• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 at 7:30 pm at Ballston Firehouse Community Room (George Mason Drive & Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA)

August 27, 2018

Arlington Greens meet on Wed, Sept. 5, 7:30 PM, at Ballston Firehouse

Arlington Greens will hold their next meeting on Wednesday, September 5, at 7:30 PM at the Ballston Firehouse Community Room, located at George Mason Drive and Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA.

Major topics

Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, next steps for our opposition

Westover Apartments historic preservation–setting up a legal fund

environment–saving more trees in Arlington

opposing approval of Kavanaugh for U.S. supreme court

 

All are invited, but only paid members may vote.  Membership is $5 per year and limited to Arlington residents.

 

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July 23, 2018

County board continues inequitable tax relief program at the expense of needy seniors, families and adult renters

Affordable Housing — @ 12:50 pm

The Arlington County Board refused to modify real estate tax relief in order to target its benefits mostly to lower income seniors at its July 14 meeting. The board continues to reward many homeowners who are rich in wealth and higher income than the vast majority of lower income renters in Arlington. The board loosened restrictions on eligible homeowners costing another $154,000 in lost annual taxes; in April the board cut funding for rental housing grants by $400,000. So the rich get richer and the poor get less.

Arlington Greens had urged the board to limit real estate tax relief for homeowners to tax deferral which would increase county tax revenues by about $3 million annually that could then fund assistance for more needy Arlington residents with other forms of housing assistance, particularly rental grants. Greens urged the board to equalize maximum income levels for both renters and owners to a maximum 80% area median income. Arlington renters who are seniors getting a housing rental voucher have maximum income of 40% AMI, and most actually earn far less than this.

But the county board did the expected, and continues to give out over $4 million a year to homeowners many of whom live in a half million residence and have additional financial assets over $300,000.
This property tax relief program is highly inequitable, and treats Arlington property owners with higher incomes and much higher wealth better than Arlington residents who are renters.

With tax deferral, there would be about $3 million in additional tax revenue that could then be used to expand rental housing grants for elderly, disabled and families by the same amount. The housing rental grants program serves the elderly, disabled and families with a child all of whom earn well under 40 percent area median income (AMI), and who have personal assets under $35,000. The average senior getting a housing grant earns $14,000 a year. In April 2018, the county board cut housing grants by $0.4 million.

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, potentially well over a million dollars in wealth. About $3 million of the program cost occurs owing to tax exemption.

With tax deferral, property owners would pay no real estate tax until the property is sold; there is no financial burden on them as our rising property values insure that even these deferred taxes will be paid without a net cost to these property owners in the future. In general, our real estate tax is about 1 percent of the value of the property, and property values have been rising at 2-3 percent or more annually. It is a significant form of housing assistance to be able to avoid paying taxes for years, and to repay them without interest years later from the proceeds of a capital gain.

The Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) goal is to help an additional 630 more households with housing assistance annually over the next 25 years. The county has never met this goal in any year, and it appears that the goal is mostly just words on a piece of paper without the funds to make it reality.

Housing rental grants are the county’s single most effective housing assistance program. A HUD study found that housing grants in the United States were 72 percent less expensive than building new subsidized apartments—so called committed affordable units or “CAFs.”

The county should give more housing (rental) grants to seniors, disabled and parents with children, and other adults by lowering the current minimum age for seniors from age 65 to 50, and eliminating the other purely arbitrary restrictions that block tens of thousands of Arlington renters from applying for rental grants.

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June 12, 2018

Amazon HQ2 Town Hall Helpful or Harmful to Arlington, Thur. June 21, 7-9 PM, Central Library

Amazon Town Hall, Hosted by Our Revolution Arlington, and co-sponsored by the Arlington Greens

June 21, 2018

Amazon Town Hall, Hosted by ORA
Arlington Central Library Auditorium
1015 N Quincy St (four blocks from Ballston Metro)
Arlington, VA 22201
Description
Our Revolution Arlington will be hosting a public, community town hall about Amazon’s HQ2 bid at the Central Public Library Auditorium (1015 N Quincy St,)
Overview of HQ2 and impact to housing, rents, schools and other important elements to Arlington community infrastructure
Statements from local community organizations
Our Revolution Arlington’s Community Wealth Building Alternative
What do we know about HQ2 and Arlington’s Bid?

-Featured speaker is Greg LeRoy from Good Jobs First will be presenting “Amazon HQ2: Helpful or Harmful to Arlington,”

Audience members will be able to speak at an open mic to ask questions, share concerns or state opinions about the bid. The program will also include:

Co-sponsors include Our Revolution Northern Virginia Steering Committee, DSA NoVA, Arlington Green Party, and Grassroots Alexandria

Speaker Greg LeRoy
Speaking on: “Amazon HQ2: Helpful or Harmful for Arlington?”

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Greens to Arlington County Board: No money for Amazon HQ2

Greens vote: No county funds to Amazon to move its new offices HQ2 to Arlington

At their June 6 meeting, Arlington Greens voted to oppose any county funds for Amazon to move its new office to Arlington. Greens are concerned with the secretive and hidden negotiations between the County Government and Amazon to provide that company with potentially billions of public dollars in order to open a large office complex in Arlington or nearby Alexandria. Greens are very concerned that these public funds will detract from funds now used to support our schools, libraries, public safety, affordable housing assistance, recreation, and the other public programs that make Arlington a great community already. It is bad for democracy to keep the people in the dark.

Community activists have already asked the Arlington County Board to make public its bid for the Amazon headquarters with as many as 60,000 employees. Many of the final top-20 areas being considered by Amazon have made public their bids which range from $4-7 billion. Northern Virginia is one of the top areas Amazon wants; Jeff Bezzos the Amazon owner and the world’s richest man has a mansion in Washington DC and owns the Washington Post. Why does the richest man on the Earth need our county tax dollars?

Greens are concerned that Arlington County cannot afford to waste any dollars on Amazon, given the tight budget approved in April, the rising cost of more school students, more Metrorail funding, and the need for more assistance to renters to be able to stay here. Arlington has 2% unemployment rate today; traffic is considerable and rising. Adding 60,000 employees to our community–none of whom will pay taxes locally–is going to raise rents, increase traffic, and make life miserable for us the county residents, all done with our own tax dollars.

Greens also voted to support a town hall discussion of Amazon sponsored by Our Revolution Arlington on June 21 at Central Library from 7-9 PM (see separate article with details).

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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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