• Next Meeting--Thursday, Sept. 4, 7:00 PM at the Community Room of the Ballston Firehouse Station (located at Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive).

Columbia Pike Trolley, the end of affordable housing in Arlington

Arlington Affordable Housing: Building of a Columbia Pike Trolley Will Eliminate Most Remaining Market-Rate Apartments, Says Arlington Greens leader, Jan. 30, 2011

The Arlington County Government’s plan to build a trolley up Columbia Pike should be called by one of its real names– “the minority removal trolley” or “the urban renewal trolley for the rich.” The cost of the trolley will exceed $240 million, much of which will likely come from county revenues.
The County Government’s hired planner, Dover, Kohl, reported that that the trolley will sharply increase rents along Pike apartments. Dover, Kohl described existing bus service as “outstanding,” and wrote that redevelopment of the Pike is commercially feasible only if current low-rise apartments are replaced with much more expensive, high-rise units at triple the current density.
So the effect of the trolley will be to raise the value of land, encourage high rise building of expensive apartments, and eliminate those current residents who do not earn substantially more than $60,000 a year. Pike residents earning less will be forced to leave, and rich residents brought in. Private landowners will reap billions of dollars, and the public will be stuck with the trolley cost.
County board Democratic chairman Mary Hynes tells us that she wants to keep current moderate income renters along the Pike, but the economic impact of the trolley makes that impossible. The county’s own economic consultant, Partners for Economic Solutions (PES), concludes that the cost to the county of subsidizing preservation of 5,000 of the existing affordable apartments along the Pike would be roughly $300 million ($60,000 per unit).
Over the past decade, the county government was unable to meet its annual countywide goal of adding 400 committed affordable apartments, in 2010 adding only 141 units and spending $5 million from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund for this purpose. It is highly unlikely that the county government will be able to come up with at least $300 million to keep 5,000 affordable apartments along the Pike, particularly given the severe public school overcrowding facing the entire county, and need for more school classrooms.
The County Board’s urban renewal for the Pike should be described as to what it really is: minority and low income people removal and a gift of public money to developers. It is for these reasons that Arlington Greens have for the past six years opposed the building of a trolley for rich people and a one-way ticket out for minorities and low income residents.
John Reeder, Chairman, Arlington Greens