The Fairfax City Council will hold a work session during its meeting Tuesday evening to discuss a proposal that includes several tasks aimed at increasing availability of affordable housing in the city.
Mayor Scott Silverthorne and the members of the City Council tasked City staff with assembling a "Housing Affordability Work Group" to help identify options the City had for increasing affordable housing following the controversial decision back in May to approve a developer's plans for tearing down the Layton Hall Apartments and building a brand-new, 360-unit apartment complex.
Many argued the move to tear down Layton Hall would eliminate a crucial source of affordable housing within the city.
The work group met several times over the summer, and recently presented the City Council with a proposal for several things the City can do to move in the direction of encouraging more affordable housing within the city limits.
Mayor Scott Silverthorne told Patch on Monday that he was very pleased with what he has read so far in the proposal, and looks forward to hearing the thoughts of the City Councilmembers, so that the City can hopefully begin to move forward with some of the ideas very soon.
The proposal includes several recommended actions the City can take, such as:
- Drafting a voluntary program developers would be encouraged to take part in, in which developers who want to build housing units within the city offer to make 5 to 7 percent of the units in their development "affordable" - meaning, tenants who make between 60 and 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) would qualify for discounted rent.
- Establishing a Housing Trust Fund.
- Expanding the City's Rent Relief program, and quadrupling the amount elderly, disabled and dramatically low-income residents receive in relief from $420 per year to $1,680, which is reportedly in line with what the City of Falls Church offers.
- Enact an Affordable Dwelling Unit Ordinance, which would require that the City have a certain percentage of new housing be affordable for residents who make between 60-80 percent of the area median income. The average in Northern Virginia municipalities is between 6-12 percent of housing. The ordinance would be woven into the City's Zoning Ordinance.
- Take steps to preserve existing affordable housing.
- Perform development or renovation projects to create new affordable housing units - in other words, construct new affordable units on or adjacent to public property such as municipal centers, or turn unused former schools into affordable units, such as the City's former Green Acres School.
- Find a way to utilize the funds the County accepts on behalf of the City for affordable housing projects (since Fairfax City has less than 50,000 residents, the City does not qualify to receive these funds directly and they must go through the County).
- Offer homeowners or developers tax credits in the form of low-interest loans to create or preserve affordable housing units.
- Cultivate relationships with existing property owners and incentivize tax abatement to keep the units for affordable housing rather than redeveloping with private developers.
In the Fairfax area, the area median income is $107,000 per year.
Corresponding rents for qualified individuals and families who only make between 60 and 80 percent of the median $107,000 per year would be between $940 to $1,252 per month for an efficiency apartment, up to between $1,342 and $1,788 per month for a three-bedroom apartment.
Mayor Silverthorne said he is glad to see such a discussion moving along.
"We're one of the only jurisdictions in the area that doesn't have a policy regarding affordable housing - so I think this is good, and it will really catch us up with the rest of the area," Mayor Silverthorne told Patch.
Tuesday's meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 10455 Armstrong St. The public is welcome to attend, though there are no public comments allowed during a work session. There is, however, opportunities to address the Council regarding items not on the regular agenda earlier in the meeting before the work session begins.
For more information, visit www.fairfaxva.gov.
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