In a major step to address seriously the affordable housing shortage in the City of Falls Church, the F.C. City Council voted unanimously Monday night, 7-0. to approve a “memorandum of understanding” and other restrictive covenants to consummate a transfer ownership of five four-plexes (20 rental units) in the so-called Virginia Village on S. Maple Avenue from the City to the pro-affordable housing Wesley Housing Development Corporation of Northern Virginia.
The transfer of ownership has been the subject of considerable legal complications in recent months deftly navigated by City Attorney Carol McCoskrie, who delayed her pending planned retirement this year until all the proverbial “crossed t’s” and “dotted i’s” were achieved.
While most of the Council’s deliberations on the matter were taken over by legal minutia, the basic outlines of the agreement involve a big step by the City, working through its quasi-independent Economic Development Authority (EDA), acquire the properties for purposes of achieving affordable housing goals.
Under the terms, Wesley will both own and operate the units. On its website, the Alexandria-based outfit is described as “a fully-certified federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and HUD Virginia affordable housing management provider.” It’s stated goal is to help those with limited financial resources gain access to safe, affordable homes within supportive, inclusive communities.” Its management unit is described as “mission-driven, experienced property managers relentlessly dedicated to creating opportunities for our residents to build better lives.”
For this deal, the City’s EDA has acquired and owns five properties in the Virginia Village subdivision, each improved with four one-bedroom apartment homes. It is stipulated that Wesley will make the units available to households earning no more than 60 percent of the Area Median Income (the AMI for a household of four in this region is currently $127,866 and 60 percent of that is about $75,000).
Nobody earning above that can amount can qualify for that housing, and anyone who may be earning above that currently living there will be offered incentives for relocating, through according to Dana Jones, head of the City’s director of its Department of Human Services, it is not believed that anyone currently in those units earns more than that.
The longer term plan is for the City/EDA to acquire more of the four-plexes in the subdivision, and ultimately all of them to potentially enable the conversion of the overall site to a more modern affordable housing option, though that is not specified as yet and a Working Group established by the City Council make recommendations subject to the approval by the Council. Such a plan is deemed as needed since the quadruplexes in the Virginia Village are all now over 80 years old. It is suggested that the redevelopment of those properties will be proposed in an estimated seven to 10 years.
The last time the City was even close to where it is now on affordable housing was when an arduous plan was knit together over three years using a combination of federal, state and local funds to advance a new free-standing project near the Virginia Village site on S. Washington that was to be named The Wilden, in honor of Bob Wilden, a long-time affordable housing advocate here. But when a vote was needed in the summer of 2010 to move ahead, the City Council then rejected a sorely needed amendment by a single vote, 4-3. and the whole project collapsed, effectively ending the pursuit of affordable housing gains in the City for more than a decade.
That $17 million project would have utilized $4 million in federal funds brought by then U.S. Rep. Jim Moran and $4 million from the Virginia Housing Development Corporation,
A key player in that unsuccessful effort, F.C.-based developer Bob Young, is a key player back again, now as president of the EDA.
A major funding source for the current project is a $3.75 million Amazon REACH grant targeted for Virginia affordable housing. In addition, the F.C. City Council is now considering an ordinance that would grant real property tax exempt status to the five just-transferred properties.
Moreover, the agreement OK’d this Monday allows Wesley to acquire additional quadplexes in the Virginia Village using funds from something called the Acquisition Strike Fund utilizing a combination of Amazon REACH grant funds, the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the City’s Affordable Housing Fund.
In summary, the MOU agreed to by the Council Monday provides that Wesley Housing will:
• Own and operate the existing Virginia Village quadplexes for housing affordable to low and moderate-income persons earning no more than 60% AMI (existing residents may have income up to 150% AMI).
• Assume all liabilities and risks associated with the operation, management, and ownership of all properties.
• Provide tenant support services to residents consistent with services provided to other Wesley Housing residents.
• Continue to lease one of the quadplexes to the non-profit organization.
• Secure a loan from Virginia Housing for the existing EDA owned buildings with proceeds being paid to the City. Loan proceeds will be used to repay the EDA in the amount of $925 thousand and City capital reserves in the amount of $1.935 million which were used to acquire three of the five quad lexes in the past 18 months.
• Obtain and maintain appropriate general liability and property insurance covering the five properties and any additionally acquired parcels.
• Acquire additional Virginia Village quadplexes, through the use of the Acquisition Strike Fund, as they become available for the purpose of preserving and maintaining the properties as homes affordable to low- and moderate-income persons and earn a development fee of 5% of the purchase price plus all closing costs.
• Apply for Virginia Housing financing for newly acquired quadplexes in order to repay the Acquisition Strike fund, creating a revolving fund.
• Begin rehabilitative work and work related to rehabilitation at 310 S. Maple Avenue that may occur prior to conveyance, subject to the terms of a license agreement approved by the EDA on September 6, 2022, and through the use of City ARPA funding.
• Execute mutually agreed to capital infrastructure projects as needed, funded by the City’s Community Development Block Grant/HOME allocation.
• Provide full turn-key leasing, operation, and maintenance of all newly acquired homes until such time as the properties may be redeveloped.
• Commit to equal partnership and collaboration with the City on a phasing strategy and 114 overall masterplan to redevelop the City parcels and additional parcels purchased through the Acquisition Strike Fund.