affordable housing results from the very high cost of such new units (well over $400,000 each) that then can only be rented to a favored few (generally below 300 households a year) who also generally must earn above $60,000 a year. Lower income renters are virtually all excluded and denied any housing assistance to rent in high cost Arlington.

Preserving existing units in Westover built 70 years ago that have been updated and are generally in good condition but smaller and without the bells and whistles of new units (but also much lower in cost) is a proven way to keep some market-rate, unsubsidized apartments in high cost Arlington which continues to drive away its working income renters.

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May 4, 2018

Westover Village: Historic Preservation Public Hearing on Wed, May 16 at 7:30 PM

Come to the HALRB Public Hearing on Westover
Where: County Office Bldg 2100 Clarendon Blvd
When: Wednesday, May 16, starting at 7:30 PM
Why: Save Westover Apartments


Public Hearing to Consider Historic Designation of Westover Apts

Plan to attend and speak in favor of local historic designation of Westover Village apartments; local designation would prevent demolition of existing market-rate apartment buildings. In the past three years, 11 buildings with 100 apartments were demolished or scheduled for demolition. In their place are now towering million dollar townhouses surrounded by pavement.

Save our neighborhood and trees and green space and our neighbors who are moderate income renters who have lived here since 1940. Arlington must have a place for moderate income renters and not become a place just for the rich.

Historic Designation Preserves Apartments!
• Stop demolitions and keep current affordable rental apartments
• Attend and speak in favor of historic designation at the Arlington County Historic Affairs Landmarks Review Board public hearing on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, starting at 7:30 pm at Arlington County Building, 2100 Clarendon Blvd, https://projects.arlingtonva.us/projects/westover-neighborhood-study/

Meet in front of Westover Post Office at 6:45 PM on May 16 if you need a ride and we will carpool together

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April 5, 2018

Queens Court– Luxury Housing at Public Expense for Not-so-Low Income Renters in Rosslyn, and Crony Capitalism for Well Connected Developers

The county board continued its wasteful policy of throwing public money to developers when it approved on Feb. 22, 2018 about $8 million in local funds for another massive high rise apartment building in Rosslyn, called Queens Court, with another $20 million promised later this year. The project will cost nearly $40 million with this entire amount coming from public sources (the county, VHDA, and HUD).

Queens Court today

This is yet another example of crony capitalism—building a few apartments fit for a queen and giving the developer an excellent profit. The iron triangle, the affordable housing industrial complex, once again produces a white elephant at public expense and short changes tenants and taxpayers.

Arlington County gives tens of millions of dollars annually to developers to build so-called “affordable apartments” that end up not being affordable to the neediest Arlington residents, and mostly just subsidies crony developers and insiders at the expense of taxpayers and low income Arlington renters. Queens Court is aptly named, a luxury complex fit for a queen and the lucky few, and an immediate $3 million profit maker for the developer.

A nonprofit housing developer APAH will tear down the current modest garden apartment complex with 39 units, and build an apartment tower with about 250 units that will mainly (82 percent) go to people earning 60 to 80 percent of the of the area median income (AMI) ($60,000 to 80,000 for a family of four). Exactly 9 units will be rented to the lowest income Arlington residents, those making less than 40 percent AMI ($33,000 for a single or $38,000 for a couple).

The Queen units will cost $440,000 each, a ridiculously high amount compared to the large number of condos available for sale for less. Zillow.com listed 199 condos and townhouses for sale in Arlington in April 2018 for under $440,000, many well under $300,000. Right across the street from Queen Courts is the Crestwood Apartments with 63 units valued at only $230,000 per apartment. Why not just buy the Crestwood Apartments for its 2018 tax assessed value of $15 million?

Queens Court

Only in Arlington would anyone consider $440,000 apartments rented to people mostly making over $60,000 a year as “low income housing.” Somebody earning $60,000 to $80,000 a year is not low income by any standard even in Arlington.

Those who are low income of those earning below 50% AMI. There are now 9,000 households earning less than 50% AMI in Arlington who get no housing assistance at all today. Only 45 units in Queens Court are going to be rented to any of these 9,000 households.

Far more effective are the county’s housing (rental) grants that currently help about 1,200 households of seniors, disabled and families with a child with a monthly housing grant that reduces their rental cost. The program spends about $9 million annually. All of these renters have incomes well below $27,000 a year (30 percent AMI).

Arlington Greens have repeatedly asked the county government to allocate far more of its $38 million in housing assistance to housing (rental) grants. If the county had allocated the $28 million to be spent on Queens Court to housing grants of even $300 a month, then about 7,000 households—all earning under 50% AMI–would have benefitted. Instead 250 households with incomes above $60,000 get to rent a new queen apartment in Rosslyn.

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February 14, 2018

Greens support more housing (rental) grants for low income Arlington residents

Affordable Housing — @ 5:43 pm

Arlington Greens adopted a resolution at their February 2018 meeting calling on the Arlington County Board to provide more funding in FY 2019 for low income housing (rental) grants to the lowest income Arlington residents.

Today there are 15,000 Arlington renter households earning under 50-percent AMI, most of whom receive no housing assistance in any form. Housing rental grants are the county’s single most effective housing assistance program. A recent HUD study found that housing grants in the United States were 72 percent less expensive than building new subsidized apartments called CAFs.

In 2018, the county was only able to help 276 new households with a new expensive committed affordable unit (CAF) which is 354 households short of the county affordable housing goal, and short 1,000 over the past 3 years. CAFs are just too expensive to be affordable and numerous.

Greens support funding 750 more housing grants of $300 per month to help the lowest income Arlington renters (those earning less than 40 percent of the area median income (AMI)). The cost of $3 million a year can be obtained by shifting funds from the real estate tax relief (RETR) program for affluent homeowners by changing their tax relief from tax exemption to tax deferral.

In FY 2018, the county spent $9.2 million for housing grants for 1,249 households—a quarter of whom are families with a child, about half are disabled persons, and a quarter, seniors over 65. The average beneficiary family earned $27,000, and a disabled person or senior over 65 earned about $14,000 a year. Their total assets must be less than $35,000 and an income below $33,000 for a single person.

The real estate tax relief program in FY 2018 spent $4.4 million for tax exemption or tax deferral of property taxes to benefit 932 households (each receiving an average $4,700 benefit) of seniors and disabled persons who can earn up to $100,000 a year (130 percent AMI for a single person), and can have personal assets up to $540,000, in addition to their residence.

These property owners should be granted tax deferral of their property taxes rather than tax exemption. These property owners would pay no real estate tax until the property is sold. There is no financial burden on the household, and our rising property values insure that even these deferred taxes will be paid without a net cost to property owner in the future

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December 22, 2017

Arlington County Blocks Historic Preservation of Older Neighborhoods in a Bow to the Developers

Arlington County Blocks Historic Preservation of Older Neighborhoods in a Bow to the Developers

On December 19, 2017, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to eliminate the right of all Arlington citizens to nominate a neighborhood or group of buildings for consideration for local historic preservation. The Board bowed to pressure from investors and developers seeking to profit by bulldozing older apartments and detached houses in Arlington. County staff are angered that Arlington citizens have asked for protection of local historic districts and buildings, particularly in Westover, and wanted to effectively block citizens from petitioning the local government to protect whole neighborhoods or apartment complexes like Westover Village.

Under the new county rules, only civic associations, condo boards or homeowner associations may ask for historic preservation for multiple properties or a homeowner who obtains at least 25 percent of other property owners’ permission. Tenants have no rights at all.

In the past, only a few civic associations have ever asked for historic preservation and often have opposed it owing to developers and investors greed in demolition. Tenant associations and historic groups can no longer petition for historic status. The first neighborhood protected in Arlington was the Colonial Village in 1980 with a petition from the tenants association. Colonial Village today is a mix of lower income and moderate income tenants and condo associations living in a garden-like area with mature trees, green space, adjacent to the Courthouse Metro.

The latest government elimination of citizens’ rights to petition their local government resulted from the Arlington Greens and local tenants asking for historic protection of Westover Village apartment buildings in 2016. An investor has already demolished nearly 100 apartment units that were moderate income rentals, and built luxury townhouses costing over $800,000 for rich people. There are another over 300 units at risk of demolition. The Westover Village was designated as a national historic district in 2006, owing to its distinct WWII architecture and style from the 1940s.

The county board on a unanimous vote showed its true colors: protect developers, investors and absentee property owners to the neglect of tenants, neighbors, and historians. Dollars trump human rights to affordable housing and preserved older neighborhoods.

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October 31, 2017

Why do Subsidized Apartments in Arlington Cost so Much?

Affordable Housing — @ 4:13 pm

Arlington Greens have been complaining for the past 4-5 years about the exorbinant cost of the subsidized “affordable housing” apartments (“committed affordable units” or CAFs) which have been averaging about $400,000 each in actual construction costs. For example, the APAH project at the former Arlington Presbyterian Church site now being constructed close to Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road entails about 173 units (about 60 percent of the units (105) are studio or one-bedroom units) and cost $400,000 per unit. Arlington County Government is providing about $18 million total or $100,000 per unit in subsidy.

Why does it cost a nonprofit housing developer (APAH) $400,000 per unit to build these subsidized units? The government, both the county and the Federal Government HUD, are providing roughly $300,000 in subsidies per unit. The church supposedly sold its land for under-market value; the nonprofit does not earn profits. Yet, these units the majority of which are studio or one bedrooms cost $400,000.

Just about 1/2 mile south of this new project which will probably take another year or more to complete, is the for-profit Trafalgar Flats Apartments that are nearly complete. These condo apartments are listed for sales “starting at the low $200,000s,” for a studio or junior one bedroom apartment http://trafalgarflats.com/

Apparently the for-profit developer is able to sell units for below $300,000 and still make a good profit. How can a for profit developer put up luxury apartments in the same area of Arlington for $100,000 per unit less than a subsidized nonprofit developer?

The answer is of course competition: there was no competitive bidding for the $18 million in county funds.

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April 13, 2017

Greens to County Board–Raise the Fees on Developers to Get $7 million more to help 2,000 Arlington families

Arlington Green member Steve Davis spoke at the Arlington County Board’s March 30 Budget Hearing for FY 2018, and urged the board to raise the fee on developers in order to get $7 million for housing grants for another 2,000 families in Arlington struggling with high rents

Raising $7 million more in tax revenue for the county housing grants program through
a higher developers’ fee

Under the 2005 Affordable Housing Ordinance, the county requires developers of new housing projects needing or requesting a zoning change for the project to provide that at least 5 percent of the additional apartments added as a result of the zoning change to be “affordable rental units” or to pay a fee or a “cash contribution: as follows:
$1.88 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) for first 1.0 FAR;
$5.01 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) from 1.0 to 3.0 FAR for residential;
$10.02 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) above 3.0 FAR for residential; and
$5.01 per square foot above 1.0 FAR in commercial.

Unfortunately, this ordinance was not tightly written nor do the constructions costs written into the 2005 ordinance based on market conditions existing 12 years ago reflect costs today even though the costs in the ordinance are indexed (based on the Consumer Price Index in the Washington, D.C. region).

Over the 12 years of the ordinance, developers choose largely to not provide new affordable units on site, but rather pay the modest fee above that amounts to a portion of the actual cost of the new apartment. During 2005-October 2014 (about 10 1/2 years), developers only provided 11percent of required units on site (30 units of the required 295 units), and instead paid a rather modest fee of $137,000 per unit, far below the cost of adding a new unit offsite. These fees were added to the AHIF (Affordable Housing Investment Fund).
The county board should increase the required fees under the ordinance to reflect the actual contemporary cost of a new apartment which is at least $350,000 per new unit. A developer should pay a fee of at least $350,000 per unit or provide a unit on site. A fee of $350,000 paid per unit would generate an estimated $7 million more annually for the housing program. Developers exacerbate the problem of rising rents in our community by their activities, and it is fair to shift some of the tax burden of housing assistance programs to them rather than to only general taxpayers.
During 2005-October 2014, a total 295 additional units were approved under this ordinance, of which only 30 units were located in the new developments, whereas developers choose to pay a fee for the 265 units not provided in the new developments. Thus, this ordinance applied to an average 30 new units per year. These fees yielded only $36.2 million during the 10 years or $3.6 million annually, the equivalent of $137,000 per new additional apartment. These funds were simply added to the AHIF.
These Affordable Housing Ordinance fees cited above should be tripled on a square footage basis. This would be expected to increase the average fee received per unit from the current $137,000 to $350,000. With a fee paid of $350,000 per unit for 30 units, the county would likely receive $10.5 million annually, an increase of $6.9 million a year from the current $3.6 million. This entire additional $6.9 million annually should be placed in the housing grants fund.

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April 12, 2017

Greens to Arlington County Board–Fund 2,000 Housing Grants for Low Income Arlington Tenants in FY 2018

Affordable Housing — @ 10:28 am

Arlington Greens spoke at the Arlington County Board budget hearing for FY 2018, and urged the board to fund 2,000 more households in Arlington with a $300 monthly housing grant:

Arlington Greens Budget Proposal for FY 2018 for Improving Arlington Housing Assistance

Good evening: my name is John Reeder and I am here to speak on behalf of the Arlington Greens. We
support funding about 2,000 more housing grants of $300 per month to help the lowest income Arlington residents (those earning 50 percent or less of the area median income (AMI)). This will cost $7 million a year. We also bring tonight a petition supporting our request signed by 40 Arlington residents from all over our community.

In FY 2017, the county will spend $10 million for housing grants for 1,200 households of which one fourth are families with a child, about half are disabled persons, and one fourth, seniors over 65. All earned well under 30-percent AMI.

The county manager proposes to cut $0.5 million from FY 2017 level. We oppose that, and propose to add $7 million more to the $9.7 million spent this year.

We recommend that you eliminate all eligibility restrictions for housing grants—except for income and personal financial assets. Today only disabled persons, seniors over 65 or couples with a child are eligible.

We propose that the current zoning fee on apartment developers be increased to a reasonable level to raise $7 million more in tax revenue that would fund the expanded housing grants.
According to the Affordable Housing Master Plan, there are 15,000 Arlington renter households earning under 50-percent AMI, and most receive no housing assistance.

Housing grants are the county’s single most effective housing assistance program. A HUD study found that housing grants were 72 percent less expensive than building new subsidized apartments.

One million dollars spent for Arlington County housing grants would help 250 households with a monthly $300 grant, whereas one million dollars spent for AHIF funding would help at most 8-10 households with a new unit.

Two years ago the board unanimously approved the Master Plan with a goal to provide housing assistance to 640 additional households per year. You need to come up with the funding and means to meet your goal, and tonight we offer you one possibility.

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March 15, 2017

Greens to the county board: raise the fees on developers to get $7 million for housing grants for 2,000 Arlington families

Raising $7 million more in tax revenue for the county housing grants program through
a higher developers’ fee

Under the 2005 Affordable Housing Ordinance, the county requires developers of new housing projects needing or requesting a zoning change for the project to provide that at least 5 percent of the additional apartments added as a result of the zoning change to be “affordable rental units” or to pay a fee or a “cash contribution. For example, $1.88 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) for first 1.0 FAR; and $5.01 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) from 1.0 to 3.0 FAR for residential.

Unfortunately, this ordinance was not tightly written nor do the constructions costs written into the 2005 ordinance based on market conditions existing 12 years ago reflect costs today even though the costs in the ordinance are indexed (based on the Consumer Price Index in the Washington, D.C. region).

Over the 12 years of the ordinance, developers choose largely to not provide new affordable units on site, but rather pay the modest fee above that amounts to a portion of the actual cost of the new apartment. During 2005-October 2014 (about 10 1/2 years), developers only provided 11percent of required units on site (30 units of the required 295 units), and instead paid a rather modest fee of $137,000 per unit, far below the cost of adding a new unit offsite. These fees were added to the AHIF (Affordable Housing Investment Fund).

The county board should increase the required fees under the ordinance to reflect the actual contemporary cost of a new apartment which is at least $350,000 per new unit. A developer should pay a fee of at least $350,000 per unit or provide a unit on site. A fee of $350,000 paid per unit would generate an estimated $7 million more annually for the housing program. Developers exacerbate the problem of rising rents in our community by their activities, and it is fair to shift some of the tax burden of housing assistance programs to them rather than to only general taxpayers.

During 2005-October 2014, a total 295 additional units were approved under this ordinance, of which only 30 units were located in the new developments, whereas developers choose to pay a fee for the 265 units not provided in the new developments. Thus, this ordinance applied to an average 30 new units per year. These fees yielded only $36.2 million during the 10 years or $3.6 million annually, the equivalent of $137,000 per new additional apartment. These funds were simply added to the AHIF.

These Affordable Housing Ordinance fees cited above should be tripled on a square footage basis. This would be expected to increase the average fee received per unit from the current $137,000 to $350,000. With a fee paid of $350,000 per unit for 30 units, the county would likely receive $10.5 million annually, an increase of $6.9 million a year from the current $3.6 million. This entire additional $6.9 million annually should be placed in the housing grants fund.

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February 6, 2017

Arlington County Giving $6 million to Nestle Corporation is Wrong

Arlington County Giving $6 million to Nestle Corporation is Wrong

Letter to the editor, Arlington Sun Gazette

Arlington County’s recent announcement of a secret deal in which the county board gave $6 million of local Arlington tax dollars without public involvement or notice to Nestle Corporation to move to an empty Rosslyn high rise is a classic example of crony capitalism to bail out Monday Corporation’s 27-story turkey in Rosslyn (empty since it was built in 2013), and a waste of precious local taxes that can better go to serve Arlington needy citizens, its school children, parks or other community needs.

Arlington does not need to provide big businesses any more incentives; Arlington has been rated for decades as one of the best places to live, work or retire. Tack on our great transportation, low crime rate, great libraries, schools and recreation, and lower taxes compared to our neighbors, and even without our 6 million tax bucks Nestle would have come out ahead moving here. Perhaps county board members and our overpaid Arlington Economic Development staff on the county payroll need get to out and see what makes our community already GREAT. It’s small businesses that need help, not a hundred-billion-dollar-a-year corporations for whom 6 million bucks is a drop in the bucket.

Let’s not overlook Nestle’s shoddy human rights record in third world countries either. The world’s largest coffee company should not be employing slave or child labor in its plantations abroad.

We Greens support transparency in government, and this action was as hidden as darkness. Last year and this year, Greens have asked the county board and manager to come up with $8 million needed to begin to fund 1,800 housing grants as part of the affordable housing master plan that help some of our 30,000 residents making less than 50% area median income and the county board ‘pleads poor us, no tax revenues.’ If you give away the taxes that we residents pay to corporations, then of course there are no funds to help lower income Arlingtonians nor to build classrooms and hire more teachers for our bursting public schools.

Marie Pellegrino

chairperson

the Arlington Greens

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