Local Commentary

Editorial: What Kind of Little City?

Winning another national recognition for the prosperity of its citizens, the City of Falls Church landed at the very top of the list of jurisdictions, nationwide, whose households have incomes among the top five percent in the U.S. As a percentage of total households, such well-heeled homes make up a full 25 percent in the Little City.

In other words, one in four households in Falls Church have annual incomes in the top five percent of all Americans, significantly ahead of all other jurisdictions, including neighboring Fairfax County at 21 percent and Arlington County at 18 percent.

This U.S. Census Bureau-confirmed fact only sharpens the contrast between the good fortune of our citizens and the shameful unwillingness of a majority of their elected City Council members to throw even a few crumbs at efforts to achieve some modest affordable housing goals here.

The behavior of the Falls Church City Council over the last few weeks, coming in reaction to a very reasonable draft new Affordable Housing Policy draft submitted by a citizens task force, is one of the most unsettling and indicative of a kind of stinginess that is rapidly emerging as the Little City’s dominant reputation. Rich and stingy, that’s how Falls Church is becoming known.

Indeed, all the trappings of an elite gated community have taken shape here. Given these trends, it will take an extraordinary on the part of City policy makers to prevent a consolidation of that outcome.

Let there be no mistake, the Affordable Housing Policy adopted by the City Council Monday night assures that the recent years’ trend diminishing the stock of affordable housing in the City will continue. It is nothing but shallow platitudes designed to assuage the consciences of and buoy a modicum of popular support for a handful of elected City Council members.

By their own admission, the sincere task force members that drafted the policy set goals – 150 net new units in 10 years – that fall way short of the demand for affordable, workforce housing. The surveys spearheaded by Julio Idrobo on the task force indicate that, even at present levels of employment in the City, four times as much housing could quickly be filled here.

But it’s not as if striving to meet affordable housing needs in this area represents simply gestures of generosity and good hearts. The very well-heeled households in Falls Church will eventually suffer for a lack of qualified workers, including in its schools and public services agencies, if these needs are not seriously addressed.

Because such a high percentage of City residents are so well-heeled, it makes perfect sense that the City should be a model for incentivizing the best workers, teachers, police and others to put down roots here. The City’s also got the highest percentage of college and secondary degrees, suggesting that such an enlightened policy should be possible.

Unfortunately, nothing like that is likely to happen until there are some changes made on the City Council.