New Affordable Housing Policy Plan Runs Afoul of Old Antagonisms on F.C. Council

Tasked to update a 2000 City of Falls Church Affordable Housing Policy, leaders of the volunteer Affordable Housing Policy Workgroup came before the F.C. City Council with the product of over 10 meetings and lengthy deliberations tonight, but quickly ran afoul of the same deep divisions on the Council that killed the last attempt at a significant improvement in the City’s affordable housing stock in 2010.

While the new statement made no reference to specific types of affordable housing projects, three members still on the Council who voted down funding for the Wilden Senior Housing Project in July 2010 were quick to jump at tonight’s opportunity to state their adamant opposition to any free-standing new affordable housing structure. Mayor Nader Baroukh and Council members Ira Kaylin and Johannah Barry (who only nodded her agreement with Kaylin and Baroukh tonight) were against it in 2010, and against it now.

It was not finally determined tonight if a phrase would be added to the policy prohibiting new free standing options for affordable housing before a final draft is brought to the Council for adoption next month.

But the dispute arose in the face of daunting data about the loss of affordable housing units in the City since the 2000 policy was first adopted, estimated at more than 200 with the loss of the Merrill House and Lee Square, alone.

The City has come nowhere near making up for those losses (it would have with the Wilden Project) and now the City is down to 455 total affordable units.

The challenge will be to hold that number and to add 150 new units by 2020, said Craig Cheney, co-chair of the task force along with Don Brobst. They said the parameters of their policy involve an enforceable 6 percent requirement on all new mixed use residential units dedicated to affordable housing, one cent on the real estate tax rate dedicated to an affordable housing fund, and the adoption of a regional approach that could involve deployment of some of the City’s affordable housing fund dollars in a project outside the City limits if it was deemed to help address the needs of citizens and businesses in the city.