• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday,Dec.5, 2018 at 7:30 pm at Ballston Firehouse Community Room (George Mason Drive & Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA)

April 5, 2018

Queens Court– Luxury Housing at Public Expense for Not-so-Low Income Renters in Rosslyn, and Crony Capitalism for Well Connected Developers

The county board continued its wasteful policy of throwing public money to developers when it approved on Feb. 22, 2018 about $8 million in local funds for another massive high rise apartment building in Rosslyn, called Queens Court, with another $20 million promised later this year. The project will cost nearly $40 million with this entire amount coming from public sources (the county, VHDA, and HUD).

Queens Court today

This is yet another example of crony capitalism—building a few apartments fit for a queen and giving the developer an excellent profit. The iron triangle, the affordable housing industrial complex, once again produces a white elephant at public expense and short changes tenants and taxpayers.

Arlington County gives tens of millions of dollars annually to developers to build so-called “affordable apartments” that end up not being affordable to the neediest Arlington residents, and mostly just subsidies crony developers and insiders at the expense of taxpayers and low income Arlington renters. Queens Court is aptly named, a luxury complex fit for a queen and the lucky few, and an immediate $3 million profit maker for the developer.

A nonprofit housing developer APAH will tear down the current modest garden apartment complex with 39 units, and build an apartment tower with about 250 units that will mainly (82 percent) go to people earning 60 to 80 percent of the of the area median income (AMI) ($60,000 to 80,000 for a family of four). Exactly 9 units will be rented to the lowest income Arlington residents, those making less than 40 percent AMI ($33,000 for a single or $38,000 for a couple).

The Queen units will cost $440,000 each, a ridiculously high amount compared to the large number of condos available for sale for less. Zillow.com listed 199 condos and townhouses for sale in Arlington in April 2018 for under $440,000, many well under $300,000. Right across the street from Queen Courts is the Crestwood Apartments with 63 units valued at only $230,000 per apartment. Why not just buy the Crestwood Apartments for its 2018 tax assessed value of $15 million?

Queens Court

Only in Arlington would anyone consider $440,000 apartments rented to people mostly making over $60,000 a year as “low income housing.” Somebody earning $60,000 to $80,000 a year is not low income by any standard even in Arlington.

Those who are low income of those earning below 50% AMI. There are now 9,000 households earning less than 50% AMI in Arlington who get no housing assistance at all today. Only 45 units in Queens Court are going to be rented to any of these 9,000 households.

Far more effective are the county’s housing (rental) grants that currently help about 1,200 households of seniors, disabled and families with a child with a monthly housing grant that reduces their rental cost. The program spends about $9 million annually. All of these renters have incomes well below $27,000 a year (30 percent AMI).

Arlington Greens have repeatedly asked the county government to allocate far more of its $38 million in housing assistance to housing (rental) grants. If the county had allocated the $28 million to be spent on Queens Court to housing grants of even $300 a month, then about 7,000 households—all earning under 50% AMI–would have benefitted. Instead 250 households with incomes above $60,000 get to rent a new queen apartment in Rosslyn.

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December 22, 2017

Arlington County Blocks Historic Preservation of Older Neighborhoods in a Bow to the Developers

Arlington County Blocks Historic Preservation of Older Neighborhoods in a Bow to the Developers

On December 19, 2017, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to eliminate the right of all Arlington citizens to nominate a neighborhood or group of buildings for consideration for local historic preservation. The Board bowed to pressure from investors and developers seeking to profit by bulldozing older apartments and detached houses in Arlington. County staff are angered that Arlington citizens have asked for protection of local historic districts and buildings, particularly in Westover, and wanted to effectively block citizens from petitioning the local government to protect whole neighborhoods or apartment complexes like Westover Village.

Under the new county rules, only civic associations, condo boards or homeowner associations may ask for historic preservation for multiple properties or a homeowner who obtains at least 25 percent of other property owners’ permission. Tenants have no rights at all.

In the past, only a few civic associations have ever asked for historic preservation and often have opposed it owing to developers and investors greed in demolition. Tenant associations and historic groups can no longer petition for historic status. The first neighborhood protected in Arlington was the Colonial Village in 1980 with a petition from the tenants association. Colonial Village today is a mix of lower income and moderate income tenants and condo associations living in a garden-like area with mature trees, green space, adjacent to the Courthouse Metro.

The latest government elimination of citizens’ rights to petition their local government resulted from the Arlington Greens and local tenants asking for historic protection of Westover Village apartment buildings in 2016. An investor has already demolished nearly 100 apartment units that were moderate income rentals, and built luxury townhouses costing over $800,000 for rich people. There are another over 300 units at risk of demolition. The Westover Village was designated as a national historic district in 2006, owing to its distinct WWII architecture and style from the 1940s.

The county board on a unanimous vote showed its true colors: protect developers, investors and absentee property owners to the neglect of tenants, neighbors, and historians. Dollars trump human rights to affordable housing and preserved older neighborhoods.

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July 15, 2017

Arlington can only reduce its green house gas emissions if the Virginia State Board toughens Virginia building standards and codes

Development,environment — @ 2:00 pm

The Arlington County Board in 2013 adopted a Community Energy Plan (CEP) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Arlington by 75 percent within roughly 30 years, but the recommended policy measures were never put into effect. Nearly 80 percent of Arlington GHG comes from buildings, and therefore, the first CEP goal was to tighten building codes for new and remodeled buildings, This never occurred as these codes are set by a Virginia statewide board that has refused to tighten energy standards on new construction. The second goal of the Arlington plan was a district energy plan of co-generation power plants and that never into practice owing to opposition from private companies including Dominion Power.

Somewhat paradoxically, GHG in Arlington did decline by about 18 percent, according to the county, during 2007-15 because Dominion Power used more natural gas and less coal to produce electricity, and because of about one-fifth of Arlington office space becoming vacant, thus cutting energy use in commerce. However, residential use of energy in Arlington rose as larger and more energy inefficient homes and apartments were built, and as the population rose by 14 percent during 2000-15.

Arlington County cannot require builders to meet tighter building standards but rather depends on the Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development’s building code. The CEP indicated in 2013 that if this state board adopted a tougher International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) in Virginia, then Arlington building efficiency would rise about 30 percent. The state board never tightened the code.

Now in 2017, the state board is considering the adoption of the 2015 IECC that would likely mean an energy savings of slightly considerably over 30 percent above the current weaker version of the 2012 code.

It is therefore imperative that Arlington obtain adoption of the full 2015 IECC that would mean that new buildings would likely be about 30 more efficient per square foot than currently.

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July 12, 2017

Arlington’s use of electricity continues to rise as Arlington Community Energy Plan goes unfulfilled

Development,environment — @ 3:38 pm

In early June 2017, the Arlington County Board pledged adherence to the Paris Accord on Climate Change (despite president Trump’s withdrawal), and indicated that the Arlington 2013 Community Energy Plan (CEP) goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Arlington by 75 percent within roughly 30 years would make the Paris accord possible in the county. Unfortunately, the Arlington County Board adopted the CEP four years ago in 2013, but never implemented the main policy measures to meet the goals set in the plan, and energy use–mainly electricity continues to rise.

Energy use in Arlington, particularly of electricity, has continued to increase over the past 17 years, and there has been no paradigm shift to energy-savings building design particularly in the new and larger houses. Energy use in residential and commercial buildings accounted for about 79 percent of Arlington GHG in recent years (transportation for the remainder). Since 2000, total electricity use in Arlington rose by 14 percent led by a 45-percent rise in residential use, according to utility data provided by Arlington County. Commercial use of electricity peaked in 2007, and declined by 11 percent during 2007-15 as about 20-percent of office space became empty, and the recession took hold.

Higher residential use of electricity and natural gas can be traced to about 14-percent more Arlington residents, and tear downs of older detached houses and replacement by larger wasteful McMansions. Larger square footage in a home is directly related to energy use unless extraordinary energy-savings technology is introduced. The residential population in Arlington rose by about 14 percent to 216 million during 2000-15.

Total use of natural gas in Arlington did fall about 28 percent during 2000-15 as commercial buildings used much less, but natural gas use in residences rose by 4 percent during 2000-15. Warmer winter temperatures have curbed natural gas use for heating, and the nearly 20-percent office vacancy rate in 2015 reduced the need to heat offices. However, as vacant office space is rented in the future, energy use in commerce will rise.

The county government has failed to bring into effect the two main goals set in the 2013 Community Energy Plan–much tighter new building standards and co-generation of electricity. Without these measures, the county will never be able to reach the goal of a 75-percent reduction in carbon emissions in the county.

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April 21, 2017

Go organic and celebrate and help our Earth

Development,environment — @ 3:17 pm

Earth Day, April 22 celebrate by going organic in Arlington–buy organic and go organic on your Arlington lawn and garden

Even in urban Arlington, we can do something positive for the environment–eat and buy organic products and go organic on your lawn and garden and only use manure and organic-friendly products.

We know that organic farming practices offer countless benefits to our environment, now it’s time to spread the word! In honor of Earth Day, The Organic Center will be sharing 5 studies that show how going organic supports a healthy planet for all. From the birds and the bees to the soil and the trees, these studies demonstrate how the contributions of organic agriculture to a healthy environment are undeniable!

Follow The Organic Center tomorrow, April 22nd on Facebook and Twitter to learn about the science behind organic this #EarthDay. Or even better, share along with us!

website: https://www.organic-center.org/

Follow @OrganicCenter to learn why you should go #organic in honor of #EarthDay! #ScienceSaysSo http://bit.ly/2gtyUxv

New study on the environment cost of bread shows large impact of fertilizer use. 1 solution: go #organic #EarthDay http://bit.ly/2pLmCGr

DYK #organic farming increases the amount of carbon in soil? Another reason to go #organic for #EarthDay! @OrganicCenter http://bit.ly/2pLq0kI

Go #organic for #EarthDay! Why? B/c pesticides have long-term effects on bees! Organic = no neonics: http://bit.ly/2oRB5Cg @OrganicCenter

Birds are more abundant + diverse on #organic farms. Organic is good for the planet! #EarthDay @OrganicCenter http://bit.ly/2pLnB9V

DYK that #organic farming methods reduce water pollution? Check out the science behind this organic fact: http://bit.ly/1It6VWd

The Organic Center digs deeper
A perfect Earth Day share! We are digging in to the benefits of organic on Soil Health while introducing the work and mission of The Center. Help us spread the word! Check out the video below and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE with your networks!

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April 13, 2017

Greens to County Board–Raise the Fees on Developers to Get $7 million more to help 2,000 Arlington families

Arlington Green member Steve Davis spoke at the Arlington County Board’s March 30 Budget Hearing for FY 2018, and urged the board to raise the fee on developers in order to get $7 million for housing grants for another 2,000 families in Arlington struggling with high rents

Raising $7 million more in tax revenue for the county housing grants program through
a higher developers’ fee

Under the 2005 Affordable Housing Ordinance, the county requires developers of new housing projects needing or requesting a zoning change for the project to provide that at least 5 percent of the additional apartments added as a result of the zoning change to be “affordable rental units” or to pay a fee or a “cash contribution: as follows:
$1.88 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) for first 1.0 FAR;
$5.01 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) from 1.0 to 3.0 FAR for residential;
$10.02 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) above 3.0 FAR for residential; and
$5.01 per square foot above 1.0 FAR in commercial.

Unfortunately, this ordinance was not tightly written nor do the constructions costs written into the 2005 ordinance based on market conditions existing 12 years ago reflect costs today even though the costs in the ordinance are indexed (based on the Consumer Price Index in the Washington, D.C. region).

Over the 12 years of the ordinance, developers choose largely to not provide new affordable units on site, but rather pay the modest fee above that amounts to a portion of the actual cost of the new apartment. During 2005-October 2014 (about 10 1/2 years), developers only provided 11percent of required units on site (30 units of the required 295 units), and instead paid a rather modest fee of $137,000 per unit, far below the cost of adding a new unit offsite. These fees were added to the AHIF (Affordable Housing Investment Fund).
The county board should increase the required fees under the ordinance to reflect the actual contemporary cost of a new apartment which is at least $350,000 per new unit. A developer should pay a fee of at least $350,000 per unit or provide a unit on site. A fee of $350,000 paid per unit would generate an estimated $7 million more annually for the housing program. Developers exacerbate the problem of rising rents in our community by their activities, and it is fair to shift some of the tax burden of housing assistance programs to them rather than to only general taxpayers.
During 2005-October 2014, a total 295 additional units were approved under this ordinance, of which only 30 units were located in the new developments, whereas developers choose to pay a fee for the 265 units not provided in the new developments. Thus, this ordinance applied to an average 30 new units per year. These fees yielded only $36.2 million during the 10 years or $3.6 million annually, the equivalent of $137,000 per new additional apartment. These funds were simply added to the AHIF.
These Affordable Housing Ordinance fees cited above should be tripled on a square footage basis. This would be expected to increase the average fee received per unit from the current $137,000 to $350,000. With a fee paid of $350,000 per unit for 30 units, the county would likely receive $10.5 million annually, an increase of $6.9 million a year from the current $3.6 million. This entire additional $6.9 million annually should be placed in the housing grants fund.

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March 15, 2017

Greens to the county board: raise the fees on developers to get $7 million for housing grants for 2,000 Arlington families

Raising $7 million more in tax revenue for the county housing grants program through
a higher developers’ fee

Under the 2005 Affordable Housing Ordinance, the county requires developers of new housing projects needing or requesting a zoning change for the project to provide that at least 5 percent of the additional apartments added as a result of the zoning change to be “affordable rental units” or to pay a fee or a “cash contribution. For example, $1.88 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) for first 1.0 FAR; and $5.01 per square foot of Gross Floor Area (GFA) from 1.0 to 3.0 FAR for residential.

Unfortunately, this ordinance was not tightly written nor do the constructions costs written into the 2005 ordinance based on market conditions existing 12 years ago reflect costs today even though the costs in the ordinance are indexed (based on the Consumer Price Index in the Washington, D.C. region).

Over the 12 years of the ordinance, developers choose largely to not provide new affordable units on site, but rather pay the modest fee above that amounts to a portion of the actual cost of the new apartment. During 2005-October 2014 (about 10 1/2 years), developers only provided 11percent of required units on site (30 units of the required 295 units), and instead paid a rather modest fee of $137,000 per unit, far below the cost of adding a new unit offsite. These fees were added to the AHIF (Affordable Housing Investment Fund).

The county board should increase the required fees under the ordinance to reflect the actual contemporary cost of a new apartment which is at least $350,000 per new unit. A developer should pay a fee of at least $350,000 per unit or provide a unit on site. A fee of $350,000 paid per unit would generate an estimated $7 million more annually for the housing program. Developers exacerbate the problem of rising rents in our community by their activities, and it is fair to shift some of the tax burden of housing assistance programs to them rather than to only general taxpayers.

During 2005-October 2014, a total 295 additional units were approved under this ordinance, of which only 30 units were located in the new developments, whereas developers choose to pay a fee for the 265 units not provided in the new developments. Thus, this ordinance applied to an average 30 new units per year. These fees yielded only $36.2 million during the 10 years or $3.6 million annually, the equivalent of $137,000 per new additional apartment. These funds were simply added to the AHIF.

These Affordable Housing Ordinance fees cited above should be tripled on a square footage basis. This would be expected to increase the average fee received per unit from the current $137,000 to $350,000. With a fee paid of $350,000 per unit for 30 units, the county would likely receive $10.5 million annually, an increase of $6.9 million a year from the current $3.6 million. This entire additional $6.9 million annually should be placed in the housing grants fund.

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February 6, 2017

Arlington County Giving $6 million to Nestle Corporation is Wrong

Arlington County Giving $6 million to Nestle Corporation is Wrong

Letter to the editor, Arlington Sun Gazette

Arlington County’s recent announcement of a secret deal in which the county board gave $6 million of local Arlington tax dollars without public involvement or notice to Nestle Corporation to move to an empty Rosslyn high rise is a classic example of crony capitalism to bail out Monday Corporation’s 27-story turkey in Rosslyn (empty since it was built in 2013), and a waste of precious local taxes that can better go to serve Arlington needy citizens, its school children, parks or other community needs.

Arlington does not need to provide big businesses any more incentives; Arlington has been rated for decades as one of the best places to live, work or retire. Tack on our great transportation, low crime rate, great libraries, schools and recreation, and lower taxes compared to our neighbors, and even without our 6 million tax bucks Nestle would have come out ahead moving here. Perhaps county board members and our overpaid Arlington Economic Development staff on the county payroll need get to out and see what makes our community already GREAT. It’s small businesses that need help, not a hundred-billion-dollar-a-year corporations for whom 6 million bucks is a drop in the bucket.

Let’s not overlook Nestle’s shoddy human rights record in third world countries either. The world’s largest coffee company should not be employing slave or child labor in its plantations abroad.

We Greens support transparency in government, and this action was as hidden as darkness. Last year and this year, Greens have asked the county board and manager to come up with $8 million needed to begin to fund 1,800 housing grants as part of the affordable housing master plan that help some of our 30,000 residents making less than 50% area median income and the county board ‘pleads poor us, no tax revenues.’ If you give away the taxes that we residents pay to corporations, then of course there are no funds to help lower income Arlingtonians nor to build classrooms and hire more teachers for our bursting public schools.

Marie Pellegrino

chairperson

the Arlington Greens

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December 6, 2016

Historic Board votes to go forward on historic district for Westover apartments

On November 30, the Historic Affairs Landmark Review Board (HALRB) voted 6-2 to proceed to the final study and review of designating the apartment buildings in Westover area of Arlington as a historic district. Arlington Greens including Steve Davis, Kirit Mookerjee and John Reeder spoke in favor of a local Arlington historic designation of Westover Village, particularly the apartment district threatened with demolitions.
A number of tenants and historic preservation supporters spoke as well in favor of historic designation that would make it difficult to demolish existing apartment buildings which provide over 700 moderate income rental units in Westover.

The county historic staff will next research and complete a full report within 6-12 months, and then the HALRB will vote whether to accept local designation and forward this to the Arlington County Board for its approval or denial.

Arlington Greens have been working with tenants and historic preservationists to maintain the current moderate income rental units in Arlington; there are about 470 apartments that are market rate affordable rental units (affordable at 60 percent of the area median income) and about 223 subsidized committed affordable units. Developers have demolished about 62 units in the past two years and another 8 units are scheduled for demolition. Expensive townhouses are built in the place of these 70 year old apartments.

Digital Camera

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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.
house_sketch

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.

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