Local Commentary

A Penny For Your Thoughts: The News of Greater Falls Church

Finding housing that is affordable is a challenge for many in the Washington metropolitan area. Longtime homeowners breathe a sigh of relief that they bought their homes when they did, and that their mortgage rates were fixed. They worry, though, that the current “soft” market will mean that their retirement plans will have to be put off because houses are not selling as quickly as they once did. Experts tell us that the housing market is cyclical, and it’s at the lower end of the cycle right now. That’s not much comfort, even if you qualify for a mortgage and can find a home to purchase.

For those with low incomes, finding affordable rental housing is an even greater challenge, when a market rate, one bedroom apartment rents for more than $1000 per month. In Fairfax County, families with very low incomes can apply for public housing, and pay rent based on their combined household income. A recent Washington Post article reported that some residents in the county’s public housing programs are making as much as $216,000 annually, well outside of the federal limit. The particular case cited was unusual. A mother qualified when her children were in school; the sons went on to college, graduated, and got good jobs. Then, as I understand it, the sons moved back home with mom. Their incomes now are included in the household income, and dis-qualified the family from housing assistance. Federal rules do not allow tenants to be kicked out when their incomes rise. However, rents can be adjusted toward market rates in these cases, and the family income is re-evaluated when their current annual lease is due for recertification.

Of the more than 1000 families and individuals cited in the Washington Post article, 11 were found to exceed the income limit. One family already has moved, and the others are now at levels where they need to move on to market rate housing. Fairfax County’s housing policy requires those residents whose incomes have risen above the area median income ($94,500 for a family of four) to move out, allowing these units to be used for the people they were intended to benefit. The median income for families in public housing in Fairfax County is $16,404; half of the residents living in public housing have very low incomes. 

Absentee in-person voting begins on Wednesday, October 17, at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale, and other govern-mental centers throughout the county. If you are a registered voter in Fairfax County, and will not be able to vote at your regular polling place on November 6, you may vote absentee in-person from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays through November 3. For more information about absentee voting, in-person or by mail, call 703/222-0776, or log on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/eb. See you at the polls!