Reston, VA

A trio of Fairfax County Board Supervisors has pushed for the establishment of the Affordable Housing Preservation Task Force.

The task force was created through a board matter during a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on July 28. Supervisors John Foust, Dalia Palchik, and Board Chairman Jeff McKay noted that the task force is essential in order to preserve affordable housing, especially as older multifamily rental and mobile home communities are threatened by demolition or redevelopment.

“These trends are slowly eroding the county’s market affordable housing stock and forcing families and individuals out of the communities where they work,” the board matter states.

The move comes as the county continues discussions on ways to improve its affordable housing and workforce dwelling unit policies. In 2016, the board calls for the development of a housing strategic plan that offers guidance on how to strengthen and preserve affordable housing.

According to an analysis by the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, there are 9,500 housing units in Fairfax County that are considered market affordable and target households earning 60 percent of the area median income and below.

The county is aiming to ensure that no market affordable housing units in the county are lost — a recommendation provided by the board-created Affordable Housing Resources Panel.

The board matter calls on the task force to develop a comprehensive preservation plan. The task force will provide recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on the following issues by the end of the first quarter of 2021:

  • “Definitions for the types of preservation that can occur in communities;
  • Typology of properties at risk and characteristics to guide prioritizing properties or
  • neighborhoods in need of action sooner; and
  • A comprehensive set of preservation strategies that includes recommended policies and
  • tools to achieve the county goal of no net loss of affordability.”

“The way to ensure no net loss is through clear articulation of preservation strategies,” the board matter states.

The task force will include representation of a variety of stakeholders, including the private sector, county officers, and local planners.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The county plans to close on a long-awaited workforce housing development in Herndon this fall.

Construction on the 274-unit project, which is located south of the Dulles Access Road, will be completed in the summer of 2022.

The apartment building is located in the Arrowbrook Centre, a mixed-use project that includes Arrowbrook Centre Park, for-sale townhomes and condominiums and office buildings.

Once construction is completed, roughly $7.7 million in Housing Blueprint funds will be issued.  The Fairfax County Housing Redevelopment Authority will also issue roughly $22 million in bonds for the transaction this summer. Closing is expected in the fall.

“We’re really excited about this one,” said Tom Fleetwood at a Fairfax County Board of Supervisor’s housing committee meeting earlier this week.

The rental community targets households with incomes at or below 30, 40, 50 and 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). The county will provide 14 units using state and federal vouchers that target households at 40 percent of the AMI. Half of the remaining units will be financed through Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Units will vary between 422 square feet for studio sand 1,305 square feet for three-bedroom units.

A Feb. 2019 market feasibility analysis noted that Arrowbrook Centre is located in a market area. That is “younger, affluent section of an equally affluent county.” Roughly 40 percent of the primary market area’s renters are young adults under the age of 35, according to the report.

Image via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust is joining an effort by Fairfax County officials to help people avoid evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Foust teamed up with Chairman Jeff McKay and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck on a board matter to address rent relief options. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the proposal yesterday (Tuesday).

“As we continue to address the impact of COVID-19 and the associated impact on employment in our community, low and moderate income families in particular are increasingly at risk of falling behind on rent and mortgages, and eventually eviction and even homelessness,” the board matter says.

County staff must now develop a Housing Partnership Pledge by working with landlords and lenders. The county officials want to see them offer to defer foreclosures and evictions, along with providing extra time for tenants to pay rent.

Fairfax County is looking at Chicago’s pledge as a guide, according to the board matter.

Along with the pledge, the county is directing the Department of Housing and Community Development to develop new guidelines for emergency rental assistance so that landlords must work “in good faith” to keep their tenants housed in exchange for the county helping tenants’ make payments.

Under the new guidelines, landlords receiving the assistance would have to notify the county before taking legal action against the tenants.

“In addition, we should explore asking landlords receiving emergency rental assistance to waive late fees dating to April 1,” the board matter says.

Additionally, the Redevelopment and Housing Authority is now asked to look into more opportunities to provide emergency rental assistance.

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Residents of Lake Anne Fellowship House will soon benefit from new facilities after a company closed on a $86 million deal.

The new development will be located on empty property adjacent to the existing building and create 240 affordable apartments for low-income residents, according to a press release.

Amenities at the new location will include a fitness center, an arts and crafts room, a social hall, a sunroom, a game room and an outdoor terrace and wellness clinic.

To fund the project, “Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority awarded the project 122 project-based vouchers with HUD providing the rest,” the press release said. “The project financing incorporated $46.5 million in tax exempt bond financing from the VHDA as well as a $700,000 loan from the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.”

Other sources of funding came from Capital One, Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the Enterprise Community Loan Fund and Enterprise Community Development, according to the press release.

The pre-existing building will be demolished and sold for townhomes once all the existing residents are transferred over to the new facility, the press release said.

A groundbreaking for the project is expected to be held later this year. Development will likely open in June 2022.

Photo via handout/Reston Association

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Previously approved plans for the redevelopment of Lake Anne Fellowship House are coming closer to reality following the securement of $3 million from the county.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday (Tuesday) to authorize the county’s housing authority to provide a $3 million loan for the project.

“The folks that are living in the existing Lake Anne Fellowship House have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn. “I think everything about it is actually quite straightforward and I’m very excited about having this move forward even in these uncertain times.”

Pat Herrity’s attempt to defer the vote failed. Herrity said he was concerned about approving the loan during “different and difficult times.”

The redevelopment plan ensures the 240-unit development, which offers affordable housing for seniors in Reston, will remain affordable for the next 30 years.

The plan, which was approved in Oct. 2018, would redevelop two aging buildings built in the 1970s, into a single building along North Shore Drive. Fellowship Square Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and maintains the current facility, and the Community Preservation and Development Corp., also plans to add 36 market-rate townhouses to the west of the property in order to help finance the construction of senior housing.

Construction is expected to begin in May, according to county documents.

Here’s more from the county on the project:

The Project will also be much more livable than Fellowship House: 100 percent of the units, and all of the common areas, are designed to Universal Design standards. Further, 54 of the units are designed to be fully accessible under the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, which is nearly double the accessibility code requirement. The units will be built to EarthCraft standards of energy efficiency. Fellowship House currently has a “two-pipe” central heating and cooling system, but the units in the new building will each have efficient, individually controlled HVAC systems.

To encourage energy conservation, the apartments will be individually metered for electricity. The residents will receive a utility allowance as part of their rent calculation. The Project will include extensive amenity spaces, including a business center, garden center, arts and crafts room, wellness room, game room and cybercafé. The Project includes an approximately 8,000 square-foot private outdoor terrace for the residents as well as an interactive tot lot and pocket park which will be available to the community at large.

The developers have also secured tax-exempt bonds from the Virginia Housing Development Authority.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Since early 2014, a little over 10,000 residential units were approved in Reston. Just under 15 percent are considered affordable.

As the more residential development begins in Reston’s Transit Station Areas (TSAs) and Metro’s Silver Line ushers in more activity, nonprofit leaders and area community organizers wonder if Reston will hold true to Bob Simon’s vision for housing affordability.

“Reston was originally a very inclusive community. We have to ask ourselves, are we keeping that promise? Yes, we are a changing and growing community. But how can we achieve that balance between old and new?” said Kerrie Wilson, CEO of Cornerstones, a nonprofit organization that helps neighbors overcome economic hardship.

Achieving greater housing diversity is an aim of Reston’s comprehensive plan, which notes that most new affordable housing should be in multi-family units.

“Future development should ensure that a diversity of housing is available in the TSAs,” the plan states. “The residential component of mixed-use development should meet the needs of a variety of households such as families and seniors.”

But as Reston grows, will inclusive affordable housing keep up?

Tackling affordable housing is a regional problem and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D) and other elected representatives have stated they expect to reexamine the county’s policies and procedures soon.

The county’s rejection of a proposal to redevelop Reston Town Center North — which would have delivered affordable housing units and redeveloped a homeless shelter and Reston Regional Library — was a significant setback for some local housing advocates.  The need for affordable housing — particularly workforce units — is expected to grow as more workers take up jobs in new mixed-use centers.

From a policy perspective, the county has aggressively pursuing affordable housing in every development that requires it, according to county officials. A variety of techniques — including land-use policies, federal funds, and nonprofit and for-profit housing partnerships — are used to preserve housing units and create new ones.

Last year, a panel created by the county to study affordable housing outlined several strategies and recommendations to the county’s board for considerations. The 37-page report – which was incorporated into the county’s housing strategic plan — is part of an ongoing conversation on how to tackle housing affordability.

“Reston has traditionally been a welcoming and inclusive community and a leader in affordable housing,” said Tom Fleetwood, director of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “Still, Reston, like the rest of Fairfax County, is a challenging housing market for low-to-moderate-income families because this is a very desirable place to live.”

Per goals outlined in planning documents, the county aims to reach a net 15,000 new affordable units at up to 60 percent of the average median income within the next 15 years.

“We have certainly made significant steps forward. But a significant amount of work remains,” Fleetwood said.

Since early 2014 through June 2019, the county approved 10,045 residential units, including a 2,010-unit proposal by Boston Properties and a 668-unit proposal by Comstock for Reston Station. Developers are set to pitch $18.1 million into the county’s housing trust fund once the first non-residential use permit is issued, according to county data released to Reston Now last year.

Private developers have delivered 453 workforce dwelling units for rent and 188 affordable dwelling units for rent in Herndon and Reston, according to county data.

“We are trying to work through every application to get affordable housing and we have gotten some affordable housing through every development,” said Bill Mayland, branch chief of the county’s zoning evaluation division.

He noted that it can be challenging to incorporate inclusive affordable housing units — whether workforce units or affordable dwelling units — in high-rise buildings, especially if condominium fees are charged in addition to rent.

Creativity is a common word used by experts as a solution for affordability challenges. Working outside of county land use and zoning provisions, some communities across the country have embraced more unconventional means to secure affordable units for rent and purchase in existing and new development.

At Cornerstones, the staff has successfully pursued a scattered-site model by working with developers to make specific units affordable. Recently, the nonprofit doubled its Reston housing stock by adding 48 units from the Apartments at North Point.

But in the town center and other rapidly growing areas, developers are not always open to experimentation beyond the county’s existing requirements. The hope is that the oncoming Silver Line train at Reston Town Center — which could begin operation by early 2021 — will boost developer’s confidence in the residential market and add more pressure to incorporate more affordable units as more people and jobs come to the area.

Others say that the county should consider dedicated one penny of the real estate tax to affordable housing projects.

Fleetwood says that he expects renewed discussions on housing affordability – including reaching more income levels – to continue in the coming weeks.

“My assessment is that the county’s policies have been productive and helpful. I think they are going to continue to evolve so that we have a policy that works over the long-term and for our developers. It is a continuing and evolving partnership.”

Editor’s note: Interviews were conducted in late 2019

Photo by Bako Glonto/Flickr

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Wednesday Morning Notes

A review of The Capital Grille in Reston Town Center —  Which came first? The hamburger or the hamburger restaurant? In the case of The Capital Burger, the new Reston Town Center restaurant, the hamburger came first, specifically a French-onion style burger with caramelized onions, Wisconsin Grand Cru Gruyère and shallot aioli.” [Reston Patch]

Reston Market Up By Five Percent — “We reached the end of a decade and the statistics for 2019 real estate transactions in Reston have been tallied. The news is good! The numbers are up 5 percent from 2018, with 1,383 total transactions* in 2019, an increase from 1,316 total transactions in 2018.” [The Connection]

Court at Newbridge Tennis Courts Closed — Court two is closed for maintenance purposes, but courts one, three and five will remain open. [Reston Association]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Property owners who rent their sites through short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO must follow new regulations effective Feb. 1.

Property owners in the Town of Herndon must register with Fairfax County and pay $200 to receive a two-year permit to operate the rental. The Town of Herndon’s regulations, which were approved by council members earlier this month, are similar to legislation adopted by Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors this year. Discussions have been underway since June 2018 in the town.

In order to receive the permit, sites will be inspected. A $500 fee is charged for failing to register. Owners must live at the location for at least seven months, provide proof of residency, and provide notice to homeowners associations.

Homes can be rented out for a maximum of 90 nights — 30 more nights that the cap set by Fairfax County. A maximum of six adults under one contract can use the sites. A single rental period must be less than 30 days.

The town council also set operational requirements, including the prohibition of events, the presence of a fire extinguisher, and dedicated parking spaces.

The Town of Herndon’s short-term rental application is available online.

Photo via Airbnb

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Friday Morning Notes

County to Host Zoning Open House — “Sheds, home-based businesses, and outdoor lighting on residential properties are some of the topics that will be discussed at the upcoming Zoning Open House on Tuesday, September 10, from 7 to 9 p.m. It will be held in the South County Center Main Conference Room, 8350 Richmond Highway, Alexandria.” [Fairfax County Government]

Hourly Wages to Rent in Reston — “They say home is where the heart is, but a new report by affordable housing advocates also shows that home is where the money is. The typical household in Fairfax County must earn $32.02 an hour to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rate, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In the report, “Out of Reach,” Virginia is said to have the 13th highest ‘housing wage’ in the country.” [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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As we reported last week, two new Town of Herndon council members are exploring ways to beef up the town’s affordable housing policies for new development.

With several new major developments already approved by the town and more than 600 units in the pipeline, no units are set aside as affordable or workforce housing.

Town officials are beginning preliminary conversations to explore how and if the town should beef up its affordable housing policies.

Council members Cesar del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal say that one of the most lucrative options is for the town to seek state-enabling legislative that would gave it the statutory authority to administer an affordable housing program similar to the county’s process.

Others, however, caution that the administrative burden is far too hefty for the town to shoulder, especially since town officials already maintain the town’s existing affordable housing stock.

What policy instruments do you think the town should explore? Let us know in the poll below.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Within the last five years, more than 500 residential units have been proposed at the door of the future Herndon Metro Station, which is on track to open by the end of 2020 In all three place-making projects that were recently approved by town officials, there are no affordable or workforce housing units.

Comstock’s downtown Herndon redevelopment project — which has 273 apartments — and Penzance’s mixed-use development less than one-tenth of a mile from the future station — which has 455 residential units — will not have any ADU or WDU units. Stanley Martin’s Metro Square project — which has 64 two-over-two condos — also has none. Prices for those units start at $679,990.

Newly elected town council members Cesar del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal are currently mulling ways to create more new affordable and workforce housing. They plan to discuss policy instruments with the county’s Board of Supervisors, the town’s legal staff, and other town and county officials to decide next steps. 

“If we do not interfere now and talk to builders, it will be very difficult to manage later. This is the time for the change,” Dhakal said. “We need to work with the county and work independently as a town to see what we can do.”

It’s unclear if the town has enough workforce housing to meet the demands of people who work within or near the town’s borders. The number of residential units in Herndon is expected to increase by 30 percent over the next 25 years, according to county data. Major growth is anticipated in Herndon’s transit station areas.

Unlike Fairfax County, the Town of Herndon does not the statutory authority to mandate the inclusion of workforce or affordable housing units. But now, as the Silver Line trains approach, some local elected officials are pushing for the town to explore ways to include workforce units in new developments at a critical juncture in the town’s history.

Policy options could include seeking state-enabling legislation to create an ADU and WDU program for the town — likely modeled after the county’s program.

Others are looking to dip more into the county’s penny fund — which includes tax dollars from town of Herndon residents and has historically been used to preserve and promote affordable.

But some caution that a WDU and ADU program managed by the town could be too cost-inhibitive.

Melissa Jonas, chairwoman of the Town of Herndon’s Planning Commission, said seeking such a change would likely require a town charter amendment, state-enabling legislation, the creation of a housing office, and other administrative requirements that could result in a “net zero” win for the town.

“It’s not easy and it’s not cheap,” Jonas said.

Jonas, who has worked with the county on numerous affordable housing initiatives, notes that affordable housing is a region-wide challenge that cannot be addressed in isolation of other issues and initiatives.

In the past, the town has leveraged its relationship with the county — which has the administrative and financial resources to maintain and preserve older affordable housings units — to ensure inclusion and housing affordability are a priority in the town. Town officials have also made an effort to educate the town’s planning commissioners about housing affordability issues as new applications cross their desk.

The town’s comparative advantage lies in finding other ways to ensure projects are affordable — including working with places of worship to pursue creative new projects on unused land, increased transparency about development approval timelines, and decreased the cost of doing business in the town.

The county currently provides most of the funding for the town’s housing rehabilitation specialist, who finds ways to preserve and rehabilitate current affordable and workforce housing units. The county also provides administrative support for housing vouchers and other federal programs.

Projects like the units set aside for lower-income households at Herndon Harbor House II are a good start to ensure housing affordable is a central part of community planning. That retirement community was partly financed by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.

Dhakal says that’s not enough and Del Aguila says that a town-led ADU or WDU program is “the right thing to do.”

“This initiative will provide several benefits: positively impact the future of many people [and] families by providing an option for home ownership in Northern Virginia,  improve the quality of life for people in our town… and create opportunities for financial security for more residents,”  he said.

Not everyone on the council is convinced of the need to enable the town to regulate affordable housing, including town councilmember Signe Friedrichs.

Friedrichs says there is a lack of consensus on whether or not there is enough affordable housing in the town and that the county is better positioned to manage housing affordability programs. Instead of managing its own program, the town should work with the county to maintain and improve affordable housing options.

“I moved to Herndon partly because it was affordable, and I hope it can stay that way while also improving its housing stock. But I also hope we can maintain, improve and possibly expand our workforce and affordable housing without also increasing our budget, the cost of which would cause people to move out of town,” Friedrichs said.

Photo via Town of Herndon Planning Commission
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The redevelopment of Lake Anne Fellowship House, which has provided affordable housing for seniors in Reston fore more than 40 years, received a funding boost on Tuesday (June 5) .

Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the project will receive $700,000 in state gap funding, one of 17 projects in the state to tap into $11.1 million in affordable and special needs housing loans.

In a release, the loans will create or maintain 1,283 affordable housing units in the state. Northam made the announcement at American Legion Post in Arlington.

Loans were awarded through a competitive process by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Funding streams for loans include a combination of state and federal sources.

The state selected proposals from 29 applications requesting a total of more than $21 million. Proposals were scored based on funding availability.

“Through this program, we are providing the necessary financing to preserve and create safe and sustainable housing for many low-to-moderate-income Virginians,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball in a statement.

Four other Northern Virginia projects received funding:

  • $1.3 Million for the Residences at North Hill Bond 94
  • $1 million for the Residences at North Hill Bond 47
  • $700,000 for The Arden
  • $700,000 for Virginia Square

The redevelopment of Lake Anne Fellowship House, which was approved in October last year, will preserve 240 apartments as affordable units for seniors for the next 30 years.

Approved plans call for replacing the existing apartments at Lake Anne Fellowship House with a modern building along North Shore Drive near the intersection with Village Road.  The plan also include 36 market rate townhouses to help pay for the cost of senior housing.

The project is part of a partnership between Fellowship Square Foundation, which owns and operates Lake Anne House, and real estate developer Community Preservation and Development Corp.

Rendering via Fairfax County Government

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Monday Morning Notes

Reston Developer Focuses on Affordable Housing in Campaign for Board Chair — Timothy Chapman, one of four Democrats running to succeed Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, says expanding affordable housing is a key component of his campaign platform. Chapman grappled with homelessness growing up and is the co-founder of BrunoClay Management, a construction contractor based in Vienna. [Fairfax County Times]

Herndon Police Department Says Goodbye to K9 Leon — Leon was medically retired in February after losing a battle to cancer on Thursday.  [Herndon Police Department]

Review: Another Reason to See ‘Annie’ by Reston Community Players — “There’s an old adage in performance that you should never work with children or animals since they tend to steal the show. Reston Community Players do not shy away from this challenge with their excellent production of the musical ‘Annie,’ now playing at the Reston Community Center through May 18.” [Reston Community Players]

 Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Cornerstones, a nonprofit organization that helps individuals overcome tough economic times, is hosting a forum on affordable housing next month for candidates running for the Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat

The event, which takes place on Monday, May 13 from 7-9 p.m. at Heritage Fellowship Church (2501 Fox Mill Road), was organized in response to the “housing affordability crisis” in Fairfax County, according to Cornerstones. More than 44 percent of renters and 22 percent of homeowners spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to the county’s strategic plan.

Candidates for the Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat will answer questions about affordable housing and economic development in Fairfax County from a panel of businesses and community leaders. A meet and greet reception will follow the question-and-answer period at 8:30 p.m.

Rev. Debra Haffner of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston will moderate the event. The forum is free and open to all, but attendees should register online. Hunter Mill District residents can submit questions about affordable housing to [email protected]. Questions will be selected prior to the event.

The Hunter Mill District Supervisor election is set for June 11.

Photo by Reston Association

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Shyamali Hauth is joining the race to unseat Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

Hauth, a United States Air Force veteran and community advocate, announced her candidacy last night (Jan. 9) at the Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee meeting.

Hauth is focused on construction practices, budgets, security and education systems, according to her website. She wants to tackle transportation issues and affordable housing with SMART housing solutions.

“Our local government is where the rubber meets the road,” Hauth said in the press release. “This is where we make change that affects each of us on a daily basis. I want Fairfax County, and specifically the Hunter Mill District, to be the leading edge of a progressive vision of community.”

Other major issues she wants to address include:

  • public education
  • environmental issues
  • securing funding for social services
  • developing public-private partnerships that help businesses
  • keeping a low unemployment rate

She lives in Reston with her husband, who is also an Air Force veteran. Two of their four children attended Fairfax County public schools, according to her bio.

She has worked with Rescue Reston to preserve the Reston National Golf Course from development. She founded her own group called Hear Our Voice-Reston (HOV-R) where she led 70 people who worked to elect progressive candidates in Virginia in 2017. The group then joined up with Herndon Reston Indivisible, her bio says.

She also works with the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. The Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee awarded her the Ed Herlihy Activist Award for 2018.

Currently, she chairs the Fairfax County Democratic Committee’s Veterans and Military Families Committee, according to her LinkedIn profile. She is also an independent business owner of Mahari Yoga, a veteran-owned business that offers yoga therapy in Northern Virginia, and self-employed as a Celtic harp instructor, professional speaker, according to LinkedIn.

She studied psychology and management at Saint Leo University in Florida. After receiving her Masters of Science in human resource management from Troy State University in Alabama, she joined the Air Force.

Hauth plans to host a listening session for Reston residents next Thursday (Jan. 17) night.

Another Democrat, Parker Messick, announced his campaign for the seat in December. Messick is running on a platform to “stop big development.”

Hudgins, who is nearing the end of her fifth term, was first elected to the board in 1999. The election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5.

Photo via Shyamali Hauth for Board of Supervisors/Facebook

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