Local Commentary

Editorial: Stepping Up to the Housing Crisis

The housing crisis in this region, as with the nation as a whole, in fact, is getting far worse and faster than expected as investors rush to lock up residential properties all over the place in anticipation of a boom of real estate values related to the arrival of Amazon, even if Amazon doesn’t get here for another decade. Reports from everywhere are the same: The availability of rental residentials is drying up before our very eyes, and it’s happening right now.

For all the platitudes about diversity, including income diversity and a welcoming atmosphere in the City of Falls Church, it’s going on a decade now since the last serious effort at improving the stock of affordable housing. In that case it was a modest effort at low-income senior housing that was culminated, as in killed, after almost a decade of arduous struggle by a one-vote Council margin.

Since then, things have actually gone in reverse. The Council in its wisdom took $2 million that had been amassed in an affordable housing fund and decided to drop it back into the general operating fund. There has not been a penny for affordable housing since.

This editorial space has neither the ink nor desire to rehash all the arguments for why or why not things have or haven’t happened in the last decade. The only relevant reality now is that we have a crisis, a housing crisis, and Falls Church can choose if it wants to be in the forefront of addressing it in a proactive manner, or lag behind and even abdicate entirely. This falls solidly in the lap of our government, of City Hall. Joe Average Citizen may support government solutions, but is neither inclined nor able to do anything about it alone.

Not that there haven’t been private citizens willing to help: in particular, real estate developers right here in Falls Church. We have stories, few rising to the public discourse because they involve the almighty dollar and no one wants to mess with that for the sake of democracy and the tackling of a huge need. But specifically, it has been confided to the News-Press that a recent offer to put a large affordable housing project on a downtown parcel was met with a phalanx of blank stares at City Hall. Not even a “no,” just silence.

We believe the current leadership configuration at City Hall should remain in place for a good time going forward, and if that is taken as commentary on this fall’s City Council elections in Falls Church, then so be it. It’s because, as far as we can see, the current configuration is the best the City has had in decades, if ever, to exhibit the moral spine to act on the housing crisis. This is a government, confident in its ability to win over the citizenry to the viability of its arguments, to spur a brave housing offensive.