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Proposed Luxury Condominiums in Reston Raise Concerns About Affordable Housing

by Fatimah Waseem December 5, 2017 at 1:30 pm 70 Comments

A proposal to build 20-story luxury condominiums to 1801 Reston Ave. will go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission tomorrow with an unfavorable report from the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning.

In a Nov. 22 staff report, the department raised concerns that workforce housing does not appear to be “a vital element” of the proposed development, which will include up to 150 units and 294 parking spaces on 1.5-acres of land currently zoned for office uses.

Renaissance Centro, the developer, is seeking one market-rate unit for each workforce dwelling unit —  an incentive allowed by the county to encourage inclusive, affordable housing — while also creating a condition would allow the developer to convert unsold workforce housing to market rate units under certain conditions. Plans include 24 workforce dwelling units, allowing 24 market rate units in bonus density.

The developer also opted out of a proffer that requires bonus market rate units to remain similar in size to workforce housing, possibly allowing the developer to sell significantly larger market rate units while only building small efficiency units for workforce housing.

“The county would only receive a monetary contribution at a loss of affordable housing provided onsite. The monetary contribution is not likely to be sufficient to purchase comparable affordable units,” according to the report.

Additionally, staff said the developer is not providing enough money to fund athletic field construction in the Reston area, a developer contribution given to the county’s park authority based on the impact of the new residential development.

The county is seeking $406,668, a figure calculated from the gross floor area of the building. The developer, however, is seeking to provide a reduced amount based on the square footage of the residential parts of the building, a calculation method that staff said was ambiguous and would not meet the need for athletic fields.

If approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors, the project will join neighboring residential developments like the Harrison Apartment and the Stratford Condominiums. In late November, the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee rejected the proposal by a slim 6-5 vote.

A public hearing on the project is set for tomorrow at 8:15 p.m in the Fairfax County Government Center board auditorium. An online stream is available on the county’s website.

To sign up to speak, register online. For more information, call the planning commissions’ office at 703-324-2865.

Renderings via handout

  • Mike M

    The only “concern” I have about “affordable housing” is that the government will try to intervene into the marketplace to create it.

    This is where the County blows their chance to get things like sidewalks and road improvements. They squander their hand on race and class warfare to no meaningful end.

    • Ray Wedell

      An interesting perspective, Mike. I have no idea why there is so much intangible capital being wasted on focusing on “work force housing.” This Project is laughably ludicrous on enough other grounds.

      • OneReally

        Buying votes!

    • reston resident

      My understanding has been that “Workforce” housing generally refers to housing that is affordable to working people and others of “moderate” income, especially in a high-cost, highly-leveraged housing market such as NoVa. Pols like to lump in retail and restaurant workers, teachers, blue collar workers such as warehouse workers, and the guys in the pit at Jiffy Lube, and lower-paid civil servants (librarians and rookie cops?) into this category. What these buyers seem to have in common are non-professional degreed jobs with limited income potential. “Workforce ” is a broad term of flexible and imprecise meaning, hence the reliance upon mathematical formulas to calculate eligibility for subsidize housing, etc.
      I don’t know if it is a “BS code word”, standing for…what exactly? (what are you thinking? Immigrants? Minorities? Single working parents of limited means? People not like yourself? Or just folks who are worse off than you? All of the above? None of the above?)

    • 40yearsinreston

      Plum is a master of that approach

  • RERSRESQ

    Building high end housing opens up other housing.

    There is no track record that just trying to create “affordable housing” by government fiat worked better than the traditional system of homeowners just moving up and creating vacancies.

    In fact, high taxes and regulations (some caused by the additional “affordable housing” requirements for new projects) just leads more homeowners to stay in their older neighborhoods and just constantly re-model.

    Our county bureaucrats have created great income inequities in Fairfax by making it home of just the very well-to-do and those dependent on government subsidies.The traditional Middle wage earners have been crushed by high taxes, fees, and regulations.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      And the Trump Tax plan isn’t going to help that situation just long enough to get past the mid-term elections, and then the middle-class gets stuffed again.

      • RERSRESQ

        The benefits last longer than that but the 10 year rule is absurd unless it applies to government spending too. Wouldn’t it have been better if Obamacare phased out in 10 years like tax rates? It is the progressives that insist on those rules and static income projections that keep tax rates so high.

    • I’d Rather Post As A Guest

      How does building high-end housing in a luxury high rise by itself create housing in this market for those reliant upon government assistance? Please explain further your cause-and-effect analysis…

      • RERSRESQ

        Because there is a more natural “moving Up” process. I moved from a Northgate apartment to a modest two bedroom townhouse in South Reston (I was probably poor by county standards then). Later I moved to Inlet Court and eventually to a single family home. I didn’t start out with a grand apartment at the Town Center. At each of my moves, lower income (lower than me) moved into my former apartment or townhouse.

        The county usually only gives permits if a builder has “lower income” set asides. That theoretically makes lower income earners, or no income earners, more dependent on government doing this. But it means the balance of the units have to cost more. Usually a lot more. That keeps others in their existing homes because the leap to new units become too expensive (or can only be occupied by high income earners). it shuts off what happened in most American cities for generations: a natural moving-up progression that made older units (homes & apartments) affordable for people creating new households.

        You might take a look at the writings of the late Jane Jacobs. She would do a better job than me explaining how “Great American” cities benefitted by smaller or no government projects.

        This substituted a natural progression of neighborhoods for those projects depended on government approval that had very costly units and then some subsidized units. It exacerbated income envy along the way.

    • Mike M

      Thanks RER. I grow weary of explaining economics to hopeless idealists. Socialism is an IQ problem caused by wistfulness. Price controls, rent controls, . . . when will they ever learn?

      • Greg

        Not soon enough. Obamacare anyone? Less affordable now than ever.

        • Mike M

          But it will only get better as time goes on, right?

          Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. Of course as insidious a bill as it was, the GOP couldn’t not get rid of it as they promised for most of a decade.

          • Mike M

            “GOP couldn’t not get rid of it as they promised for most of a decade.”

            Perhaps, because despite your superior brain and IQ, the Republicans played you like a fiddle.

          • Mike M

            Perhaps because of all that, I voted Trump despite both parties.

    • John Farrell

      We now have the “trinkle down” theory of housing.

      And the “trinkle down” theory of the economy work so well for the last 40 years, didn’t it?

      • Greg

        It worked far better than the “war on poverty.” At least $25 trillion and counting…

        • John Farrell

          Hardly. The “war on poverty” last 24 months.

          The war on workers continues unabated for 40+ years.

          • Greg

            24 months? Where did you study history? And math?

  • Chuck Morningwood

    So, basically, the developer stands to make tens of millions and Reston gets chopped liver. Does that sound like a fair analysis?

    When is Hudgins up for re-election again?

    • 40yearsinreston

      Not soon enough

    • Bah

      No, that is not a fair analysis. Reston doesn’t deserve anything. The developer owns the property; the developer is investing in it; the developer is taking all the risks; the developer should reap the rewards.

      • Chuck Morningwood

        And you’re saying that the community doesn’t share in those risks at all? The developer is not an island. They are trying to make changes to the COMMUNITY as well as to their property.

  • Anonymous Person

    I don’t understand the affordable housing concern. Didn’t the nation have severe problems by shoehorning people into places they couldn’t afford on their own anyway? Didn’t we have an entire financial crisis predicated on this root cause?

    Of course not what do I know, 2008 was caused by evil Republicans eating poor peoples’ babies.

    • Terry Maynard

      To the contrary, the people who lost big-time in the 2008 recession were people who did not have access to workforce or affordable housing and went out and borrowed well beyond their ability to pay in a highly leveraged market.

      • The Constitutionalist

        And what did they lose exactly? The home they couldn’t afford to begin with because you and I and everyone else didn’t build them a cheap place to live?

        The real loser in 2008 was the thinking man, the man who bought a home he could safely afford just to have the value turn upside down because parents don’t teach their children how to be financially responsible.

      • Amy Sue

        and who forced them to borrow well beyond their ability to pay? Pure irresponsibility or lack of proper research. Purchasing a house is a big investment. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure they purchase only what they can afford.

      • Greg

        Liberal “logic.” #doomed.

      • Greg

        No one forced anyone to borrow a penny.

        No one forced them to live in Reston or Fairfax County.

        • John Farrell

          Right, they got conned. And the grifters got away with it while you and I paid the bill.

          • Greg

            Part of the reason why is that Richmond will not approve super liens, but I digress.

            Key word is “forced.”

          • Bah

            Nope. They were greedy, they gambled, and they lost. Then they ran whining to the politicians for a bailout.

      • Mike M

        I simply feel bad for you.

    • Greg

      Yes we did. And places like Shadowood and Southgate suffered through hundreds of foreclosures that not only cost the owners in written off condo fees that were never collected, but also in property values that declined more than 60 percent.

    • JS333

      I respectfully disagree. You know when you move someplace whether or not you can afford it. That’s why I live in Reston and not in Georgetown. Each region has areas that are more affordable than others & it’s your responsibility to choose a home you can afford.

  • John Higgins

    Can someone point me to a useable definition of “workforce housing” in the context of Reston? The term is used frequently, as if it has clear meaning to all of us. Is it different in this “elite” community from elsewhere in the county?

    • EliteinReston
      • John Higgins

        Thanks for the link. Using the footnote on pg.23 of the Comp Plan and Terry’s input, I calculate that the target population are those folks with income between $52,500 and $90,000 and to be affordable their housing costs should be between $1,313 and $2,250 per month. Now I get it.

    • Terry Maynard

      Short answer, John: Workforce Housing (WDU) is available to people earning 70% to 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI)–which includes all the WDC metro area–when they are exempt from Affordable Housing expectations (eg–TSAs). The AMI is about $75K at this time. Developers are expected to provide 12%-20% of their proposed development to WDUs–for which they get a matching bonus in market rate housing.

      Affordable Housing (ADU) is available to those earning 30% to 70% of the AMI. Similar expectations up to 17% with bonus.

      There is a way out for developers: Provide a proffer to pay for the construction of this housing somewhere else so you don’t dirty your “elite” housing. Per FC policy, this “is not desirable.” As the article states, Renaissance Centro’s proffer is almost certain to be inadequate.

      “Elite” developer arrogance is absolutely stunning.

      • John Higgins

        Thank you, Terry. Informative, as always.

  • Amy Sue

    –“The developer also opted out of a proffer that requires bonus market rate units to REMAIN SIMILAR IN SIZE TO WORKFORCE HOUSING, possibly allowing the developer to sell significantly larger market rate units while only building small efficiency units for workforce housing.”–

    Good god, how selfish can the developer get? (HUGE dose of sarcasm)

  • Terry Maynard

    Apparently Renaissance Centro has either not read nor chooses to ignore all together the following planning principle in the Reston Master Plan:

    “7. Housing will be provided for all ages and incomes.

    Reston will accommodate people of all ages, physical abilities, and economic
    circumstances, and households of all sizes and stages of family life.”

    • Reston Realist

      Kensington Senior Living is trying this but they are getting resistance to SENIOR LIVING (which everyone says there isn’t enough of). Reston seems to have a huge NIMBY problem right now – we all want affordable housing for all ages, but not anywhere near me!

      • Reston Realist

        not sure who this Reston Realist wannabe is – but it’s not me… I’ve been posting as Reston Realist for a couple of years now…. Honestly, I’m not sure how RNow can allow more than one poster with the same handle?

        • Mike M

          I assume it’s Disqus allowing that.

      • Amy Sue

        I’m all for housing at different MARKET-level prices, from high to low. What I’m not for is housing that forces me to subsidize other people’s luxury lifestyles.

      • John Higgins

        Reston Realist-II: By your standard, it appears that if you live near a proposed development, objecting to it makes you a de facto NIMBY. Might it just be that Kensington’s plan to erect a building that is three times the height, six times the width of the building it replaces; occupies 85% of the 1.8-acre site and bids farewell to 55 mature trees might just somehow, maybe, be objectionable?

      • The Constitutionalist

        I don’t want affordable housing for all ages. I want you to be able to make smart financial decisions and not live outside your means when choosing a place to live.

        • Greg

          That might be a school function. But wait — we are giving them ideas for which they will demand endlessly more money to teach basic life skills. Scratch that one…

        • Income Tax

          I want to support everyone in Reston, with your taxes.

          • The Constitutionalist

            You could probably support like… three people.

      • Terry Maynard

        The opposition to Kensington is not about senior or assisted living; it’s about a building that is grossly oversized for the neighborhood in which it sits. It either needs to be (much) smaller or moved to another more suitable location in Reston.

    • Ray Wedell

      Terry, none of these guys care about that. There are way too many different projects pasted up from different developers, mostly all catering to the same demographic, one which cannot possibly support all of this. Each new projects cannibalizes an existing one that is already having huge difficulty making ends meet. There is no meaningful overall coordination of any of this, and the County Supervisor is awol. Second and third tier builder/developers each slapping up their own vanilla project with nothing more than a “build it and they will come” mentality. Maybe market forces will drive some sense into these guys. But I doubt it,not in time anyway. They know how to do one thing——build. And once they commit to building, build they will.

      • 40yearsinreston

        Hudgens has been awol for years

    • 40yearsinreston

      What about the traffic ?

      • Greg

        What traffic? They will all ride the bikes, take the metro, or walk among the unwashed on unlit tunnels/ pathways.

        Have you seen the tunnel under Reston Parkway recently? Perhaps smell is a better word…

    • The Constitutionalist

      The perfect plan, that could never go wrong for anyone, ever, or anywhere.

    • Amy Sue

      Depends on interpretation. It means there will be housing available at various MARKET prices (condos, townhomes, single family homes, apartments, etc). It doesn’t mean the builder of a luxury condo has to set aside units for low-income residents. Or, theoretically, that the builder of a community of $2 million houses has to build the same $2 million houses and sell them to low income people for $100,000 and let the rest of the community subsidize them.

  • High Rise

    The film opens with Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) living in a ravaged tower block, killing a white Alsatian and spit roasting it.

    The film flashes back to three months ago when life was more normal. The forty storey high-rise tower on the outskirts of London, built by esteemed architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), is the epitome of chic, modern living. The upper echelons of society live in the top floors, while more common families live in the lower ones. The high-rise provides its tenants with a swimming pool, gym, spa, supermarket and even a primary school. There is little reason to leave the building outside of working hours and its occupants gradually become isolated from the outside world.

    Laing moves into an apartment on the 25th floor, after his sister dies. He begins a relationship with single mother Charlotte Melville (Sienna Miller) and becomes a fatherly figure to her son, Toby (Louis Suc). He also becomes friends with Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) and his heavily pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss), who live in a low-level apartment with their children. Laing works at a school of physiology. While he is cracking open a severed head, a student named Munrow (Augustus Prew) faints. Having taken a fall, he is given brain scans as a precaution. The next day, Laing is taken to the 40th storey penthouse to meet Royal, where he finds an opulent rooftop garden and is invited to a party being thrown by Royal’s snobby wife, Ann (Keeley Hawes).

    The party turns out to be an 18th-century costume party and Laing’s everyday suit is ridiculed by Ann and other guests, including Munrow, who also lives in the building. Laing is thrown out of the party and becomes trapped in an elevator during a power cut. Such outages are becoming common, along with water being shut off and garbage chutes becoming blocked, much to the annoyance of the lower-floor residents. During a game of squash, Royal tells Laing that these are simply the growing pains of a new building.

    Laing receives Munrow’s brain scans, which come back clean. However, still angry about his humiliation, the vengeful Laing tells Munrow that they may have “found something”. Another power out in the high-rise leads to a night of decadent partying in the hallways and apartments. A drunken and distressed Munrow commits suicide by jumping off the 39th floor, crashing onto the bonnet of a car. Wilder finds it suspicious that no police show up to the scene and becomes intent on exposing the injustices of the high-rise.

    Law and order begin to disintegrate in the building due to the failing infrastructure and increasing tensions between floors. Violence becomes commonplace, food from the supermarket becomes scarce and the building devolves into class warfare between floors. It is implied that Royal has been bribing authorities to ignore the chaos within the high-rise. Feeling guilty about Munrow’s suicide, Laing shows signs of mental disturbance, eventually barricading himself in his apartment and settling into the chaotic atmosphere, even having sexual intercourse with Helen.

    Wilder, waking up from a fight with upper-floor residents, intends to find and kill Royal, believing him to be the cause of what has happened within the high-rise. Acquiring a gun from the Royals’ former housekeeper, Wilder also finds that Charlotte is Royal’s aide and that Toby is Royal’s illegitimate child. Breaking into Charlotte’s apartment, Wilder tortures and rapes Charlotte for information on Royal. The only resident who leaves the building for work, upper-floor resident and television newsreader Cosgrove (Peter Ferdinando), is captured and killed by a gang of lower-floor residents.

    Some upper-floor residents ask Laing to lobotomize Wilder, as they believe he is a dangerous agitator causing the majority of the chaos in the building. After Laing conducts a psychiatric examination, he refuses, saying that Wilder is “possibly the sanest man in the building”. Laing is nearly thrown off the building to his death for this, but Royal steps in and saves him. Laing and Royal talk about the failure and arguable success of the high rise, that it is a “crucible for change” and could lead to “new developments”, as well as giving the residents the opportunity to escape to a new life. The women at the top begin working on a plan to establish new management of the building, and Helen gives birth to her overdue baby. Wilder manages to make his way to the penthouse and shoots Royal dead after a scuffle. He is then killed by Royal’s harem of women, as Toby looks on through his kaleidoscope.

    The film ends as it began in the ravaged high-rise. Violence has abated somewhat now that many residents lie dead, as well as many of the apartments in ruin. Laing appears to have gone insane, speaking about himself and to others in the third person and talking to the building. Laing then lies down with Charlotte, reflecting that what has happened will eventually reach the second tower of the high-rise development. The film ends with Toby listening to a radio broadcast of Margaret Thatcher saying that

    !where there is state capitalism there can never be political freedom!

  • Greg

    Give us a break! Reston is infested with thousands of subsidized housing units. The county itself owns more than 500 including entire low-income housing complexes: The Crescent; The Green / Westglade; Stonegate. NONE of these parcels produce a penny of property tax revenue and none of them pay more than 50% of the RA assessment.

    There are an hundreds more section 8 and similar, county-run voucher tenants as well.

    The very last thing Reston needs is one more subsidized housing unit!

    • Mike M

      Great Falls? McLean? Falls Church? Vienna? Clifton?

      No we have Hudgins who has declared us a free fire zone.

    • Bingo

      Yup.

  • 40yearsinreston

    Hudgens and Plum should take a drive down Temporary road
    Its 6pm and traffic is backed up from Reston Parkway to North Shore Drive
    Old Reston Avenue is backed up to the Prison Fellowship offices
    While waiting I have seen numerous near misses because the sight lines are blocked by turning vehicles
    I dont see any proposals to alleviate the dangerous conditions. Is the developer going to help ?
    When are they going to get off their backsides and fix the problem before a major fatality occurs

  • letsbcivil2

    I see a lot of analysis by assertion below. What seems to be misunderstood is what is meant by “affordable housing” units which are typically indexed to the income level in the surrounding area. So, in this area, we aren’t talking about cheap or free housing –just housing that is somewhat less than higher priced units. In fact, the “affordable” housing would be the first rung of the very process you describe below.

    But what concerns me more is that once again we have a huge development proposed without infrastructure and once again Ms. Hudgins is not in our corner.

    • The Constitutionalist

      None of that matters, what matters is changing the price of the exact same product in a discriminatory manner. There’s probably over ten thousand well written and cited economic studies on why affordable housing and price controls are a bad thing for everyone, including the seller of said ‘affordable’ goods.

  • Hieronymus Bosch

    just for fun, click on this link, anything funny here?

    https://rencentro.com/about/

    • 40yearsinreston

      I wouldn’t brag about the eyesore called Harrison

  • JS333

    I don’t understand the “affordable” housing requirements. The market bears out the cost of living in specific areas. Most everyone starts out in a lower cost apartment, then moves up as they establish themselves in the workforce. If builders over build luxury condos they won’t sell & the market will force them to lower costs.

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