Local Commentary

Editorial: Once Again, Affordable Housing

The News-Press, in this editorial space, has sounded the alarm on the City of Falls Church’s melting away of any pretext to step up on the affordable housing issue innumerable times. Now comes the word, reported on Page One of this week’s edition, that what used to be over 700 units deemed “affordable” just over a decade ago is approaching a vanishing point.

Lip service on affordable housing is just that, and how long have we been wearied by it? There is no doubt that less progressive City Councils in the past easily bent to the will of “not in my backyard” pressures from selfish citizens determined to kill efforts at addressing this increasing need. But one could argue that our current City Council is as progressive, in principle, on such issues as relates to inclusiveness and consideration of our entire demographic as any in memory.

So, will the last recommended update to the City’s Affordable Housing Policy, as presented to the Council Tuesday night, result in anything new, given the alarming trend in the vanishing of the stock as reported?

For one thing, we take issue with the recommendation that the name of the City policy be changed from “Affordable Housing Policy” to “Affordable Living Policy.” We have no doubt that there were nothing but the best of intentions in the notion of having the policy address wider needs of citizens than housing, alone.

But we fear that, in practice, the policy opens the door to a justification of continued failure to address the issue of housing affordability, making it easier to look the other way and say, well, other things matter, too. We remark only partially speaking in jest when we say that “affordable living” can include homelessness, which unfortunately is the direction the overall trend is heading toward.

Housing refers to a roof over the head. We feel everyone should be entitled to that, and it is to the nation’s great shame that in addition to withholding health care and living-wage employment, the rich and powerful are loathe to provide for the basics of dignified human survival to so many of us.

Regrettably, in addition to the really rich and powerful, even only those relatively so, including many citizens in the City of Falls Church, have demonstrated over years their willingness to pull out all the stops to preserve what they falsely believe is a self-interested need to trash and balk at any serious affordable housing efforts. This has applied even if it means their own children can’t afford to live nearby, which is now by-and-large the case.

The idea that an updated plan includes no call for money, even after the Council in 2010 stripped $2 million out of its affordable housing fund, is unacceptable, as is the notion that any money might go to a first-time home buyer fund. The new policy needs to stand up to, and not accommodate, existing prejudices.