Over the last two decades, or shall we say at least the first decade of this now-maturing 21st century, the City of Falls Church has undertaken a series of efforts at affordable housing, all of which fell flat.
This latest effort, the deal to up the percentage of affordable units, offered at a range of rents equivalent to 40 to 80 percent of the “average median income” (AMI) of the region, to 10 percent of the total rentals at the just-approved Broad and Washington project, looks like the real deal. If so, it will mark the first concrete step achieved in that direction maybe ever in the Little City.
Heaven knows that for years the best efforts of leading citizens to crack the affordable housing nut here met with systematic and frustrating failure, spurred by “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) homeowners in various neighborhoods of the City. In conjunction with robust efforts to get large scale commercial developments up and running in town — an effort that has succeeded at a breathtaking pace over the last two decades — the push for affordable housing went completely south. It’s not that the effort lacked for talent and persistent aggressive efforts, either.
What has happened since the last fiasco bit the dust a decade ago has been, in the long and short of it, population growth in the City that has been proportionately far greater for condo and apartment dwellers than for single family home owners. The latter demographic is slowly being squeezed out of the political equation in Falls Church, a good thing. Single family homeowners in surrounding communities like McLean, Vienna and Oakton have been far more effective at tamping down progressive development impulses to hang onto their nouveau plantation mentalities. They suppress economic development in the process in favor of deferential treatment for their protected homes and neighborhoods. In Falls Church the situation has evolved to one of much greater balance between single family homeowners and the rest of the City’s population.
The latest and effective effort at promoting affordable housing in just the last year has been a result of this, along with a lot of moral suasion from local leadership, especially from Council member Letty Hardi. She represents the cutting edge of a new generation of more progressive and compassionate leaders arising that Falls Church has the benefit of having in its elected government.
We are keenly aware that we are already a month into this current F.C. City Council election year, and we encourage the current youth movement here, including Hardi, Ross Litkenhous, Debbie Hiscott and a most promising candidate from last fall’s special election, Joshua Shokur. They will hopefully press on to make F.C. the kind of diverse and livable place we can all love and be proud of. It’s more urban, more accessible to persons of all income levels and more community, rather than individual property-centric.