August 7, 2017
I’m an Independent candidate in the race for an open seat on County Board in November, and I seek your endorsement.
Among the principal issues facing the County is the steady loss of market rate affordable housing. This week one more Westover Village apartment building was demolished to make way for luxury town homes.
Next week the garden apartment next door to it will be leveled. This brings to 9 the number of garden apartments in Westover Village leveled since 2013.
In 2016 the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) purchased eight apartment buildings housing 68 units to stave off more demolitions. But more than half the tenants in those buildings were evicted because they exceeded 60% of area median income of about $46,000 for one person. So according to APAH’s strict income guidelines, they had to go.
In a fact sheet published in 2016 APAH estimated that there were 450 remaining affordable units in Westover. Subtract from that the 68 it salvaged and the 16 units just demolished, and there are maybe 375 units left.
Since APAH has essentially maxed out its debt capacity in Westover, the only way to prevent the demolition of the remaining units is local historic designation, a petition for which was submitted to the Arlington Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (AHALRB) over a year ago.
At a public hearing in November, 2016, Westover single family homeowners opposed local historic designation. It didn’t matter that the neighborhood is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, nor that they can reap federal tax benefits from renovations to their homes as a result of such designation. They were outraged at restrictions it would place on exterior alterations to their homes. Some even argued that the apartments are an eyesore that should be demolished to make way for upscale housing and guarantee more profits for Westover businesses.
AHALRB attempted to appease homeowners by narrowing the boundaries of the proposed local historic district to the apartments, and it tasked County staff to study the matter, but since then the review board has done nothing. No wonder.
County records indicate that the sale price of the three Westover garden apartments demolished in 2013 was $4 million. The total sale price of the 20 luxury town homes that replaced them was $16.8 million dollars or more than 4 times the value of the original properties.
Not only has the developer made a killing on these properties, but the County has profited in the form of increased real estate tax revenue. In fact a net present value analysis that assumes a current tax rate of $1 per $100 of assessed valuation, an annual effective tax increase of 3 percent, and a current APR of 2 percent, put the tax revenue accruing to the County over fifty years at about $8 million.
If the County realizes the same rate of return on the demolition of the remaining Westover garden apartments, it will reap over $100 million in increased tax revenue over the lifetime of their replacements. So what’s not to like about that?
For one thing, there’s a fairness issue. A lot of longstanding, hardworking, responsible tenants are now facing long commutes as a result of displacement from Arlington County.
For another thing, there’s a public health issue. The most recent demolitions were put on hold when it was determined that both buildings were insulated with asbestos, making demolition hazardous for anyone in the nearby.
And there’s an economic issue. While the speculative prices commanded by the developers of Westover Village might be attractive to high income wage earners, they drive up assessments overall, spelling hardship and possible foreclosure for people on fixed incomes, single heads of households, and those who find themselves out of work.
This should be cause for concern to most government workers, given the imminent downsizing of the County’s biggest employer, the federal government, should Trump’s proposed budget cuts be enacted.
Finally the ongoing evictions in Westover undermine the Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP), the primary purpose of which is to preserve the County’s affordable housing.
If elected, I am going to call upon AHALRB to expedite consideration of petitions for local historic designation to preserve Arlington’s remaining affordable housing and stabilize Arlington’s housing market.
If elected, I also pledge to:
- Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
- Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
- Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
- Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.
As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.
Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!