After a recent study showed an uptick in homelessness, Fairfax County staff say that data connects pretty cleanly to a matching rise in evictions over the last year.
The county saw a 10% increase — 119 people — in people experiencing homelessness for an estimated total of 1,310 people.
“In many ways the connection between housing and homelessness are logical, as homelessness is essentially defined as not having housing,” said Tom Barnett, deputy director of the county’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness. “Much of the work of a homeless system is helping people in housing crisis find and secure new housing opportunities that match their means and unique needs.”
Barnett said the increase in evictions, in turn, came at the same time as the end of federal and state eviction moratoria.
“The latest trends in evictions coincide with the ending of federal and state eviction moratoria and declining federal resources for emergency rental assistance from pandemic-era funding,” Barnett said. “The federal eviction moratorium ended in August 2021 and the Virginia eviction moratorium ended on June 30, 2022.”
According to the county’s eviction dashboard, there were 2,674 formal writs of eviction issued between June 1, 2020 and the end of 2022. Before Virginia’s moratorium ended, there were only two months in that period with 100 or more writs, but those numbers soared to 280 in October, 317 in November and 248 in December.
Barnett noted that some households are “evicted informally” and can’t be tracked.
In 2021, the county established a Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program that assisted households who couldn’t pay rent or utilities during the pandemic, allowing thousands to stay in their homes when they might otherwise have been evicted.
A new program was set up to cover some of those expiring benefits, but Barnett says the $14 million funding that program only accounts for a fraction of the $95 million in federal assistance provided over the last three years.
According to Barnett:
In anticipation of expiring federal benefits, [Health and Human Services] created the ERA Bridge Program in May 2022 and began accepting applications on July 1, 2022. The goal of this program is to keep significant resources in the community while beginning to transition to a new post-COVID operating and funding level still to be determined. The ERA Bridge Program totals approximately $14.0 million and is funded through a combination of federal and County funding. This funding is supplemented by leveraging community-based organization funds (private and federal) in addition to their Consolidated Community Funding Pool (CCFP) funding. This support is facilitated through the County and nonprofit partnership model that existed pre-COVID-19.
It is important to note that pre-pandemic, all rental and transitional housing assistance funded through CCFP totaled approximately $4.0 million. It is understood that post-pandemic funding needs will significantly exceed that amount, and the ERA Bridge Program provides time and space to evaluate future funding level needs.
For years, Fairfax County leaders have been using carrots to encourage property owners to adhere to the county’s Human Rights Ordinance. Now, some of them want to start using the stick.
During a meeting on Tuesday (May 16) discussing the Metropolitan Washington Regional Fair Housing Plan, staff laid out how Fairfax County fits into a regional push for more affordable housing and better protections for residents.
In addition to regional goals, the plan includes specific goals for each locality in the region. For Fairfax County, that includes enforcement of the Human Rights Ordinance passed back in 2010.
The 46-page ordinance has a detailed list of prohibited forms of housing discrimination, including employment or credit, as well as protection against retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said, given that it’s been 13 years since the Human Rights Ordinance was passed, it’s high time to take the gloves off and double down on enforcement.
“We’re doing the testing, we’re identifying where we need to do more work; I’m all for that, but frankly, at some point, we have to do real law enforcement,” Alcorn said. “We’re going to have to pivot. If we’re not making progress, it’s time to take a more aggressive law enforcement stance with this. If we don’t see progress moving forward, I think we’d want to see an option for a more aggressive law enforcement approach.”
Amanda Schlener said Fairfax County publishes testing reports every two years and the most recent, from fiscal year 2022, indicated the county filed 22 enforcement complaints against private companies. Of those, 11 were settled for monetary conciliation agreements.
Fairfax County isn’t alone in seeing housing discrimination. Alexandria officials recently shared that property owners have evicted residents for receiving public assistance.
Staff also said the county could do more to let local residents know about their rights.
“Sometimes people are not 100% sure of what their rights are,” said Deputy County Executive Ellicia Seard-McCormick. “The carrot is in teaching people what we’re trying to achieve.”
Overall, the plan includes seven regional goals and eight local goals. The local goals are:
- Increase home-ownership opportunities
- Increase housing choice for voucher holders
- Deliver more affordable housing
- Preserve multi-family and manufactured units
- Increase awareness of existing and upcoming affordable homeownership and rental opportunities in communities of color and other vulnerable communities.
- Increase community awareness of Fair Housing rights by developing and providing new Fair Housing training and outreach activities.
- Enforce the Fairfax County Human Rights Ordinance through testing-initiated complaints that identify areas of concern.
- Increase the accessibility of fair housing services for individuals with disabilities and for whom English is not their first language.
The plan also has proposed actions to achieve the goals, like co-locating housing with public facilities on county-owned sites and developing closer relationships with community organizations that can help reach out to non-English-speaking communities.
“This is not the be-all, end-all of our affordable housing policy…but this document is indeed very valuable,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We can have the best goals in the world, but if we don’t have strategies and implementation and monitoring, we’re stuck not knowing what progress we’re making.”
Thanks to higher-than-anticipated revenue, Fairfax County gave a financial boost last week to its affordable housing goals, public library collections and park facilities, among other initiatives.
Before taking a preliminary vote on the next budget, which will be adopted tomorrow (Tuesday), the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved nearly $10.7 million in changes to the current fiscal year 2023 budget — known as the third-quarter review — when it met on May 2.
For the biggest adjustment, the board increased funding for affordable housing by $8 million on top of $10 million already recommended by County Executive Bryan Hill.
The county has now committed over $118 million to affordable housing over the past two years, including $45 million in federal Covid relief funds, as it aims to produce 10,000 new units by 2034, per county documents.
“I think most people in our county, including very profoundly, the business community, understand that affordable housing is an essential ingredient for economic success,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said. “It’s not just a nice thing to do. It’s a requirement.”
Also included in the package was $300,000 for Fairfax County Public Library materials. FCPL Deputy Director Kevin Osborne says the library was “so pleased” that the board approved the funding, which will go toward research database subscriptions and ebooks.
“Due to the nature of eBook licensing to libraries, adding to the digital collection is more costly than adding to the physical collection so we are also hoping to purchase additional eBook licenses for some titles that have some excessively long hold queues,” he said in an emailed statement.
During a budget policy committee meeting on April 26, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity put forward an “alternative” third-quarter proposal that gave $2 million to FCPL to expand its collection and hours, which were reduced last summer due to staffing challenges.
At the time, a library spokesperson said the vacancy rate was about 18 to 20%. While current numbers weren’t available by press time, filling the system’s 390 positions evidently remains an obstacle.
“Like many other employers, public libraries continue to face recruitment challenges,” Osborne said. “We have no update as to when normal hours will resume.”
Herrity’s proposal also suggested allocating $5 million to county park maintenance — with the combined $7 million coming out of the affordable housing funds. A version of the proposal without the library money died at last week’s meeting after no one else on the board “seconded” the motion for a discussion.
The approved third-quarter review did include $2.1 million for Fairfax County Park Authority projects:
- $1.7 million to improve six fields at Wakefield Park so they can accommodate softball
- $300,000 to replace and upgrade Lake Accotink Park’s playground, which has been closed since an inspector determined the equipment was unsafe in November
- $100,000 for a safety assessment of other playgrounds with equipment from the now-defunct vendor used at Accotink
The playground at Lake Accotink was removed the morning of May 2, according to the office of Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, whose district includes the park.
“FCPA is currently in the design process and expects to have information on the concept in the next few weeks,” a spokesperson for his office told FFXnow.
With its adjustments to the third-quarter review, the board also approved $217,308 to hire a contractor to remove signs illegally located in the public right-of-way and a $60,000 contribution to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, an Annandale-based nonprofit that preserves land and water from development.
The repurposing of the former Residence Inn at 315 Elden Street in the Town of Herndon is officially underway.
After receiving approval from the Herndon Town Council, the company Blue Ocean is in the midst of transforming the vacated hotel into a multifamily residential unit complex called Trellis.
At an April 5 meeting with the town’s Architectural Review Board, the applicant reviewed its plans for the property, which spans roughly 6.5 acres of land on the corner of Elden Street and Herndon Parkway.
While a temporary banner currently lies over the old hotel sign at the front of the property, the company plans to modernize some aspects of the building.
So far, Blue Ocean hopes to repaint most of the exterior of the buildings, which are currently a mix of unpainted brick and paneling.
While staff was generally supportive of the plan, additional information on the type of paint to be used was sought.
“There are specific types of paint that should be used for masonry and for metal elements such as window frames and chimney hoods,” staff wrote in an April 5 memo. “If the correct types of paint are not used the paint can deteriorate quickly resulting in damage and unsightliness.”
Staff asked for more information about the specification for the paint and its appropriateness for varying surfaces. They also questioned whether a bicycle shelter or enclosure is still planned as part of the project.
The website for Trellis describes the apartments as a “modern extended stay.” Weekly rates will start at $575, while monthly rates start at $1,800 . The units range in size from roughly 480 to 830 square feet and are fully furnished, according to the company’s website.
If everything goes according to plan, the all-affordable housing complex planned near the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons could break ground this December.
The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority will issue up to $99 million in tax-exempt bonds to support construction of half of the Dominion Square project, which will deliver over 500 apartments for households earning 60% or less of the area median income (AMI).
The bonds were formally authorized yesterday (Tuesday) by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, a vote that county staff said was needed to keep the project on track to close financing in December.
“This is not the last time we’re going to see this project,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said. “As it comes through the process, there are a number of issues that are being worked out, and hopefully, we can keep this on schedule and get these units built and occupied as soon as possible.”
The county is currently reviewing a site plan after the planning commission approved the project on Feb. 15. Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), the nonprofit developer, will also likely seek a parking reduction next, according to Alcorn’s office.
Part of a larger financing package for the development that includes $55 million from Amazon, proceeds from the newly authorized bond sales will specifically fund a 265-unit multifamily residential building now known as the “North Four Building.”
The North Four is one of two 21-story buildings that APAH will build to replace an auto dealership parking lot at 1592 Spring Hill Road. The other building — dubbed the “South Four” — will have 251 units with a community center on its ground floor.
According to a county staff summary, all 516 units will be priced at rates affordable to residents earning between 30 and 60% AMI. Based on fiscal year 2022 income levels, rents would range from $801 to $2,486, depending on the AMI and number of bedrooms.
In addition to the community center, which will be managed by the county, expected amenities include an outdoor courtyard, playground, business center, bicycle storage, a meeting room, and support services for residents — potentially including emergency cash support and legal, financial and medical assistance.
APAH says it has a total of $153.9 million for North Four and $144.1 million for South Four, per a financing plan. The nonprofit will lease the land from the county housing authority for 85 years.
“Dominion Square represents APAH’s commitment to meet the need of affordable housing across the region,” APAH said in a statement. “We are thankful to the Fairfax County Board for their support and authorization of bond financing. This critical step ensures Dominion Square receives the funding necessary to get this building built and provide opportunity for the residents that will call it home.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a new policy last week that could offer incentives to developers to replace the affordable housing lost to new development.
The new policy wouldn’t just require a one-to-one replacement of units set aside as affordable — known as committed affordable units — but would incentivize the replacement of those that were naturally affordable — meaning market-rate affordable.
In effect, if a new development brings units to a site previously affordable for those making less than the area median income, the developer would be offered incentives to include an equal number of affordable units in the new development. Those incentives could include additional density, building height and financial assistance.
The sole voice against the new amendment at the meeting last Tuesday (March 21) was Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who said the county can’t subsidize its way out of the regional housing crisis. According to Herrity:
The requirement to replace market-rate affordable units could inhibit the delivery of much needed housing, especially if incentives fail to cover the cost of the preserved affordable units. It’s a lot of those incentives that are basically making housing unaffordable for many of our residents, because those incentives are paid by our residents. Our young adults and our seniors are priced out of housing. We’re not going to be able to do enough government-subsidized housing to fix this problem. Where we need to start is reducing the cost of housing. I’m not going to be supporting this, that’s probably no surprise to the board, but I think there are better ways to attack this problem.
The rest of the board, though, was enthusiastic in its support of the new policy.
“This is a good next step for us,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “The issue is: how do we ensure this distribution of housing is countywide? I think this starts to tackle that issue by highlighting and identifying where those issues and where those needs are. I’m looking to support far more housing that’s affordable in many other areas.”
Storck said the policy is part of the county’s commitment to ensure residents can afford to stay in the county even as overall housing prices continue to rise.
“I have a statement that I say often and my staff will probably roll their eyes when I say this again: we need to make sure we leave no one behind,” Storck said. “If you’ve lived in our community for a while, we need to make sure there are options for you. To get those options, we need to build more housing.”
The policy change was approved in a 9-1 vote.
Following adoption by the Board of Supervisors, staff will work to put together a draft of new guidelines in May and present those to the board later this summer.
In the future, currently undeveloped land on Route 50 across from Fairfax Towne Center could host housing for adults at the low end of Fairfax County’s income spectrum.
The Reston-based nonprofit Cornerstones Housing Corporation (CHC) has partnered with the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA), which owns the 1.1-acre property, to potentially build a three-story, 34-unit residential building at 12116 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway.
The housing and accompanying supportive services will be specifically designed to serve single adults who have very low or extremely low incomes, which ranges from under 50% of the area median income (AMI) to under 30%, says a rezoning application submitted to the county on Feb. 24.
“The Applicant will provide not only housing, but a comprehensive, holistic program to help low-income individuals regain self-sufficiency,” the developer’s legal agent, Lynn Strobel, wrote in the application, which says the project will help “a demographic not currently served by many affordable housing providers.”
The proposal has been in the works for over a year now, ever since CHC sent the county an unsolicited proposal for a development called Fair Ridge at West Ox.
According to the application, the nonprofit and FCRHA signed an interim agreement for the project on Dec. 22. At a Feb. 22, 2022 board meeting, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith, who represents the area, then requested that the county consider amending its comprehensive plan to allow affordable housing on the property.
If the amendment is approved, the site’s permitted density would increase from two to 35 dwelling units per acre. It’s being reviewed by county staff concurrently with the zoning application, which would have a density of about 29 units per acre.
The development arm of Cornerstones, which also provides emergency shelter, basic needs assistance and other services, CHC owns 47 townhouses and 11 condominiums in Reston, Herndon and Centreville, all rented to residents earning 50% or less AMI, per its website.
Totaling 27,000 square feet in size, the 34-foot-tall proposed residential building will have one-bedroom units except for one two-bedroom unit. All units will have a patio or balcony, and amenities will be on the first floor, including an outdoor patio with seats and a grilling station.
CHC is seeking a reduction from the county’s parking requirements to one space per unit. The submitted plan shows a total of 47 surface parking spaces to support the building.
“Based on experience, the Applicant anticipates most of the residents will not have vehicles. In addition, while supportive services will include transportation to doctors, retail and other destinations, a majority of the trips generated…will be during non-peak traffic hours,” Strobel wrote.
The site is adjacent to a medical office building and just southeast of the Fair Oaks police and fire stations. The Harris Teeter-anchored Pender Village Center is also half a mile away.
Fair Ridge at West Ox is the latest residential project to offer mostly or entirely affordable units after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors pledged to add 10,000 new affordable units by 2034. Developments at Dominion Square West in Tysons and the Fairfax County Government Center got approved just last month.
However, an agreement for affordable apartments at Bowman Towne Court in Reston that would’ve also delivered a new library got scrapped on Feb. 8. The developer cited increased costs in a letter notifying the county of its decision.
CHC’s application hasn’t been officially accepted yet for review by county staff.
The all-affordable residential high-rises planned at Dominion Square West are officially moving forward.
During its meeting on Feb. 15, the Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously approved the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s (APAH) project, which will replace parking lots currently used by auto dealerships with two 21-story buildings.
In addition to providing 516 units for people earning 60% of the area median income or less, the development will contain private and publicly accessible open spaces and a 33,500-square-foot, two-story community center, all of it supported by a five-story underground parking garage.
“I think this is great,” Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said. “It fits what we agreed to earlier, it’s going to be a terrific opportunity, and that it’s going to be all affordable is amazing.”
Early in 2022, the commission approved a 175-unit building at 1592 Spring Hill Road that was intended as the first phase of development for the 2-acre parcel.
However, a $55 million investment from Amazon enabled APAH to tackle both phases of the project at the same time. The developer filed a new plan with the county last summer.
“We really think that getting these units online quicker, getting the community center online quicker and the significant increase in the number of units really is a great thing for the county, a great thing for the Tysons area,” said Scott Adams, a McGuireWoods land-use attorney representing APAH.
The community center will be operated by Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services and feature a full-size gym, meeting spaces, multi-purpose rooms, kitchen, administrative offices, and flexible classroom spaces, according to a county staff memo.
It will also have a 1,900-square-foot skypark — the second level of a courtyard with play equipment, outdoor seating, grilling stations and other private amenities for residents. The skypark will be open to the public when not being used by the community center.
Public forums held last year confirmed there’s “a distinct need” for a community center to serve both residents of the new development and Tysons in general, Adams said.
“There was a desire and a need for these types of facilities where they can have community meetings, where they can have CPR classes, where they have those recreational opportunities that really just don’t exist right now,” he said.
Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina said she prefers this location for a community center over The View, a mixed-use development planned at the Spring Hill Metro station that had proposed a similar facility.
With the community center going in Dominion Square, The View’s developer will likely provide support for a new athletic field instead, county staff recently told FFXnow.
As discussed at a Tysons Committee meeting last month, several commissioners suggested the county needs to be more “strategic” or thoughtful about what public facilities are needed in Tysons and where they should be located.
“While we’re concerned about community centers and having too many of them or having them in the right spot, schools I think is another thing for us to consider where they are,” Hunter Mill District Commissioner John Carter said. “We have one maybe committed. We’re probably going to need more in Tysons over time.”
According to a Dec. 27 letter, Fairfax County Public Schools projects Dominion Square West will result in 43 to 70 new students for the Marshall High School pyramid.
While that isn’t expected to push the schools over capacity, FCPS warns increased residential density “will necessarily increase [student membership], which may negatively impact the instructional program to the detriment of the students involved.”
Adams said the Tysons area should have more capacity by the time the development opens. Planning is underway to convert the Dunn Loring Center into an elementary school, though the boundaries won’t be determined until construction begins next year.
Fairfax County and several other localities have released a draft of the Regional Fair Housing Plan that not only provides some goals for housing, but comes with a look at specific zoning changes that can be made to help achieve those goals.
The plan was put together by a team of representatives from eight localities, including Fairfax County, and a few partner groups. A 60-day public comment period is scheduled to run through March 31, allowing locals to submit their thoughts on the plan.
The plan comes as Fairfax County considers drastic measures to try to boost the supply of affordable housing countywide, including compelling developers to replace affordable housing lost in redevelopment.
The overall goals laid out in the Regional Fair Housing Plan are:
- Increase the supply of affordable housing for families earning at or below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for the region — especially where there hasn’t been any.
- Change zoning and land use policies to expand access to fair housing. Increase the development, geographic distribution, and supply of affordable housing.
- Implement policies to preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement of residents. Keep the same number of existing affordable rental units in our region.
- Increase the number of homeowners in the region and reduce the unequal treatment and discriminatory practices that keep members of protected classes from buying a home.
- Protect the housing rights of individuals who are part of protected groups. For example, people of color, those with disabilities and seniors.
- Increase community integration and reduce housing barriers for people with disabilities.
- Make public transit easier to access and afford for members of protected classes.
Each of the goals comes with strategies for localities to pursue. Some of the potential zoning changes, for example, involve not only reducing limitations on accessory dwelling units (ADUs), but also offering incentives to homeowners who want to build them on their properties.
The plan also lists fair housing goals and strategies for specific localities. For Fairfax County, it suggests:
- Reform the county’s for-sale workforce dwelling unit policy by lowering income requirements and creating a separate policy for high-rise condominiums outside Tysons
- Protect the housing rights of individuals in protected groups
Fairfax County has its own 231-page document in the plan outlining the current state of affordable housing, a history of affordable housing policies, and what work remains ahead. The document includes a detailed breakdown of economic stratification in the county.
According to the report, Black and white communities in Fairfax County are “moderately” segregated. In fact, the county’s white residents are more segregated from non-white residents than at any point since 1990.
According to the document:
Fairfax County’s highest priority should be to work to expand the housing choices of existing and potential new residents beyond the neighborhoods dominated by their own race or ethnicity. It needs to make African Americans aware that housing is available to them throughout Fairfax County. It needs to make Asians and Hispanics aware that housing is available to them outside enclaves in which concentrations have developed. It needs to expand the housing choices of Caucasians to include racially integrated neighborhoods. If White households do not continue to move into integrated neighborhoods, these neighborhoods inevitably resegregate.
Beyond just increasing the supply of affordable units, the plan makes policy suggestions aimed at making housing more accessible to seniors, people with disabilities, and other protected classes.
One strategy involves creating a loan fund to help tenants, nonprofit groups and local governments buy apartments and manufactured home parks that are for sale.
“Adopt design standards that require accessible units in new multifamily developments that receive public funds,” the document said. “10% of all units must be accessible to people with mobility disabilities and at least 4% for those with hearing and/or vision disabilities.”
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Developer Foulger-Pratt‘s unsolicited proposal to redevelop Bowman Towne Court in Reston has been scrapped, Fairfax County announced today.
In a termination letter, the developer cited “significantly higher construction costs and recent interest rate hikes” as the primary reason for ending the agreement. The team also stated that a 24% increase in the project’s overall costs — which would have delayed the completion of the site.
The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority had approved an interim agreement with the developer in October to build up to 350 affordable apartments and a 40,000-square-foot Reston Regional Library on FCRHA-owned property at the intersection of Bowman Towne Drive and Town Center Parkway.
That leaves the county’s existing affordable housing at Bowman Towne Court in limbo. The construction of a new Reston Regional Library will also be delayed by several years, according to the county. Both facilities are at the end of their useful life.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said the withdrawal offers the public sector a chance to lead the redevelopment process in the future.
“The withdrawal of the unsolicited proposal under PPEA provides an opportunity for the public sector to better define the redevelopment approach for this site — instead of reacting to a developer’s ideas for highest and best use,” Alcorn wrote in a statement. “Our pressing public needs have not changed — starting with a new regional library, a new shelter, updated and more affordable housing.”
Until a future redevelopment plan is identified, the county’s housing authority will maintain its units on the site. Fairfax County Public Library is also evaluating how to meet the immediate challenges of its aging building.
“It is anticipated that a new library would be built through a public-private partnership in order to leverage a $10 million bond that voters approved in 2012. The existing library is at the end of its useful life, and a new building is urgently needed,” the county says.
Fougler-Pratt was the first to offer up the proposal to the county — a process that was publicly questioned by developer Norton Scott, which hoped to submit a competing proposal for consideration.
County housing officials anticipate that the location’s redevelopment is “inevitable,” given its proximity to the Reston Town Center Metro Station.
FCHRA will now prepare to seek redevelopment proposals for the project.