(Larry Downing/Reuters)

About 550 affordable apartments will be created across Virginia in the next two years as a result of $6.9 million in new grants and loans announced by Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday.

McAuliffe said the state funds — including $2.45 million for five projects in Northern Virginia — are an important step in addressing the needs of people who cannot afford the increasing cost of housing.

“Building a new Virginia economy means expanding economic security and opportunity to Virginians from every walk of life, and access to secure and affordable housing is an essential part of that effort,” he said in a news conference at the Arlington Mill apartment complex, where, 2 1/2 years ago, 3,600 people applied for 122 apartments considered affordable.

Two major reports released last week identified housing costs as a major factor in the economic challenges facing the greater Washington region.

In Arlington, where 5 percent of the county’s $1.1 billion budget is devoted to providing or preserving affordable housing, 26 percent of the housing stock was affordable to low- and moderate-income families in 2000. By 2013, only 9 percent of the housing was within reach.

The money for Virginia’s grants and loans comes from a housing trust fund set up as a result of legislation sponsored by Del. Alfonso H. Lopez (D-Arlington). The fund offers interest-only loan payments for the first 20 years, and the loans are forgivable after 30 years.

The fund received $8 million for 2013 and 2014, and another $8 million was added in the current biennial budget. McAuliffe’s upcoming budget proposal includes $20 million for the housing trust fund for fiscal 2017 and 2018.

In neighboring Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has injected $100 million into the city’s trust fund for affordable housing. Maryland’s trust fund, created in 1992, awarded $1.24 million in grants in the fiscal year that ended in June.

Among the Virginia loan recipients announced Tuesday was the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, one of several nonprofits that provide low-cost housing under contract with Arlington County.

APAH builds about 200 units of affordable housing per year, at a cost of about $350,000 per unit. Chief executive Nina Janopaul said the $750,000 loan from the state is significant to her agency.

“It’s a small piece of the pie, but it’s a nice gesture and it encoura­ges serving the very-low-income residents,” Janopaul said.

“For years we had no housing trust fund, one of only 15 states without one,” she said. “So we started with zero and, inch by inch, the commonwealth of Virginia has been slowly stepping up.”

Three Fairfax County housing projects also won loans. Wesley Housing Development will get $644,576 for its Lewinsville senior residences. Pathway Homes won a $600,000 loan for its permanent supportive housing program. Community Residences received a $456,288 loan for an independent, supportive housing program.

Northern Virginia Family Services received a $100,000 grant for homeless reduction efforts in Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County.

In Richmond, three lawmakers have filed identical bills this year to provide more money to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. The bills — proposed by Lopez, Del. Christopher Kilian Peace (R-Hanover) and Sen. Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton) — would deposit 20 percent of annual recordation tax revenue over $325 million into the fund.

Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.