Tag: densification

PRESS RELEASE: Arlington Claims Ongoing Housing Discrimination to Bolster Case for Upzoning

October 12, 2020.

As the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board on November 3, I’m concerned that my opponent, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, is misusing the racial justice movement to push upzoning on County residents.

In a September 24 County press release, Garvey indicated that the purpose of upzoning, which replaces single family homes with townhouses and duplexes, is to redress exclusionary policies that have locked minorities out of residential neighborhoods. She said: “Without changes these policies will exclude ever more people from being able to live in Arlington.

Unfortunately upzoning will likely have the opposite effect. Studies have shown that due to ever increasing land values no one earning less than area median income will afford the housing built on densified lots. In addition many moderate income residents, including people of color, will be forced to sell when real estate assessments escalate in their upzoned neighborhoods.

In another press release, Garvey emphasized the Board’s resolve to address “historic and ongoing patterns of discrimination,” implying that homeowners in predominantly white, residential neighborhoods are racist.

This drew an angry rebuke from Bill Roos, member of Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF)who reported in a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette that the County has produced no evidence to support ongoing housing discrimination. He said:

The county government’s own summary of housing complaints shows that there were no – zero – complaints of housing discrimination based on race, color or national origin in the latest year for which data is available, 2019.

Bill Roos of ASF

Worse still, both Mary Margaret Whipple and Michelle Winters, who lead the Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS), the principal advocate for upzoning Arlington, own homes assessed at over $1 million.

Is densification the solution for their upscale Arlington neighborhoods? If so, do they plan to make a killing by flipping their homes to a developer who will replace them with duplexes? If not, why are they pushing densification on their neighbors?

If elected, I plan to demand answers to these questions from those pandering the illusion that upzoning will solve racial inequities in Arlington County. I will also:

  • Say YES to affordable housing, and NO to upzoning.
  • Use bond money for needed facilities not boondoggles.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clear cutting wooded areas as the first line of defense against runoff and flooding.
  • Exercise the County’s own independent authority to deal responsibly with the COVID crisis.
  • Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

Misconceptions About “Missing Middle” Housing

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, February 22, 2020

On February 6, housing planner Russell Schroeder outlined the Housing Division’s “Missing Middle” housing study to the Transportation Commission. According to the study’s framework document, one of the goals is to arrive at “a shared definition for the term ‘missing middle housing’ for Arlington”.

The Transportation Commission, which embraced the plan, conceded that missing middle does not mean affordable housing. Indeed, ARLnow quoted Commissioner Kristin Calkins, who said: “The point of the Missing Middle Study is not to create affordable housing, but is to create housing for different needs.”

Commissioner James Lantelme said the purpose of Missing Middle is to further densify the County in order to reduce suburban sprawl and provide people who can afford to do so the opportunity to live here–in other words, to promote “Smart Growth”.

There was no concern expressed about the impacts of densification on County residents, including increased congestion, overcrowded schools, loss of green space and tree canopy and attendant runoff and flooding. To housing advocates like AHC who believe that Missing Middle will provide affordable housing, civic activist Suzanne Sundburg has this to say:

So all these folks who claim to support increasing the number of “people of color” and/or “affordability” are being intellectually dishonest. Increased density inflates land values. And inflated land values drive up assessments, which, in turn, drive up the tax burden. That increased tax burden falls heaviest on fixed- and low-income households . . . which often comprise people of color, seniors and the disabled. These developer welfare upzoning/densification programs increase the cost of housing for all Arlingtonians, and result in the displacement of the very people that they and the county claim they want to “help.”

Suzanne Sundburg
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