Arlington County is confronted with several major issues that the current County Board has not dealt with adequately, among them:
According to the County’s own numbers and the annual Consumer Price Index–average annual real estate tax increases–at 3.9 percent–are more than double the 1.7 percent ten year average rate of inflation. If the Board adopts the Manager’s proposed budget, the average real estate tax bill will go up $420–significantly higher than any real estate tax increase in the last ten years (Budget Proposal, p. 114). While those who’ve sold their homes have experienced a windfall, those who want to remain in the County are finding it harder to do so.
If elected I will call for a tax rebate to compensate home owners who were hit with a hefty real estate tax increase at the height of a pandemic.
Lack of affordable housing
According to County reports, Between 2000 and 2013 the County lost 13,500 market rate affordable apartments. The County has replaced some of those with subsidized housing. But by 2020 the County’s affordable housing inventory was 11,700 units or less than half the 23,500 units available in 2000. Clearly the County has not met the goals outlined in the Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) adopted with much fanfare in 2015.
Having essentially thrown in the towel on housing for low income households, the County is now doubling down on “Missing Middle” housing, supposedly affordable to the middle class. The idea is to replace homes on single family lots with less expensive duplexes and town homes. This won’t work, because as has been pointed out by noted Wharton economist Jon Huntley, escalating land values in an elastic market will price even modest homes out of reach of the middle class. What Missing Middle will provide is overcrowded schools, increased traffic congestion on neighborhood streets, and additional flood inducing runoff.
If elected I will call for restoring the tax credit for renovation of market rate affordable apartments that was revoked by County Board in 2020.
School Enrollment Crisis
On average Arlington Public Schools (APS) has experienced student enrollment growth of 3.3 percent or 780 students annually over the past ten years (Superintendent’s Proposed FY 2022 Budget, p. 224). Unable to build new classroom capacity on time and on budget, APS has resorted to housing students in trailers, which has resulted in a loss of open space on most school campuses and a degraded learning environment for a significant percentage of students.
APS also has the lowest average secondary class size of any school district in the Washington, DC area and one of the highest minority student achievement gaps.
While APS can’t limit enrollment, it can increase capacity by bringing its student/teacher ratio in line with that of its peers. It can also look to other school districts for ways to reduce the achievement gap. If elected to County Board, I will encourage APS to do that.
Loss of Open Space
The County itself has documented a 5 percent increase in impervious surface, i.e. asphalt pavement, since 2001. That means an equivalent loss of tree canopy and/or green space. That may not sound like much, but it equals a lot the size of the Pentagon site every 3-4 years. Arlington County Board is not only in denial about the loss of open space, it is actually abetting it through the permitting process. In 2018 Arlington County actually permitted the demolition of a 75 year old Dawn Redwood located in a resource protection area in North Arlington in contravention of the Arlington Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, Section 61-7.A.2.
If elected to County Board I will insist upon strict enforcement of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA) as the focal point for efforts to prevent further loss of the County’s precious remaining green space.