The Cost of Gentrification

Arlington’s Affordable Housing Task Force has reported that 13,000 affordable units in Arlington County were lost between 2000 and 2013. At that rate the remaining stock of market rate affordable housing will be gone by 2020.

What the task force hasn’t reported is the dollar cost of luxury style densification on other county residents in the form of unmet infrastructure needs.

Consider, for example, the luxury housing complex on N. Kensington St. near Fairfax Drive in Westover. In 2013 Evergreen Homes demolished three WWII era market rate affordable garden apartments and one modest bungalow, replacing them with eighteen luxury townhouse units starting at $800k and a million dollar McMansion. occupying most of a corner lot.

In addition to the loss of 30 affordable units and the eviction of their tenants, the project imposed other costs on county taxpayers. Last Friday Arlington sent a work crew to examine a two by three foot sinkhole in the asphalt on Fairfax Drive directly across the street from the newly constructed McMansion.

The cause was likely faulty construction or repair of a storm drain by the developer, which was aggravated by runoff from the McMansion. Not only that, but the street around the construction site is still torn up and—given the County’s repavement backlog—not likely to be repaired in the foreseeable future. The bill for street and storm sewer repairs—when it eventually comes–will be delivered to you and me, not Evergreen Homes.

Meanwhile the Affordable Housing Task Force distracts residents with housing statistics even as developers encroach upon their neighborhoods. Many will not realize what’s happening until they’ve been forced out of the county and the political problem they represent eliminated.

Congratulations to County Board for a neat solution to a messy political problem.

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