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November 4, 2016

Rents of subsidized garden apartments in Arlington were the same as private market units in 2013

Rents charged in 2013 in subsidized committed affordable (CAF) garden apartments in Arlington were compared to rents charged on average in county-wide, market-rate apartments in Arlington in 2013. The subsidized garden apartment CAFs rented in 2013 for about $1,300 per month for a one bedroom, and $1,760 per month for a 2-bedroom apartment. In 2013, there were about 6,500 CAF units in Arlington.

The CAF rents were not significantly less than what a tenant could get from a private, market-rate landlord in that year. This is disturbing and counter intuitive since the county government provided about $10 million (roughly $100,000 in AHIF funding per new CAF unit), but the tenants did not receive lower rents.

The county-wide market rents in garden apartments in 2013 were $1,369 and $1,667 per month, respectively, according to Arlington County Housing division. Thus, a one bedroom CAF unit rented for about $70 per month below the market rents, and a 2-bedroom CAF unit for about $100 above market rents. The combined average rent for one and two bedroom CAFs was about the same as the market rate for unsubsidized, market-rate units. Thus, the housing subsidy to the tenant in the CAF was zero.

The CAF rents were derived from a sample of two large CAF projects, the Gates of Buckingham (348 units), and the Westover Apartments (115 units), both operated by AHC, Inc. The average rent for a one bedroom apartment in Westover Apartments was $1,197 per month and $1,550 per month for a two-bedroom unit. At Buckingham, a one bedroom unit rented for $1,391 and a 2-bedroom unit for $1,849 per month. Averaging these two complexes (prorated for the number of units) the average rent for a one bedroom was $1,294 per month, and for a 2-bedroom, $1,764.

The Arlington County Housing Division annually surveys private landlords for rents charged countywide, and publishes these data in the Annual Housing Targets Report. For 2013, the average rent in Arlington charged for a -one-bedroom garden apartment was $1,369 and for a two-bedroom unit, $1,667. The average rent for all types of apartments in elevator apartments and garden apartments in 2013 was $1,780 for a one bedroom unit and $2,324 for a two bedroom unit, averaging $1,977 for all units.

In summary, one bedroom CAF apartments in Westover and Buckingham rented for about $70 per month less than a private market rate one bedroom ($1,300 versus $1,369). A two bedroom CAF rented for about $100 per month more than a private unit ($1,764/month for the CAF and $1,667 for a private unit). Combined, the two principal types of CAF units rented at nearly the same as private market units, and thus provided virtually no rental subsidy to tenant living in the CAFs.

Transparency of the CAFs thus indicates that there is little or no financial gain to tenants living in the 6,500 CAF units in Arlington. In fy 2013, Arlington County provided nearly $10 million in local funds for the affordable housing investment fund (AHIF) that goes only to maintain and build new CAFs. The benefit from these $10 million spent in only terms of lower rents for low income tenants was zero.