PRESS RELEASE: Biased Coverage of Missing Middle Upzoning Abounds

September 4, 2023.

I’m Audrey Clement, Independent candidate for Arlington County Board on November 7, 2023, and I deplore Washington, DC media’s single minded push for Missing Middle upzoning, a/k/a Enhanced Housing Options (EHO), as a panacea for the area’s housing crisis.

In a recent DCist expose and a WAMU show, Northern Virginia YIMBYs (Yes in My Backyard–meaning Yes in Your Backyard) were featured describing their successful lobbying effort to get Arlington County Board to scrap single family detached zoning in most residential neighborhoods.

Local YIMBY leader Luca Gattoni-Celli was quoted in DCist:

“We’re aggressive, and we’re playing to win,” he says. “It’s not just like hugs and high fives. It’s like we’re going to figure out a way to defeat the people who disagree with us.”

YIMBYs are aggressive all right, but not about providing affordable housing or righting racial wrongs, since the County’s own data indicate that Missing Middle housing will be out of reach of moderate income households. That includes most people of color and young people looking for starter homes.

In fact local realtor Natalie Roy reported in her email newsletter EHO Watch that a Lyon Park property with a tax-assessed value of $1.222M+ sold in March for $951,083 — “well below the tax-assessed value.” The investor plans to replace the existing home with three new townhomes. “Each will have a price tag of $1.22M, generating a potential gross return of at least $3.66M.”

The developer will no doubt make a killing on this property, but what’s in it for the YIMBYs? If they can’t afford the price tag of the existing house, how can they afford 3 houses on the same lot each with the same exact price tag? How can they absorb the additional parking demands and infrastructure costs, not to mention loss of tree canopy and increased runoff?

The YIMBYs insist that they aren’t shilling for developers. Yet Natalie Roy also reported that Michelle Winters, who heads EHO investment group Neighborhood Flats LLC, is a past Executive Director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions in Arlington (AHS) and former member and chair of the Arlington Housing Commission, both of which have lobbied for Missing Middle.

Winters’ investment group stands to make a lot of money flipping the single family detached home it bought at 2100 North George Mason Drive down the street from Virginia Hospital Center (VHC). Can nurses and medical technicians afford to buy the four condos planned for the site? Probably not at today’s prices. But VHC physicians can.

Equally remarkable is the DCist claim: “With the ‘missing middle’ fight over in Arlington, the fledgling YIMBYs are eyeing new places to take their tactics.”

Evidently the DCist is ignorant of the fact that a group of Arlington homeowners–Neighbors for Neighborhoods LLC–is suing Arlington County for rezoning the county wholesale. The case is so controversial that the Chief Judge of the Arlington Circuit Court ordered all local circuit judges to recuse themselves and got the State Supreme Court to appoint a judge from outside the county to hear the case.

Until that judge rules on the legality of the EHO Zoning Amendment after a hearing set for September 19, 2023, it’s not a done deal.

If elected, I pledge to continue broadcasting the truth about what Missing Middle will do, who will actually benefit from it, and who will not.

If elected, I also pledge to:

  • Seek immediate tax relief for residents and businesses.
  • Emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Demand full transparency in the deals the County cuts with developers.
  • Reduce the office vacancy rate by lobbying federal agencies to relocate here.

If you share my agenda, then:

  • Spread the word about my candidacy.
  • Donate to my campaign.
  • Help make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.
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