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. (more…)
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. (more…)