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