Of the 25,000 rentals in the revitalization areas, more than 11,500 are low-cost units that are at risk, according to the report by the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance.
Built at least 40 years ago, the units are part of privately owned apartment complexes that receive no public subsidies. Owners are free to redevelop as the areas around them change.
“When aging areas redevelop, usually we lose housing stock. Everything that comes in there is newer and more expensive,” said Michelle Krocker, executive director of the housing alliance.
Affordable units are ones that can fit into the budget of households with incomes below $82,800, or 80 percent of the area median income, according to federal standards. Based on that standard, the maximum affordable rent for a three-bedroom apartment is $1,603 to $1,664.
In their replanning efforts, the Alexandria and Arlington County have identified the need to retain or replace low-cost rentals. And as Baileys Crossroads redevelops, Fairfax County plans to set aside some new units as affordable or workforce housing.
But according to the report, the three localities lack aggressive strategies for preservation of affordable housing. The study urges them to create incentives — such as tax breaks or small loans used to renovate units — for apartment owners to maintain lower rents.
“We’re talking about private owners who can do whatever they want with their buildings,” said Angie Rodgers, the report’s author. “As these plans ramp up, then its important for these jurisdictions to position themselves on how they want to preserve this affordable housing.”
Providing tax incentives to apartment owners is one tool being considered by Arlington, said Christopher Zimmerman (D), chairman of the County Board and a Columbia Pike resident.
“We’re trying to get a plan and a set of tools in place that make it worthwhile for people to work with the county,” he said. “We’ll partner with anybody to get affordable housing.”
Older apartment communities have helped Columbia Pike, Baileys and Beauregard remain affordable, making them attractive destinations for immigrants. These neighborhoods, according to the study, include higher percentages of minority households. About 57 percent of the Beauregard population is nonwhite — mostly Asian, black and Latino — compared with 46 percent in all of Alexandria. And Baileys is part of Fairfax’s Mason District, where 47 percent of housesholds are nonwhite, compared with 37 percent overall in the county.