One Life Fitness Workers Put Out Sauna Fire — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units responded to a “small fire” in the One Life Fitness Reston sauna room yesterday, but maintenance workers put out the blaze before firefighters arrived. An employee told Reston Now that the fire just caused some damage to the wood. It was the first day the sauna had been turned on in more than a year. [Patch]
CVS Allows Walk-in Vaccine Appointments — CVS Health is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations to walk-in appointments and same-day scheduling at all stores in Virginia, joining Giant, which started allowing walk-ins at its pharmacies on Monday (May 3). There are five CVS stores in Reston and three in Herndon. [Patch]
D.C. Judge Vacates National Eviction Moratorium — A D.C. judge ruled that the CDC lacks the authority to institute a nationwide moratorium on housing evictions, but even if the ruling ultimately stands, experts say it likely won’t have an immediate impact on D.C. area tenants. Virginia has a patchwork of protections but no statewide ban.” [DCist]
Air and Space Museum Reopens in Chantilly — Yesterday, the Udvar-Hazy Center became the first Smithsonian museum to open since last fall, when the institution largely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New additions include a display commemorating the late Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins and an X-Wing Starfighter from the most recent “Star Wars” movie. [WTOP]
South Lakes Girls’ Basketball Celebrates Recent Success — “#WCW In the past 2 seasons, your Seahawks went a combined 22-1 in Liberty District competition, & won back to back championships for the 1st time since 1985-1986.” [South Lakes Girls Basketball/Twitter]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
A new neighborhood is coming to Herndon this summer.
The townhomes will start in the $700,000 range, while condos start in the mid-$500,000 range. The housing will include options for two to four bedrooms, two to four baths, and up to 2,700 square feet of space.
Both townhomes and condos will have private garages, balconies, and rooftop terraces.
Neighborhood features include garden parks, playgrounds, electric vehicle charging stations, and dog stations. The site also has active recreation areas that include a playing field and basketball court.
MRP Realty originally acquired the property at 13605 Dulles Technology Drive in 2016 as a part of a reported $97 million purchase from Liberty Property Trust, according to the Washington Business Journal.
The purchased Liberty Park portfolio encompassed the entire 32-acre business park with eight buildings and 532,041 square feet, according to MRP Realty’s website.
MPR Realty says that it plans to bring “Class A amenities” to the buildings at Liberty Park, including a “community tenant lounge and conference facility, a fitness center, and outdoor experiences to set them apart from other properties in the market.”
The new residential neighborhood is part of a larger effort by MPR Realty to transform the Liberty Park office complex into a mixed-use development to take advantage of the area’s proximity to the upcoming Innovation Center Metro station.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the developer’s application to rezone the site for mixed-use development on Nov. 8, 2018. According to a final development plan published in March 2019, MPR Realty ultimately hopes to bring up to 530 residential units and up to 6,000 square feet of retail space to Liberty Park.
Image via Fairfax County
The 7-3 vote — with Supervisors Walter Alcorn, Daniel Storck, and Pat Herrity dissenting — serves as the culmination of a four-year Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD, that began in 2017 to update zoning laws codified in 1978.
Although the updates to the document were sweeping in scope, three proposed changes drew a great deal of public attention and comment. These included proposals to loosen restrictions on accessory living units and home-based businesses and revise size and height regulations for flags and flag poles.
“There are…very few issues receiving much attention,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “I believe that demonstrates that, given everything that we’ve done, it was a fair and transparent process.”
Storck, who represents the Mount Vernon District, said he supports many aspects of the 614-page draft, but a few areas surrounding the accessory living units and the home-based businesses, including the permit process and enforcement, give him pause.
He worries that some of the proposed changes to require only administrative permits could lead to a lack of engagement and that enforcement, which he calls “the bread and butter of public confidence,” is not going to be swift or strong enough to stop zoning violations.
Approved changes to the regulations for accessory living units include allowing interior units with an administrative permit and removing the requirement that only those 55 and older or disabled people can live in them. However, the owner must live in the main home, can only operate one ALU in which up to two people can reside, and must provide a parking spot.
To operate a home-based business, people will need to get special exception permits to have customers visit between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., unless they provide instruction to fewer than eight students a day and up to four at a time.
Acceptable businesses include retail — as long as sales and delivery occur online or offsite — as well as exercise classes, repair services for small household items, hair salons, and clothing tailors. People can also operate an office or as a music, photography, or art studio out of their home.
Residents can have up to three flags, and flag poles can be up to 25 feet tall when in front of a single-family home or up to 60 feet tall on other lots. Property owners can apply for a special permit to extend the height of a pole.
The board opted not to adopt any regulations limiting the size of flags.
In voting for the final draft of the plan, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said the document represents a compromise that goes “further than some would like to go, but not as far as others would like.”
The supervisors highlighted the Herculean effort that went into overhauling codes for a county as large as Fairfax and taking into account community input. Foust said that the most recent draft, which was subject to a public hearing on March 9, “includes revisions that significantly improve the initial package that we considered.”
Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Penelope Gross said that home-based businesses and accessory living units are both “already here,” so the changes help clarify what is allowed and set guardrails to preserve neighborhoods and allow people to work from home.
“I know there’s a lot of speculation about what will happen. Speculation is usually just that: speculation,” she said. “It sometimes is fear.”
Palchik said she does not discount the people who expressed legitimate concerns, but she argued that many of those have been addressed during the zMOD process. She aargued that many of the changes are similar to, if not “much more modest” than policies that are already in place elsewhere in the D.C. area, including in Montgomery County, D.C., Arlington, Loudoun County, and the City of Alexandria.
“While there are many changes to the zoning ordinance, I do believe it’s critical in seeing that our housing market is under pressure and costs of living continue to rise, especially for those who struggle to live here,” she said. “While accessory living units do not fix all of these problems, the added flexibility for our most vulnerable residents and additional options for those who want to remain in their homes can be part of the solution.”
Photo via Fairfax County
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is aiming to formally update its Workforce Dwelling Unit (WDU) policy to provide affordable rents for those in need as rents continue to increase across the region.
However, these policy changes would not apply to Reston, which is currently undergoing its own separate study to update its WDU policy. The proposal heads to the board for a public hearing and a vote today.
The main update is lowering the household income levels served under the county’s rental WDU program from a maximum of 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI) in the Washington D.C. Metro Area to 80% of AMI. It also now includes those at 70% and 60% of AMI in the program. The changes are based on a comprehensive staff report released last month.
The area median income (AMI) is the household income for the median household in a region. Currently, in the D.C. region, the AMI is $126,000 for a household of four.
“We conducted a housing strategic plan process over the last two or three years, which identified, sort of these lower incomes as being in the greatest need,” says Tom Fleetwood, Director of Fairfax County Housing and Development. “While at the same time, the higher income tiers that were served under the original version of the WDU program really were closer to the prevailing market rents here in Fairfax County.”
The updates would also lower the minimum percentage of rental units offered as WDUs from 12% to 8%. According to the plan, 4% of those units would need to be offered to those at 80% AMI, 2% to those at 70% AMI, and 2% to those at 60% AMI.
However, these numbers are different and are specifically revised for the Tysons Urban Center.
Fleetwood says the policy is “similar in intent” but the specific numbers are more in context with the realities of Tysons’ rental market.
In Tysons, developers would have the ability to choose between two different options for their affordable rental units. Either they can offer 2% of the units at 60% AMI, 3% at 70% AMI, and 8% at 80% AMI, which brings their WDU commitment to 13% in total, or they can simply offer 10% of their units at 60% of AMI.
The county’s planning commission voted unanimously to make these changes.
Reston is working on their own separate WDU study as part of the Reston Comprehensive Plan Study. That study is being initiated by a task force led by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.
Alcorn’s communication director Lisa Connors, tells Reston Now that Reston has a “separate formula for WDUs.” Similar to the policy updates that the county is voting on, WDUs will be discussed at the study’s task force meeting on March 8.
Affordable housing continues to be a challenge for Reston.
The Board of Supervisors is also voting to update, revise, and rewrite editorial elements of the policy that was first established in 2015. The revisions would update data, rework outdated terminology, and remove references to programs that no longer exist.
Photo by Mike Reyes/Flickr
Lincoln at Reston Station, a 260-unit apartment community near the Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station, officially has a new name.
Peter Colarulli, Vice President of the company, said the name change was inspired by the design of the building, which he says has “a bold, contemporary, energetic feel with red pops of color.“
“The name ‘Russell’ taps into the community’s vibe, and we felt the full name ‘Russell at Reston Station’ is clear to the sense of place and catchy with its alliteration.”
The residential community, which is located at 11500 Commerce Park Drive, includes a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom plans. Rents range from $2,110 to $2,380.
Snell purchased Russell at Reston Station in December. The building was constructed at the end of 2019 and includes a courtyard with a pool, a clubroom, a fitness center, a pet spa, bike room and a package concierge system.
Image via handout/Fairfax County Government
Fairfax County will receive an additional $34 million to provide emergency rental assistance to residents experiencing economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a budget policy committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Fairfax County Department of Management and Budget Director Christina Jackson told the county board of supervisors that the department has submitted a certification for the award, and the amount is expected to be confirmed today.
The money comes from a $25 billion emergency rental assistance program that the U.S. Treasury Department established using funds from the COVID-19 relief package that Congress passed at the end of December.
“This will be huge,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “I know we feel good about it, but obviously, there are a lot of folks out there struggling, and this will be a great opportunity to help those folks.”
Under the treasury program, renters may be eligible to receive assistance if at least one or more people in their household has experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic, are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, or have a household income at or below 80% of the area median income.
Applicants can receive up to 12 months of assistance, with the possibility of an additional three months if needed to ensure housing stability and funds are still available.
The treasury is allocating the funds directly to states and local governments with more than 200,000 residents.
Jackson says the treasury is required to disperse all of the program funds by the end of January, so the county should have “dollars in hand” by the end of the month.
“We’re working with staff to try to incorporate this funding with other awards that we’ve received to make sure we’re using all the resources to our advantage,” Jackson said.
Because of the incoming grant, the Fairfax County Department of Management and Budget is recommending that the county increase its COVID-19 grants reserve by $50 million as part of its Fiscal Year 2021 mid-year budget review.
To offset anticipated revenue losses, the county plans to take $9.1 million out of a general fund reserve that the board of supervisors set up in May to support its coronavirus response efforts.
If the adjustment is approved, the COVID-19 reserve will have $16 million remaining, including roughly $12 million that the county mostly plans to use for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements.
As part of the mid-year review, Fairfax County staff are also recommending that the county create 13 new positions in the health department to boost its pandemic response, especially when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccination program. The positions would be initially covered by federal stimulus funds.
“We’re in constant contact with the health department relative to the continuous pivoting in response to COVID,” Fairfax County Chief Financial Officer Joe Mondoro said. “There are a number of other activities that they’re undertaking to respond to…whether that’s the need for additional contact tracers, whether that’s the escalation of the vaccination requirements.”
The board of supervisors will hold a public hearing and take action on the FY 2021 budget mid-year review when it meets on Jan. 26.
Photo via Fairfax County government/Facebook
The Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce listened to comments about meeting the demand for workforce housing in Fairfax and Loudoun counties during its Metro Monday meeting yesterday afternoon.
The chamber hosted a panel made up of regional professionals who explained the difficulties that exist and the points that must be reached to meet the growing demand for housing.
The panelists explained that this is not a situation that affects just one group or income level, but is a widespread issue.
“I think the main thing to consider is that there’s affordability needs across all income levels,” Alex Koma, a reporter for the Washington Business Journal, told the chamber. “There is no income level, right now, that we’re not seeing renters’ cost burdened at this point.”
In addition to meeting the general housing need, Koma also discussed the challenges of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic as it affects Fairfax and Loudoun counties. He detailed that Fairfax has been forced to walk back tax increases while Loudoun has put a hold on portions of its spending.
“Localities are proceeding very cautiously. That goes as well for the state,” Koma said. “They have left some money for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund in the budget for this coming year, but in future fiscal years a lot of that progress has been undone.”
Graham Owen, the senior planner for the Department of Planning and Development in Fairfax County, echoed Koma’s sentiments regarding COVID-19’s effect, but stated “affordable housing does remain a top priority for the Board of Supervisors in Fairfax.” However, Owen did raise several other challenges that the county must address for affordable housing for all residents.
The county projects it will add more than 62,000 households in the next 15 years which includes a need for 15,000 new homes for families at 60% and below of the area median income (AMI), according to Owen. Owen added that challenges for the county include almost 71,000 households earning $50,000 or less, and rising rent and stagnant income pushing the county’s housing market out of reach for low to moderate income households.
Abdi Hamud, the Affordable and Workforce Housing Program Administrator in Fairfax County’s Department of Housing and Community Development, described the county’s efforts to address affordable housing with the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan that was adopted by the Board of Directors in 2018. The plan calls for a need of 5,588 housing units for households that make between 50 and 80% of the AMI, 9,048 units for those between 80 and 100% AMI, and 11,929 units for those between 100 and 120% AMI.
The plan seeks to employ the Land Use Policy and public-private partnerships to address the housing needs over 15 years.
Kim Hart, a developer of affordable workforce housing who works with the non-profit Windy Hill Foundation and is a general partner of for-profit Good Works LP, presented further challenges from the development aspect and suggestions for policies he would like to be supported.
Hart explained the budgetary concerns for building affordable housing by pointing to steady prices in building materials as opposed to the variable cost of land that can affect unit pricing.
“Nobody sells me a 2×4 for less or a yard of concrete for less,” Hart said.
“If I’m going to rent a unit below market rate, especially down as low as 60% of AMI, or 50, or 40, or even to 30% of AMI, I have to save money on land and I have to save the cost of money.”
Hart also presented federal and state policies that affect the ability to build affordable housing.
At the federal level, Hart urged the chamber to support pending legislation to increase federal funding for low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) which he said, “without it, we would have very little affordable housing.”
He also supported increasing funding and targeting those most in need, and to continue supporting the Community Reinvestment Act to allow banks to invest in LIHTC that will in turn support affordable housing.
For the state level, Hart commended Virginia Housing for “running a great program,” but urged pushing for more funds from the federal level for it. He also urged for support of House Joint Resolution 2 to amend Section 6, Article X of Virginia’s constitution. The passage of this resolution would allow for property tax exemption for affordable housing, according to Hart.
Hart’s analysis repeated a statement from Koma wherein he pointed at money for affordable housing being cut from budgets resulting in delaying or cancelling projects due to the high cost of materials and labor.
Given that the expansion of the Silver Line is expected to bring more people to already urbanized areas in Northern Virginia, community leaders are working toward solutions around the lack of affordable housing.
The Dulles Chamber of Commerce brought together representatives from Fairfax and Loudoun counties to talk about what this means for the future of affordable housing at a public meeting yesterday evening. Common themes of conversation included roadblocks to construction, current demand for units, land-use policies and even the type of people around town in need of subsidized housing.
The cost of living is not sustainable for lower-income people working in the area, according to Tom Fleetwood, the Director of Housing and Community Development for Fairfax County. Around Fairfax County, from 2010 to 2015, the average income only increased by 10% while the cost of housing increased by 17%.
Fairfax County will require at least 15,000 new affordable housing units in the next 15 years to support families earning 60% of the median income and below, according to Fleetwood.
Currently, there are 30,000 low-income renters in Fairfax County that are paying more than one-third of their income on housing. “This means that they’re what we call a cost-burden and that they have less money to contribute to our economy,” he said.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, four minimum wage jobs are needed in order to afford the average apartment in the county.
Once the extension project is complete, the housing disparity is only expected to grow.
In Tysons and Reston specifically, Fleetwood said that the biggest challenge is the limited availability of land for affordable housing projects. To combat this, updated inclusionary zoning policies have been a large help in rethinking how space is used, he said.
“Visionary zoning policies have produced a substantial number of below-market units that are serving working families in Tysons and in Reston,” Fleetwood said but didn’t volunteer a specific number.
Stephen Wilson, president of the SCG Development, offered previous examples at the meeting of how his company has worked around small parcels of open land, using creative designs in areas like Shady Grove to make the most of space.
“Land is a precious commodity everywhere, but particularly around high-density areas,” he said.
At Ovation at Arrowbrook in Herndon, SCG Development is branching out and working with community planners to incorporate affordable housing close to stations like Innovation Center.
Image courtesy Fairfax County
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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