Local Commentary

Senator Mary Margaret Whipple’s Richmond Report

Affordable Housing is an issue of great importance in this high-priced region where not even our teachers and police personnel can afford to live in the communities they serve. It is a multifaceted issue that requires our best, most strenuous efforts to make a dent in the problem. Government, the private sector and faith communities need to work together to make a difference.

 

Last week the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (H.A.N.D.) held its annual meeting and awards luncheon, showcasing many successful projects that are making that difference for many families and their communities.

Keynote speaker Congressman Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Servicess Committee, received the President’s Choice Award for his efforts in introduce and pass H.R. 2895, the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act. He spoke eloquently of the need for the federal government to produce, rehabilitate and preserve housing through grants to states and localities to address the serious social and economic problem of insufficient affordable housing. I was particularly interested in this legislation as I have been working for some time now to establish a Virginia Housing Trust Fund that is needed for precisely the same reasons that the federal trust fund is needed.

Other organizations that were honored at the luncheon included several Virginia non-profits. The best project in Northern Virginia was AHC Inc.’s Gates of Ballston in Arlington. These garden apartments were built between 1938 and 1940 and had never been renovated. The project preserved 75% of the apartments as affordable housing, while some units were combined and reconfigured to create 72 three-bedroom apartments for larger families.

The Advocacy Award went to AHOME for its Fairfax County Workforce High-Rise Housing Policy and Program Adoption (that’s a mouthful!). AHOME lobbied the County to include affordable units in developments in areas such as Tysons Corner. Since adoption of the policy, 750 new workforce housing units have been committed through the planning and zoning process.

The Best Government program award went to the Arlington County Department of Human Services for its Permanent Supportive Housing program for persons with disabilities and for young people aging out of foster care. Residents pay 30% of their income and the County pays the necessary subsidy to the landlord. Services to residents

assist them with needs such as employment, or budgeting.

Developer of the Year is Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing that now owns 752 units. For two decades APAH has purchased old garden apartments, renovated them, rented some as affordable units and others at market rates to pay the mortgage. Over time more and more units are rented at affordable rates and last year APAH started its first new construction project, the $75 million Parc Rosslyn Apartments, a 238-unit high-rise that will include 96 affordable apartments.

The finall Virginia Award was the Virginia Peters Nonprofit Friend of the Year to Maggie Johnson for her work with HomeAid, Northern Virginia.