Housing costs too much in the Washington metropolitan region. That’s a fact, not an alternative fact. According to a June 2017 report by the Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington, “individuals and families all along the income spectrum can face obstacles finding affordable and appropriate housing in the Greater Washington region.” The report points out that the challenges are not limited to low-income workers and families. The affordability rule of thumb is that no more than 30 percent of the household’s gross income is spent on rent or ownership costs.
Using that approach, an annual household gross income of $100,000 should be able to support rent or mortgage of $2500 per month. Fairfax County’s area median income (AMI) is bit higher than that: $113,000 for household; $129,000 for family. While the median seems high, remember that median means half of the incomes are higher than the median, half lower. AMI is used to determine eligibility for subsidized housing programs.
A living wage of $15 per hour has been discussed or implemented in some area jurisdictions. However, applying a living wage to the normal 2080 annual hours of a 40-hour work week yields an individual income of only $31,200. Thirty percent of that means just $780 is available for housing. No wonder folks are doubling and tripling up, bunking with friends, or still living in their parents’ basement!
Housing choice also is at risk. Every community needs a “menu” of housing choices — apartments, condominiums, townhouses, single family detached homes. Some jurisdictions permit micro-units (small studio apartments with full kitchen and bathroom). In Fairfax County and in the City of Alexandria, adaptive re-use of office buildings into live/work units with common area amenities have been approved. With a rapidly growing regional population, and more expected by 2040, the region is lagging severely in the number of housing units needed now, as well as the types needed.
A public meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale, will focus on “Why Housing Matters,” and Fairfax County’s Community-wide Housing Strategic Plan. Staff from the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development will present information about how housing supports local economic growth and sustainability, as well as developing specific, measurable, and actionable strategies for meeting county-wide housing goals. More information is available online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/rha/communityhousingplan.htm.
Spotlight by Starlight, the free summer concert series at Mason District Park, 6621 Columbia Pike in Annandale, features the ever-popular Capitol Steps this Sunday, July 16. The show begins at 7:30 p.m., but many concert-goers arrive very early to snag their favorite seat, as well as a parking space! The amphitheatre can accommodate about 400 on bench seating, with space available for lawn chairs and picnic blankets in the “loge” area. There also is an elevated seating area for concert-goers in wheelchairs. You can be sure that the Capitol Steps has lots of fun, new material about the new administration and Congress, and maybe even the media! Bring a picnic dinner and enjoy a great evening of live entertainment — free! I look forward to seeing you there.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]