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September 25, 2013

Arlington Green Chairman Davis speaks before County Board on Housing Authority

Affordable Housing — @ 1:24 pm

steve davisSeptember 21, 2013: Speech to the Arlington County Board meeting

Good Morning Board Members,
I’m Stephen Davis, and I’ve been living in Arlington for over 33 years. I’m here today to talk about Arlington’s affordable housing problem.

Recently Arlington County touted the opening of the new Arlington Mill Community Center and the completion of 122 units of “affordable” housing at Arlington Mill Residences located nearby. But the price tag on Arlington Mill shows why the County’s approach to affordable housing isn’t working.

The apartments cost $31 million to build, which comes to about $250,000 per unit. The Washington Post reports that there’s already a waiting list of 3,600 people for those units, and families earning less than $64,000 per year need not apply, as most units aren’t affordable to people earning less.

According to the financial director of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority the cost of constructing an affordable unit in Fairfax is about $100,000. So why did Arlington pay 2.5 times that amount even though the county owns the land on which the Arlington Mill apartments were constructed?

Arlington housing non-profit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing got the no-bid contract to construct the units, and therein lies the problem. When non-profits don’t have to compete for business and County Board itself measures compassion in dollars spent rather than dollars spent wisely, there’s no incentive to economize, and both the taxpayers footing the bill and the tenants paying the rents are short changed.

I f Arlington had a non-partisan housing authority like Fairfax County, it could shop around for a better price. Thus more people could be served at lower cost, and taxpayers and tenants would win.

Instead of propping up a flawed system the County Board should focus on preserving the existing diminished stock of affordable housing through a non-partisan, citizen-led housing authority whose top priority would be to ensure that all income groups have access to Arlington’s housing.

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