Reducing homelessness depends on preserving affordable housing
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) reports annually on the extent of homelessness in the region.
In spite of the recession, COG has found some encouraging trends this year. pIn the Metro area, the number of chronically homeless individuals declined by 105 people from 2006 to 2010. Only the larger jurisdictions are reported.
In Northern Virginia, the counts have dropped by 18%. All COG member jurisdictions in Northern Virginia have seen decreases with Arlington and Fairfax County noting the largest decreases.
Small jurisdictions such as Vienna, Falls Church, Fairfax City were not counted separately.
Of course, the number of temporarily homeless individuals is much higher than the chronically homeless in each jurisdiction. And those numbers also decreased significantly in the past 5 years. Fairfax County’s temporarily homeless fell from 1766 in 2006 to 1544 in January 2010. Although there was an increase in Arlington, from 477 to 531, the regional total was down.
In my view, one important reason for the decreases, at least in Northern Virginia, was the regional focus on the preservation of existing affordable housing. Led by former Fairfax County Chairman Gerry Connolly, the region devoted resources and leadership to the successful effort. As a result, more than 2300 affordable units have been preserved in Fairfax County since 2003.
On Tuesday, I presented a bill to the Virginia Housing Commission to enhance those efforts. Offered by Fairfax County, and supported by Falls Church and Arlington, HB 1142 attempts to ensure that local housing authorities or localities (where no authorities exist) will have the tools to maintain individually owned affordable dwelling units when foreclosure is eminent.
There was considerable interest in the bill by a wide variety of housing and real estate professionals serving on the Commission subcommittee.
While bankers, real estate professionals and the Virginia Housing Development Authority had some reservations about the bill, I was encouraged that they all agreed to try to find compromises that will work. We are to meet and report back to the subcommittee later in the summer. Needless to say, preventing foreclosure should be a key strategy in preservation efforts. I hope I can report real progress by the end of the summer.
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]