Fairfax County housing officials want to assist religious congregations interested in using their existing buildings or land to help create affordable housing.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors talked about the idea at its housing committee meeting last Tuesday (Nov. 23). While in the preliminary stages of discussion, the proposed collaboration could help religious groups that need to sell vacant property to address struggling finances, officials suggested.
“A lot of these congregations are, especially the older ones, are facing economic and financial pressures, and they’re looking for a lifeline out of that,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said. “We’re in a little bit of a race against time here.”
He shared that developers are asking to buy excess land from religious groups and build million-dollar-plus homes on those parcels, thereby giving faith organizations revenue that would help them continue providing services to their congregations.
Senior Facility Could Serve as Model
Faith organizations have a model for one way to approach redeveloping their land through Chesterbrook Residences, an assisted living facility with a capacity for 109 residents that opened at 2030 Westmoreland St. in McLean in 2007.
The project used land donated by the Chesterbrook Presbyterian Church, which sought to create an assisted living facility for low-income seniors when it dissolved in 2000, according to a history provided by Chesterbrook Residences.
The $13.5 million project also involved a partnership with the Lewinsville and Immanuel Presbyterian churches and Temple Rodef Shalom. Local and federal grants provided $12 million, and the religious groups raised the remainder, Rabbi Amy Schwartzman said in a blog post.
“The National Capital Presbytery donated the land for this project. Without this gift, the cost would likely have been too burdensome,” Schwartzman wrote.
Other Options for Religious Groups
Places of worship could also pursue other strategies, such as retrofitting part of a building, while still maintaining a worship space.
They could demolish an existing structure to build a new one with both housing and worship space, according to Judith Cabelli, director of the county’s Affordable Housing Development Division.
“There might be a…parking lot on site that is much larger than the house of worship needs, and a multifamily building could be built on that parking lot, and then parking could be reconfigured,” she said.
But the complex and sometimes lengthy permitting approval process can create barriers.
Chairman Jeff McKay noted that congregations could also face development challenges, from stormwater management to zoning. Their buildings may be located in environmentally sensitive areas that limit development.
To address those concerns, county leaders are looking for ways to streamline the approval process, possibly working with an initial batch of congregations to help their projects succeed. If that route is pursued, the initial group could later be expanded to more congregations, McKay suggested.
County staff proposed providing a handout, a video, or another resource to help religious groups. Cabelli said the county envisions having community educational meetings and adding a “Faith in Housing” section to the Department of Housing and Community Development’s website.
An informational video could be launched in early 2022 with meetings to follow throughout the year.
Housing and Community Development Director Tom Fleetwood said he plans to continue examining possible approaches to bring back to the housing committee.
The Barton Hill Recreation Area in Reston is slated for upgrades (via Google Maps) Upgraded lighting is no longer a component of upgrades to the Barton Hill tennis courts in…
Fairfax County Public Schools Fairfax County Public Schools could require parental notifications for class materials deemed sexually explicit, but in a deviation from the state, the proposed policy directly addresses…
A public art piece inspired by the connectivity and energy of atoms has been erected in Reston Town Center’s Hyatt Park. Called “Vidustria,” the installation is drawn from the word…
A man walks by trash bins next to the curb (via Trinity Nguyen on Unsplash) (Updated at 1:25 p.m.) The service and staffing challenges plaguing trash collectors throughout Fairfax County…
The Ravel Dance Studio will re-open for fall classes 2020. The school will offer in person and virtual online instruction. With over 5000 sq. ft. to social distance the school has added air ionization filtration systems, ballet barres, acrylic dividers, hands free bathrooms, strict monitoring and more.
The Ravel Dance Studio will produce a Nutcracker Ballet Hollywood style video through the Reston Community CenterStage. REGISTRATION online begins August 17.
Chris Green is one of the DMV’s finest fitness instructors. A Lululemon and South Block ambassador, he is a coach and mentor to so many. He embodies grace, positivity and motivation in ways that no one else can. If we could all learn a thing or two from him, the world would be a much better place. He does so much for others, and does so with a smile on his face 99% of the time.
He recently ruptured his Achilles and has an incredibly long and tough journey ahead. As if COVID hadn’t impacted fitness professionals enough, throw this in the mix and it’s a double, even triple whammy. CG is no longer able to work and do what he loves for the time being because of this and we’d love your support.