Arlington Greens and their community supporters enthusiastically supported the housing authority referendum in 2013, but were unable to overcome propaganda from the two major parties, particularly the Democrats, and some voters adversion to public housing for lower and working class people in Arlington.
The approval share of votes cast in 2013 was very close to the share in the prior referendum in 2008 (a Presidential election year), about 31 percent:
Votes Percentage Votes Percentage
Yes 32,808 33.1% 19,726 30.8%
No 66,235 66.9% 44,305 69.2%
The Republicans and the Democrats both urged voters to vote no, and distributed sample ballots indicating this.
The Democrats further circulated a mistake prone and misleading document to voters with factual errors. Their most amazing claim is that they really want to keep Arlington a diverse community, “where individuals from all walks of life can afford to live.” What a joke–this is totally at odds to the 11 percent drop in Latinos living in Arlington over the past 13 years and a drop in the number of black residents as well, all or mostly because of higher rents, and the Democratic ruling Party’s failure to have an effective housing program to just maintain the number of lower income minorities living in Arlington!
Working income people of all types simply cannot live in Arlington today. Arlington today does not have anywhere near the number of people from all walks of life living here. Fewer than 10% of Arlington firefighters live here; fewer than 80% of police, and fewer than 40% of public school teachers. Arlington firefighters union supported the housing authority because it could then offer as does the Fairfax Housing Authority today subsidized rental housing for lower earning firefighters as well as teachers, police, county employees and nurses and critical medical staff working at the Va Hospital Center.
Some factual Pinnochio statements on the Arlington County Democratic Committee sheet on the housing authority:
“It (a housing authority) would not bring any new tools, authority, or funding for affordable housing.”Totally wrong on all three points. An authority under Virginia law can underwrite and issue its own housing bonds at low interest rates (something Arlington cannot do today); it can own land and directly operate rental housing (something Arlington County cannot do today), and it can secure HUD funding and HUD credit guarantees for its housing bonds issued, and automatically obtain Federal tax credits. Obviously, a “housing authority” brings new authority powers as elaborated under longtime Virginia law. There are about 22 Virginia jurisdictions with a housing authority today.
“Arlington is creating and preserving more affordable housing units per 1,000 people than any other county in Northern Virginia”
Over the past 13 years, Arlington has lost an average of 1,200 affordable rental units offered by private owners and added only 300 affordable subsidized units, a net loss annually of 900 units annually. Arlington is not creating any affordable units, it is losing nearly 1,000 units a year. Fairfax, Falls Church and every other jurisdiction in Northern Virginia (except for the City of Alexandria) has kept more affordable units than Arlington, and remain more affordable than Arlington. DC is now more affordable than Arlington.
“The county already allocates more than $20 million annually for affordable housing development. Since 1996, Arlington County has spent $132.6 million for housing.” Arlington County spends about $6 million annually for affordable housing development, under the so-called AHIF (Arlington Housing Investment Fund). It does not spend $20 million annually. With those $6 million, the county adds about 300 subsidized apartments (CAFs) annually at a very high cost per unit. The most recent CAFs added at Arlington Mill cost about $250,000 each (with free public land), more than twice what the Fairfax Housing Authority spends per unit.
What is really important is not how much Arlington County spends, but what its results are: the county actually spends annually of its own funds over $30 million for all types of housing assistance including rent subsidies, low income homeowner tax defferal, etc. But its program is very expensive per person helped and ineffective because it has failed to meet nearly every goal set to preserve rental housing. Its high costs mean that mostly the subsidized units do not serve lower income people, but only those making $60,000 and above. Its program is fractured, ineffective and expensive mainly benefiting the developers and contractors who get the county funding.