Fairfax to Buy Affordable Apartment Complex in Reston

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Fairfax County agreed yesterday to purchase a complex of 180 apartments in Reston. With their relatively low rents, the units might otherwise have been converted to luxury condominiums, county officials said.

The county will pay the Mark Winkler Co. $49.5 million for the Crescent Apartments near Lake Anne, the largest outlay from an affordable housing fund approved by the Board of Supervisors last year. Monthly rents at the complex run an average of $1,023 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,170 for two bedrooms. The current tenants, who represent Reston's mix of ethnic communities, earn incomes of $40,000 to $50,000 for a family of four.

"It was highly likely these would have been developed as luxury something-or-others," Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said at a news conference to announce the purchase. "They're de facto affordable now." He stressed that affordable is a relative term in one of the nation's hottest housing markets. "What's affordable here might shock people in other parts of the country."

The purchase brings to 846 the number of apartments with below-market rents that the county has preserved over two years. The goal is to reach 1,000 by 2007, through preservation or construction, although housing officials said they are focused more on preservation at the moment.

In numbers, the Crescent complex does not represent the largest preservation effort since the initiative started. Madison Ridge, a three- and four-story complex in Centreville with 216 apartments bought last summer, is larger. But the deal announced yesterday stands out because the county will buy the property outright, whereas it paid a local nonprofit housing developer to preserve Madison Ridge. And the Reston site, with nearly 17 acres, has the potential for further development of affordable housing, officials said.

The change in ownership is not likely to bring changes for tenants. The county has no immediate plans to renovate the apartments or raise rents, officials said. Tenants may eventually have to prove that their incomes qualify for the relatively low rents.

Fairfax will pay Winkler $9 million from this year's $18 million affordable housing fund. The remaining money will come from a county bond sale. The authority will hire a company to manage the property.

Built in 1962 in five three-story buildings just north of Lake Anne, the complex is among the oldest properties in a residential and commercial real estate portfolio valued at close to $2.3 billion, Winkler company officials said. The holdings, which include more than 5,000 apartments in Northern Virginia, are being sold to the JBG Investment Fund and to Duke Realty.

The Crescent complex, with its relatively large site, "had the most potential" for dense high-end redevelopment, Randy Kell, Winkler's chief executive officer, said yesterday. The county's bid came in lower than those of several private developers, Kell said. He would not disclose how much lower.

"We were up against big institutional investors," Connolly said.

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