The roofs of some of the shops on Lee Highway are visible beyond the trees from the apartments at Chatham Commons in Sterling. They're so close and convenient that sometimes Jay Guillory, 24, walks to his job at the Shoppers Food Warehouse. Guillory has lived in his two-bedroom apartment in the income-restricted community for about eight months.
"I actually moved here to get away from the city," he said. "I was living in Arlington."
The convenience is a major selling factor for other residents, too. Mohammad Akbar, 50, lives in a three-bedroom apartment with his wife and children. He works at Dulles International Airport.
He said he chose the complex because his son attends Northern Virginia Community College; the Loudoun campus is just two miles away. "Plus you are living on Route 7," Akbar said. "It's an advantage; you don't have to zig-zag to go places."
Carlos Perdomo, 30, who has lived at Chatham Commons for about a year and a half, works as a retail manager in Centreville and says his home's location gives him freedom. "I've worked in Reston Town Center and Centreville. I've worked in different parts of the area, and each time I have had easy access. . . . Everything there is walking distance. There is a bus stop two blocks away that is a commuter. It takes you to Herndon, into the Metro station in West Falls Church."
He said, "I have a full-on shopping center, five minutes flat walking there . . . groceries, anything you need is there. I am not ashamed to say I am addicted to Starbucks."
Perdomo also likes the other residents. "The community is a really good mix of people. There isn't a racial group that is any more prominent than anybody else," he said. "Some of my neighbors are really good friends of mine. . . . There is a great sense of neighborhood."
Residents praise the complex's service team. "The management is very responsive," said Emma Boone, 27, who has lived in her apartment for about three months. "My electricity was turned off a few times and they helped out with that."
Perdomo said, "Anytime I have an issue with the apartment, they always take care of me."
The apartments are roomy, according to residents. "It's pretty good size. It is just me, so it works out," Boone said.
Each apartment comes with a stacked washer/dryer, dishwasher and garbage disposal. All units have either a balcony or a patio.
There are two tennis courts at the bottom of a little hill near one of the buildings. Akbar said his children use the tennis courts, as well as the pool and gym.
Residents say there is plenty of parking, too. "There is a lot more visitor parking than anywhere I have seen around here," Boone said. Residents have parking stickers.
Pets are allowed. Guillory's dog Diesel, a greyhound/chihuahua mix, doesn't take up much room; there is a short walking path from the playground to the tennis court just right for a dog his size to run.
There are 102 apartments in the community, which is run by KSI Management. Like several other KSI communities in the region, it was built in part with tax credits meant to provide affordable housing for moderate-income people. Tenants must meet minimum and maximum rent requirements. For example, a single tenant must make no less than $28,650 and no more than $37,500. The Loudoun County Division of Housing Services has designated several units "affordable," meaning rents are lower for tenants who meet other county income requirements.
Property manager Miranda Oneto said she wished she had known about affordable housing opportunities such as Chatham Commons when she was just out of college. "In entry-level positions, sometimes you're not making a lot of money," she said. Communities such as Chatham Commons can make the difference. "It works; it does," she said.
When Eric Doddington, 26, and his wife Megan, 24, moved in almost four years ago, they couldn't afford to be too choosey. Now that he is out of school and working as a paramedic, he said they don't plan to move until they buy their own home.
"For people getting started, for us, it was perfect," he said.
"We could probably find a better place to live and it would cost us a lot more money. . . . For what we are paying, it is in a good location. It is in a safe neighborhood. The grounds are clean. The apartments are clean."