The Arlington Green Party recently endorsed the new year round homeless shelter next to the Woodbury Heights Condominium in the Courthouse section of Arlington. However, at a March 15 County Board meeting I pointed out that at $16.9 million the acquisition and construction cost of the Thomas Building facility that will house the shelter is $7 million more than a comparable shelter constructed in DC in 2012. In addition, the cost of operating the new facility is estimated to be $2.5 million annually. Continue reading
County staff have described as “within budget estimates” the $6.6 million contract to be awarded for the construction of the new year-round homeless shelter. While that’s peanuts compared with some other County sponsored boondoggles like the Pike Trolley and the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center, it might be more accurate to describe the outlay as excessive.
Both major parties are no doubt satisfied at the outcome of the Arlington County Housing Authority referendum, which was defeated a couple of weeks ago due to a sustained disinformation campaign supported by County Board and its allies in the housing community, some of whom are bankrolled by the very developers who have placed much of the rental housing in this county beyond reach. Voters were essentially told “If it ain’t broke why fix it?”
Opponents of the Housing Authority Referendum promoted by the Arlington Green Party are at it again. This time it is Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS) that says it’s for affordable housing. Affordable to whom? Donald Trump? AHS, which is sponsored by area developers and banks, has issued a Q&A explaining why a housing authority won’t solve the county’s housing crisis, but it raises more questions than it answers.
Arlington County has trumpeted the opening of the new Arlington Mill Community Center (AMCC) and the completion of 122 units of “affordable” housing at Arlington Mill Residences located nearby. But the price tag on Arlington Mill shows why the County’s approach to affordable housing isn’t working.
The apartments cost $31 million to build, which comes to about $250,000 per unit. The Washington Post reports that there’s already a waiting list of 3,600 people for those units, and families earning less than $64,000 per year need not apply, as most units aren’t affordable to people earning less.
I’m pleased that Arlington County Board agreed to place the Green Party sponsored referendum to create a Housing Authority on the November ballot at its July 16 recessed meeting. This referendum is supported by a petition consisting of 2,845 signatures of Arlington voters, validated by the voter registrar on June 11, 2013. Nevertheless, I’m concerned about how the Board frames this issue.
Opponents of the County’s decision to purchase the Thomas Building in the Courthouse section of Arlington, have been portrayed as nimbies or worse—classists who spurn the presence of homeless people in their midst. It’s true that the immediate vicinity of 2020 14th Street is a well-to-do neighborhood. Luxury apartments and condos like the Palatine, Meridian, Woodbury Heights and the Odyssey surround the acquisition, making the placement of a homeless center there incongruous from a purely financial standpoint. If the real estate in this part of the county is valuable enough to warrant rents starting at $2,000 a month, then why is the County forcing the owner to sell? Why isn’t it encouraging the owner to redevelop the property in line with the rest of the neighborhood?
The Coalition for Smarter Growth supports the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, adopted by County Board on July 23, claiming that it will save 4,500 affordable housing units. What the Coalition doesn’t tell you is that there are currently 7,300 affordable units on the Pike right now. So implementation of the plan will mean the loss of about 2,800 affordable units right off the bat. Continue reading
Arlington County Board finally bowed to pressure from the Arlington Green Party and other homeless advocates, opting at a contentious December 13 hearing to purchase the Thomas Building at 2020 14th Street to house a new year round shelter. No one disputes the need for such a shelter, but at what cost? The county has offered to purchase the building for $25.5 million and put up another $9 million to retrofit two floors to house the homeless. The remaining floors will house county staff. The county will forego $155,000 a year in tax revenue from businesses evicted from the building once it’s acquired from its unwilling owners, probably by eminent domain. Continue reading