According to Arlington’s Affordable Housing Task force, the county’s affordable housing shortage has reached crisis proportions with 7,000 households in need of rent relief and many more forecast. The solution according to the Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) is to construct 15,800 units by 2040. This will be accomplished by awarding developers bonus density in return for setting aside a percentage of new apartments as committed affordable units (CAFs).
According to Arlington civic leader Suzanne Sundburg, 1,505 new total site plan housing units were approved in 2014, of which 111 or about 7 percent were designated CAFs. Based on these numbers, 214,225 site-plan housing units will be needed to reap 15,800 CAFs or 8,569 new units including 632 CAFs per year. This is clearly unrealistic considering that the County has created an average of 250 CAFs per year over the past decade.
Sundburg further projects that it will cost the County $53.7 million per year to leverage new CAF development plus $81.9 million per year to provide rent subsidies for the new CAF tenants and $21.3 million more per year to educate the students occupying the new apartments, which is about 10 percent of the county’s current operating budget of $1.5 billion.
Some are concerned that the money to pay for the CAFs will come out of their hides in the form of increased real estate taxes.
Not to worry. No elected official in his/her right mind would increase real estate taxes to build CAFs. A much more likely policy is the current one, which is to paper over the problem by distracting voters with endless studies while quietly turning a blind eye to the demolition of the remaining market rate affordable apartments (MARKs) in the county.
By the time tenants and moderate income homeowners realize they’ve been hoodwinked, they will have been recycled out of the county, and the political problem created by their unmet needs will have been solved.