Local Commentary

Editorial: Fixing the Regional Housing Shortage

We concur with the excited exclamation of an area developer who said last week that “the next decade in the City of Falls Church is going to be phenomenal.” The City of Falls Church is going to be remarkably fabulous after the next five years, much less 10. Then, by 2024, the state-of-the-art new high school will be well broken in, as will the 4.3-acre Founders Row with its special movie theater venue and other, including community-benefit amenities, and the first and second stages of the 10.3-acre West End Project will be up and running. The West End Project’s connection to adjacent Virginia Tech and WMATA developments will be well along, if not completed, to provide a world-class urban promenade north-south from Route 7 to the West Falls Church Metro Station, lined with remarkable retail, outdoor dining options and a 50-foot wide center space that will feature a wide array of amenities and public uses, and an array of housing types, including “micro units” for moderate income individuals and families.

If you’re thinking moving somewhere else might make your life better, maybe you should reconsider, because even the real estate tax rate here should be lower by then. (It is worth noting that the tax rate in Tysons is currently at $1.41 per $100 of assessed valuation, when bills for all the special tax districts and fees are added in, compared to the $1.355 rate here.)

Still, the City’s main challenge in the coming period will be in the area of providing sufficient affordable housing and demographic diversity. The rest of the region is shifting much faster than in Falls Church in its demographic makeup, especially regarding growing Hispanic and Asian-American populations, and the City’s leaders need to be mindful of adopting policies that will encourage an escalation of that component here. Regrettably, the current White House’s policies are severely intimidating especially Hispanic populations, causing their pursuit of options in this region to curtail significantly. Hopefully that will change going forward, and the City needs to adopt, and to make public, forceful actions to fill their lives with opportunity.

We suggest that the term, “affordable housing,” itself might become archaic, and that the needs that the term refers to may be met in fresh, creative ways linked to the concept of “micro unit” housing, for example. Also, tax credits are applied to a lot of things in land use and urban development programs now, without carrying the stigma of the kind of social handout optics linked to the term of “affordable housing.” Still, new ideas will have to be grounded in the notion that everyone deserves to have a safe roof over their heads, no matter what. Some communities are mulling new programs to provide minimal but safe housing pods for the chronically homeless. That’s not a major problem here right now, but it is in close enough proximity to the Little City.