A price-appropriate home is one in which housing costs do not exceed 30 percent of a household’s income. Today, in Fairfax County, 1 in 5 renters is paying more than 50 percent of income for housing, which requires difficult choices about other necessities. This struggle, coupled with the need for more affordable housing to support future growth, presents a common challenge shared by jurisdictions throughout the region.
In September, I received unanimous support among elected officials throughout the region for a resolution establishing a common goal of increasing the availability of housing that is affordable for our workforce of varying income levels, for our younger population graduating from high school and college and for our older community retiring on a fixed income. A few regional neighbors have already begun unveiling initiatives for addressing this common challenge and pursuing our shared goal.
For Fairfax County, this journey began two years ago as county officials engaged residents, nonprofit organizations, the business and real estate industries, faith communities and others to advise the Board of Supervisors on affordable housing issues. As a result of their work, the board has adopted the county’s first community-wide Housing Strategic Plan.
The plan outlines a goal of producing no less than 5,000 homes within the next 15 years that are affordable for households earning 60 percent of the area median income or less. This goal is a minimum target, and the board understands that more will be needed.
We’re not wasting any time. In the current fiscal year, the board provided a substantial down payment on this commitment in the form of additional funds for affordable housing and adopted budget guidance calling for the investment of the equivalent of one penny on the real estate tax rate in fiscal 2021, among other critical resources such as investments of public land.
The creation of new affordable units in Fairfax County will come as a result of private- and public-sector efforts. The county has a pipeline of more than 1,300 net new rental homes for families earning 60 percent of the area median income and below in eight developments across the county. Additionally, our inclusionary land-use policies continue to produce homes that are affordable for our workforce, including in places such as Tysons, Reston and Merrifield. In addition to our “5K in 15” goal, the board has continued to focus on preserving our existing affordable units and is working toward “no net loss” of existing affordable units to the extent feasible. The county is actively or preparing to renovate or preserve 645 units of affordable housing.
These major milestones represent an excellent beginning for affordable housing in Fairfax County, but it’s just that: a beginning.
When looking at the affordable housing needs of a region so robust and poised for growth as we have, one single project, policy or practice won’t get us to our affordable housing goal. Success will be achieved only as we, neighbors all, remain innovative, collaborative and fervent in tackling the common challenge of affordable housing through a commitment to a shared goal.
Fairfax County is proud to be a part of that solution.