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Fairfax church partners with Habitat for Humanity and others on planned townhome project

The Fairfax Presbyterian Church wants to repurpose 1.6 acres of its parking lot for 10 townhomes for lower-income people.

It’s holding another open house tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 a.m. in its fellowship hall with a question-and-answer session about the proposed project, which requires Fairfax City Council to rezone the area.

The church is seeking to partner with three nonprofits and help house individuals currently making $79,700 or less as well as families of four with an income of $113,850 or less, targeting people in the 40% to 80% range of the area median income.

The church envisions offering a 30-year mortgage, but with land leased at $1 per year, it will remove some $100,000 to $300,000 in land costs that other homeowners might face. Building height and design would be comparable to nearby buildings on the eastern border of the property, according to an application.

The proposed project comes through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, homeless services organization Homestretch and HomeAid Northern Virginia, which is tied to the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association.

“Eight units will be sold with a long-term ground sublease to income eligible Habitat NOVA families and two of the units will be sold to Homestretch for their Sacred Homes Program,” the church’s application says.

However, a representative of a local advocacy group for affordable housing says city staff seem to be catering to a handful of vocal opponents, thereby putting up roadblocks.

Judy Fisher said the city has required two traffic studies so far to understand changes from the pandemic, but then asked for a third traffic study. She said it’s creating hardship for the project, which has relied on pro bono work for the studies.

City spokesman Matthew Kaiser said the project’s application was received May 6, 2022, and is currently under its first round of review.

“There will be only one traffic study,” he wrote in an email.

But Fisher said the church decided to pursue the project five years ago, and the partnership submitted two applications in 2021, receiving staff comments.

“There has been what feels like not very good cooperation from the city,” she said. “It feels like obstruction.”

According to a church flier, it submitted a rezoning application last year in February and resubmitted it Oct. 27.

The flier says the church has committed up to $400,000 with the land to serve families needing affordable housing.

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