Small progress made in Alexandria’s affordable-housing stock

In a few years, and then for the next 60, 78 families in Alexandria will be able to count on affordable one-, two- or three-bedroom rental apartments across from the Potomac Yard shopping center.

Unlike what they find elsewhere in the city, they won’t be spending an arm and a leg to house themselves. The monthly rents, which are likely to range from $1,100 to $1,650, are set to be affordable for families of four who make up to $63,660, which is 60 percent of the area’s median income.

In the past dozen years, Alexandria has lost about 12,000 lower-cost apartments, and the city’s recent efforts to replace them have barely cracked the 1,000-unit marker. By 2030, according to a November report by George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, Alexandria will need 30,922 new housing units of all prices.

Tenants of the Beauregard area of Alexandria, where 2,475 low-income apartments are to be razed as part of a massive redevelopment and 800 affordable units preserved or built, rallied Tuesday evening, calling for preservation of all 2,475 units and rents to be reduced to 2010 levels.

Alexandria City Council members, who voted unanimously Saturday to approve the construction of the complex, by AHC, with the city donating some of the land and providing a $2.5 million loan, called the yet-to-be built, five-story project “an incredible bargain” and “transit-oriented development on steroids.”

The unnamed project, at the corner of East Reed Avenue and Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1), will be at a bus stop, and the city has plans to create a bus system or a streetcar down the median of the highway in the next decade. A proposed Metrorail stop at Potomac Yard is only a few blocks away, as is Arlington County’s planned streetcar that will run down Route 1 and link up with another planned streetcar project on Columbia Pike.

Yet, it was parking for those 78 families that caused the most turmoil, both the cost of it and how much was necessary. AHC, an Arlington-based nonprofit housing developer that has built almost 5,000 housing units, managing 2,871 of them, plans to charge a monthly fee of $35 for each of the 78 indoor parking spots. Providing free parking, AHC officials said, would endanger state and federal funds it’s counting on for the $250 million project.

Neighbors in the Lynhaven area who support the housing say the effect of that parking decision will push residents who can’t afford it, or who have multiple vehicles, to park on the already crowded streets. Two City Council members, Allison Silberberg (D) and John Taylor Chapman (D), attempted to address those issues, but they lost a vote that would have required the building’s parking to be free.

Silberberg, who first voted against the project because of her failed amendment, then, like Chapman, changed her vote to support it. She said Tuesday that she supported the construction but “with the strong caveat that we urge and encourage AHC not to charge for parking.”

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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