The Alexandria City Council formed a panel last night to address a widening gap between incomes and the affordability of housing, which some officials have called the city's most pressing problem.
The advisory committee, to be made up of representatives from the legal, building, public housing, business, civic and civil rights communities, is to evaluate and make recommendations on a recently released study of housing affordability.
The 83-page study portrays a region and a city where housing costs skyrocketed during the 1980s and calls for initiatives to encourage more private involvement and for continuing existing policies to provide assistance to low-to-moderate income residents.
"We value diversity in this community, both from a cultural and economic point of view," said council member Kerry J. Donley (D), the council's representative on the committee. "With increasing housing costs, affordable housing becomes that much more important."
According to the study, from 1980 to 1990, the average assessed value of a single-family house grew from $93,096 to $227,500, an increase of 145 percent. During the same period, the average monthly rent in the city grew by 122 percent. Median family incomes increased 77 percent, the study said. About 60 percent of Alexandria employees live outside of the city, partly because housing is somewhat cheaper there, city officials said.
More than 146,000 households in the Washington region are in need of some kind of help obtaining adequate housing, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. At summer's end, more than 50,000 poor families were found to be on waiting lists for rent subsidies or public housing.
The panel, which is expected to issue recommendations by June 30, will focus on several initiatives proposed by the study including:
Maintaining the existing supply of subsidized and public housing in the city while federal aid for such programs shrinks.
Implementing a city policy encouraging private builders to provide affordable housing. Under one concept, developers could receive more space and height for buildings under certain circumstances if they make commitments to affordable housing.
Encouraging developers to build more apartments with three or more bedrooms for families.
In other action, the council agreed to pay emergency and police personnel overtime totaling $45,000 in an effort to avoid a lawsuit by 32 emergency medical technicians and seven police officers over overtime claims.