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Lake Anne Fellowship House Plan Falls Apart

by Karen Goff September 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm 1,362 6 Comments

Lake Anne Fellowship HousePlans to redevelop Lake Anne Fellowship House have been put on hold indefinitely — and it looks as though some current residents of the affordable housing for seniors may have to pay higher rents in order to stay in the building.

Fellowship Square and Novus Residences had been working for more than a year on plans to tear down the senior housing in need of remodeling and rebuild on the site 140 affordable housing units as well as 285 market-rate housing units.

The plan was organized separately from Republic Land Development’s large revitalization project at Crescent Apartments and the area near Lake Anne Plaza. An initial Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing had been scheduled for later this month.

Lake Anne Fellowship House currently has 240 units for seniors, 114 of which are subsidized. The building, which was built in the early 1970s and does not meet all Americans With Disability Act standards, also has a 20 percent vacancy rate.

The Fellowship House Foundation notified Fairfax County zoning officials last week that the application was deferred “due to our inability to advance our land use proposal in a manner that will produce the best possible outcome for our residents.”

From the start, the proposed project had an obstacle in that there are two different mortgage holders for the six-acre property: The Department of Housing and Urban Development for the west side and the Virginia Housing Development Authority for the eastern half.  Both would have to agree to consolidate and retitle, and Fellowship House board member John Thillman predicted last year that that could prove a long — and possibly fruitless — process.

Edward Byrnes, a member of the Fellowship House Foundation board and chair of its Lake Anne Redevelopment Committee, wrote in a letter to county officials that he still believed that foundation’s plan was a good one in spite of criticism that many low-income seniors would be displaced.

“We still believe that our proposal for 140 permanently affordable senior housing units and 285 market-rate units is the best available means for replacing our aging residential complex and retaining affordable housing for seniors in Reston for the next 40 years,” Byrnes wrote. “We arrived at this proposal after several years of reviewing alternate solutions … In the end, we concluded that a self-help strategy of using the increased value of our land at Lake Anne Fellowship House to finance the rebuilding of our complex provided the most dependable and achievable solution. “

Byrne said there were several meetings with Fairfax County officials over the summer, but the county was not receptive to the idea of offering Section 8 housing vouchers to existing residents, which the Fellowship Foundation needed in order to progress with the zoning application.

Byrnes says that a portion of the mortgage at Lake Anne Fellowship House will be paid off in September 2016. Wrote Byrnes:

The subsidy program associated with Lake Anne II no longer exists and we have no ability to extend the subsidy beyond the maturity of the mortgage. Without the ability to advance our project as proposed, we have lost the ability to prepay the mortgage and access the expanded housing safety net for our current residents. Therefore, we must now turn our time and attention to preparing a significant portion of our residents for the loss of their existing housing subsidy and, likely, their ability to pay rent.

For Fellowship Square Foundation, we will be forced to raise rents to market rates for those units that have lost their subsidy to cover the expense of operating this building.”

This is not the outcome we want, but the consequence of our inability to proceed with our redevelopment proposal. We have been criticized by the county for proposing the build only 140 affordable senior units rather than replacing the current 240 units. But, as we have stated, the value of our property is limited and that limited value can only produce  140 new, affordable senior housing units.

Ironically, by failing to support our redevelopment proposal, the community will still lose 100 affordable senior housing units. The difference is that the remaining 140 units will be aging, 40-year-old units rather than new units.

 

  • Terry

    While I appreciate the difficulty the financial hardship this turn of events may put all LAFH residents in, let’s be perfectly clear: The so-called “safety net” Section 8 vouchers that offered ” “Permanent, Portable Direct Housing Subsidies To All 240 Residents For The Rest of Their Lives” was not worth they paper they would have been printed on.

    There is NO available Section 8 housing in the Lake Anne area or Reston, and there certainly isn’t enough in the County for all 240 LAFH Section 8 residents. And, as I said here before, you can’t live in a voucher. (See the dialogue between NOVUS President Seldin & myself in the comments on an earlier RestonNow article here: https://www.restonnow.com/2014/08/18/on-the-docket-fall-hearings-for-crescent-fellowship-house/ )

    At least now the residents of LAFH will have the option of staying or leaving based on their own decision, not the greed-driven motivation of developers.

    I appreciate very much that County officials stuck to their guns and to the Lake Anne Master Plan–which took a decade to develop–that called for any redevelopment of the LAFH property to house all the residents in the Lake Anne area. Moreover, the NOVUS redevelopment proposal was for 425 apartments, a quantity of apartments allowed ONLY under the plan’s “consolidated” option, that is, in coordination with the Crescent Apt. area and the LA plaza parking/office building at the minimum. Of course, this proposal didn’t comply with that requirement as Republic is developing the other two areas independently.

    In short, the management of Lake Anne Fellowship House and NOVUS Residences has no one to blame for the failure of their proposal other than themselves. They tried to bully the County into ignoring its own Planning Commission and Board approved plan, using the prospective displacement of the less fortunate residents of LAFH as leverage, and their cynical plan to profit failed miserably.

    LAFH management still has 2 years to have approved a redevelopment proposal that meets the requirements of the Lake Anne area plan: One that provides subsidized housing locally for all current residents and proposes to build no more than 320 units as permitted under the “redevelopment” option–that is, without working with others in the Lake Anne area, a course of action they could have avoided years ago.

    Instead of complaining, it is time for the LAFH management to get to work and provide the housing the plan calls for–as it should have done in the first place.

    And thank you to the County for sticking to the Lake Anne Comprehensive Plan. We all will weather this storm.

    • Bah

      At least now the residents of LAFH will have the option of staying or
      leaving based on their own decision, not the greed-driven motivation of
      developers.

      The residents are also greedy. They want to sit on their subsidized housing until they get a better offer.

      “Beggars can’t be choosers” ought to apply here.

  • mary

    There is a small Sunrise assisted living building at Rt 1 and Lorton Rd that was abandoned a few yrs ago. Have Fellowship Sq. Foundation purchase and use this for about 50 or so residents.

    • Karen Goff

      Good idea. but they have no money to purchase a new building a staff it.

  • AA

    Hopefully the LAFH Board realized that they should engage the residents in developing a plan that decides their fates. Let’s hope so. Still the main criticism is that the LAFH Board did not inform the residents regarding the expiration of the subsidy for Lake Anne II in 2016 in advance. This has made the residents unhappy and taken away their trust in the Board member’s intentions.

  • Margaret Lung

    BAH,
    You and some of the others don’t seem to realize that many of the residents of LAFH have been residents of Reston for as long as 30-40 years. We moved here because of the principles Reston was founded on by Robert Simon. Many of us have lived in different houses/townhouses, apartments, or condos, as our life circumances have changed. Spouses died, got divorced, children grew up, and illness. All these reduce ones income. We are very happy that we have a good, pleasant place to live. It is very international now and it is a very enriching environment from all points of view. It is really unfortunate that some people feel that we are some sort of freeloaders, or worse.
    Recently, some officers of the RCA toured the whole building, met the residents and were amazed at how different it is than what they were told. Seeing is believing.

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