Fairfax County is looking to update its guidelines for how rental and mobile home developers can assist displaced tenants for the first time in a decade.
Director of Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development Tom Fleetwood presented the proposed guidelines to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a housing committee meeting last week (Nov. 28).
“The goals are to maintain our commitments to affordable housing, to ensure that as many of our existing residents who depend on affordable housing are able to stay in it, and that we’re able to also move forward with redevelopment as we need to,” Fleetwood said.
Last updated in 2012, the Relocation Guidelines provide a plan for residential developers to follow for multi-family rental buildings or mobile homes that are going to be demolished, rehabilitated or converted.
Under the new guidelines, owners would be required to engage with the existing tenants and develop a relocation plan for them. The guidelines will also apply to all affordable housing owned, managed or funded by the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority and properties subject to the Preservation Policy adopted in March.
“Our expectation is that [the developers will] provide moving cost reimbursement and housing counseling, and that they will provide staffing to conduct these activities,” Fleetwood said. “We want the owner to create a property profile so that we understand who’s living there, what the rent rolls look like, what opportunities there are for tenants to move into units that best match their needs.”
According to Fleetwood, another goal is for every tenant who is relocated to be able to return.
“In the event all tenants are unable to return, a priority ranking system tool will help property owners prioritize those with the greatest need,” the presentation said.
For example, priority could be given to a household with children or a disabled person living in it.
Developers could also be required to make up any differences in security deposits.
“If someone has to move, and the security deposit at their new home is higher than their existing security deposit, we would expect that a developer would pay that difference,” Fleetwood said.
Tenants facing permanent and temporary relocation will receive both relocation services and reimbursement of moving costs. Those who have to permanently move would also get relocation payments or a tenant assistance fund that would provide a time-limited rental subsidy.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck questioned how the guidelines and expectations would be enforced, which he said could be one of the biggest challenges.
Fleetwood said there are plans to hire a specialist who will be in charge of monitoring relocation plans.
The county will now conduct outreach and collect feedback before releasing a revised draft of the new guidelines next April. The proposal will be submitted for the board’s final approval in June.
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In the future, people who earn more than Fairfax County’s median income will likely no longer be able to buy workforce housing.
A task force recommended to the Board of Supervisors housing committee on Tuesday (Nov. 28) that the top income bracket be dropped from the Workforce Dwelling Unit (WDU) Homebuyer Program, which currently provides price-controlled townhouses and condominiums to people who make 80% to 120% of the area median income (AMI).
Building on a revision of the county’s rental WDU program in 2021, the task force proposed dropping the 120% AMI tier and adding 70% AMI households — which are already offered at some properties — as part of a general policy overhaul intended to make the homebuyer program more efficient and effective.
“The recommendation that came out of the task force was really to reset the program and shift everything down by a third,” Anna Shapiro, the county’s deputy director of real estate finance and development, said. “…It was recognized that there is a financial impact to resetting the program, but it would be balanced by the predictability of having the policy reset in a way that developers understood going into the program what they’d be required to do.”
Initiated by the Board of Supervisors in February, the 13-person WDU For-Sale Policy Task Force included county staff, residential developers, affordable housing advocates and other industry experts. With help from the consultant HR&A Advisors, it met from April to October to evaluate the existing program, research best practices and develop recommendations for improvements.
Right now, the county grants residential developers bonus density if they designate at least 12% of all units as affordable or workforce housing, except in Tysons, which has higher requirements. For WDUs, the countywide policy requires that 4% of the total units target each of the 80%, 100% and 120% AMI tiers.
According to Shapiro, the 120% AMI WDUs are more difficult to sell, staying on the market for 419 days on average — almost twice as long as even the 100% units, which average 235 days. In comparison, units at 70% and 80% AMI sell in around 74 and 104 days, respectively.
In general, the county’s supply of for-sale WDUs is limited, but of the 12 units for 120% AMI that have been produced, 42% remain unsold. The lack of demand reflects stronger competition from market-rate housing, Shapiro explained, noting that 46% of the homes sold in the county since 2020 are affordable to those in the 100-120% AMI range.
With developers shouldering the cost of any unsold units, they have shifted toward units aimed at lower income levels during proffer negotiations, where the county can set conditions for a project’s approval.
“There is a huge demand that we see for units below 80% AMI, so we really wanted to see how we can serve that population better,” Shapiro said.
In addition to adjusting the AMI range, the task force recommends requiring that the number of WDUs with three or more bedrooms be proportional to the number of similarly sized market-rate units.
“If you then produce a lot of two and three-bedroom market rate units but then a lot of your WDUs are one-bedroom or studio, it’s really an equity issue as well as a marketability issue for the property,” Shapiro told the committee. Read More
A nearly 10-acre site just outside Herndon that is currently used as a cricket field is on the path towards redevelopment.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Oct. 24 to transfer county-owned land at 13500 Dulles Greene Drive to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority for an affordable housing project.
No specific development proposal has come to light yet, but the project is intended to boost the county’s stock of affordable housing in a transit-oriented area near the Innovation Center Metro station.
The project would feature a 10-foot-wide shared-use trail connecting the station to residential neighborhoods to the east.
Mike Lambert, manager of the county’s real estate services division, noted that the Fairfax County Park Authority and county staff are working to identify an alternate location for the cricket field.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said he was happy staff and the FCPA were looking into other options. The Capital Cricket Premier League will continue to use the field until construction begins — which could be as early as spring 2027.
Foust said that gives the county plenty of time to identify more options for cricket players.
“This is a pretty exciting opportunity to advance affordable housing goals,” Foust said, adding that the project will be a “win-win” once the alternate cricket field is selected.
The vote simply turns the land over to FCHRA. Additional public hearings will be scheduled once a development plan is proposed.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended on Wednesday (Sept. 27) that the Board of Supervisors approve a proposal to allow residential development at 6626 South Van Dorn Street. Most community members who spoke at the preceding public hearing voiced support for the proposal — a change of pace from the vocal opposition that greeted previous redevelopment plans.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors first requested county staff to consider an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan in 2015. At that time, the proposal would’ve allowed up to roughly 275 residential units and up to 70,000 square feet of retail uses.
However, feedback from the community, including “comments related to the proposed density being too high, too many dwelling units proposed and also opposition to retail uses on the site,” led to a series of changes, according to county planner Aaron Klibaner.
“The first iterations included both residential and retail uses, and then later transitioned to all residential,” Klibaner said. “The proposed density has steadily decreased, beginning at 16 dwelling units per acre in 2015 down to 10 dwelling units per acre.”
The latest concept also includes affordable housing units and allows consideration of “a consolidated open space in the form of a publicly accessible community park,” he added.
The updated proposal also ensures connections for pedestrians and cyclists to Kingstowne and guidelines to protect the preservation of trees.
Resident Kenneth Bailey opposed the plan, saying his son is now on his school’s golf team because of Rudy’s, which opened last year and offers recreational golf and entertainment. However, he said he understood the benefits of the proposal.
“I’m still going to say my position on behalf of my son and…all the other young people that could benefit from a place like Rudy’s,” Bailey said. “I mean, I get it. We need housing. Sure. There’s not enough housing in Northern Virginia.”
Aaron Wilkowitz, vice president of YIMBYs of Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County chapter, said he supports the updates for several reasons,t the most prominent being the development of more affordable housing.
“Every single home matters. Every new unit matters to driving down prices and making Fairfax County affordable for everyone,” Wilkowitz said.
Paul Wagner, a Kingstowne resident, commended staff for incorporating suggested changes since the plan was first introduced.
“What was on the table with 275 units in that property was worrisome to me and my family,” Wagner said. “What we have on the table now seems much more reasonable to me. It’s a plan that has been considerate.”
After the 2015 and 2021 versions of the amendment petered out, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk revived the redevelopment effort on Dec. 6, 2022, reporting that it had secured resident support, including from the Kingstowne Resident Homeowners Association, “as a result of extensive community outreach and engagement.”
If the Board of Supervisors approves the amendment after its scheduled public hearing on Oct. 24, the project is expected to be undertaken by developer EYA, the Washington Business Journal reported last week.
The community will soon get a chance to comment on whether a temporary cricket field near the Innovation Center Metro station should be opened up to affordable housing proposals, even as the search for a replacement athletic facility continues.
The Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 yesterday (Tuesday) to schedule a public hearing on the proposed transfer of county-owned land at 13500 Dulles Greene Drive for Oct. 24 at 4:30 p.m.
While no specific development proposals have been made public yet, the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority sees the approximately 9.6-acre site as an opportunity to add affordable housing in a growing area close to transit, according to county staff.
The future project would also feature a 10-foot-wide, shared-use trail connecting the Metro station to residential neighborhoods to the east.
“There is a critical need in the Dulles Corridor for the creation of housing opportunities for low- to moderate-income households,” staff said in a memo to the board. “The FCRHA is evaluating measures to leverage this underutilized property for development of affordable multifamily rental housing by partnering with a private developer.”
The property is located in walking distance of the Metro station’s north entrance, and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation plans to add a 10-foot-wide, shared-use asphalt path along its perimeter to connect the neighborhoods to the east to the station.
The site is currently undeveloped except for the Dulles Greene Cricket Ground, a regulation-sized cricket field operated by Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services and maintained by the Capital Cricket Premier League.
County staff are “actively engaged” with the Fairfax County Park Authority to find an alternative site that cricket players can use if the field is redeveloped, but no locations have been identified yet, they told Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who voted against scheduling the public hearing.
The search for a permanent cricket facility in the area is “in a holding pattern” while the park authority solicits proposals for a multi-sports complex, according to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who represents the Herndon area.
“Once the responses come in, assuming that we don’t give all that land away, there will be an opportunity to hopefully move the cricket field to these other locations,” Foust said.
Sites suggested in the request for proposals include Mountain Road and Halifax parks in Centreville, Rock Hill Park in Chantilly, and Patriot Park East near George Mason University’s campus. Patriot Park North — a $28 million baseball and softball complex that opened in April — represented the county’s first project under a sports tourism initiative championed by Herrity.
GMU may add a cricket facility of its own. The university has partnered with Major League Cricket to study the possibility of a joint cricket-and-baseball facility, though county leaders expressed concern earlier this year about potential traffic and community impacts.
Before Tuesday’s vote, Foust noted that the Dulles Greene field was always intended to be temporary.
“We spent $6 billion on Dulles rail,” Foust said, referring to the Metro Silver Line extension that opened last November. “This is almost immediately adjacent to the station, perfect opportunity for an affordable housing development.”
The rent is getting too high, residents of a committed affordable housing complex near Huntley Meadows Park say.
The owner of Lafayette Apartments (7136 Groveton Gardens Road) in Groveton increased rents starting on June 1, even though living conditions have become “unsafe” and “hazardous” in recent years, according to Tenant and Workers United (TWU), a local grassroots organization that supports advocacy efforts by low-income communities of color.
In a protest organized by TWU, residents gathered at the apartment complex’s playground on Sept. 7 to urge Jonathan Rose Companies to stop raising their rents and address maintenance issues.
“These sudden, predatory rent increases for apartments with significant health and safety issues are shocking,” TWU community organizer Marianela Funes said. “It’s this type of behavior that forces our neighbors out of their homes and displaces entire communities.”
Vartania Olivia says she and other residents started organizing with TWU about three months ago after they were informed in May that their rents would be increased.
According to TWU, rents were increased by the maximum increment allowed for a property eligible to receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The organization says residents reported “widespread inconsistency” in the amount of the increases and the wording of the notices they received.
A Lafayette Apartments resident for over 11 years, Yesenia Climato says she got a letter stating that her rent would go up by $200 a month on June 1. However, if she didn’t agree to the new rate by signing the letter, the rent would automatically increase even more by $321.
“This increase is too high,” Climato said. “What we want is a stop in the rent increase. We are a low-income community and this is too much for us.”
Rose Community Management, which manages the Lafayette Apartments, confirmed that it increased rents by 10% on average, which it says is “significantly lower than what is allowed by law” for a designated affordable housing community.
The increases came after the company voluntarily froze rents for three years during the COVID-19 pandemic, a spokesperson said. With the neighborhood’s area median income rising 18% over that time, the building could legally raise rents by as much as 17%, according to Rose Community Management.
“It is now necessary to raise rents at the Lafayette Apartments to keep pace with inflation and rising property payroll and operating costs to ensure the property remains in good working order,” the Rose Community Management spokesperson said in a statement. “…We look forward to continuing to serve residents in this affordable apartment community.”
Jonathan Rose says it has completed over $9 million in repairs and maintenance since buying the property, including roof replacements, balcony and chimney updates, modernization of the water heaters, and improvements to the unit floors, countertops and kitchen appliances.
However, residents say conditions have deteriorated since Jonathan Rose acquired the 340-unit property in May 2016.
Issues have included neglected maintenance requests, rodent infestations, unsafe and unhealthy living conditions, and unusable common areas, according to TWU.
“This property has been in such bad condition. They never pay attention to our maintenance requests,” Olivia said. “The pool has been closed for over 4 years. We have pest [infestations].”
The Lafayette Apartments swimming pool reopened on Aug. 18 after being closed for several years due to the pandemic and repairs, according to the property manager.
In light of the rent increases, some residents fear the owner is preparing to sell the apartments, though TWU didn’t elaborate on the basis for that speculation. Jonathan Rose didn’t comment on whether there are any plans to put the property on the market.
“That leaves the future of the community in limbo,” TWU said. “This community is facing exorbitant increases in rent coupled with a lack of maintenance repairs and living conditions that are unsafe and unhealthy. The management company must do better.”
Fairfax City’s first for-sale affordable dwelling units have officially become homes.
Residents have started moving into the designated units in the new Sutton Heights townhouse community at 3500 Pickett Road, developer EYA and the City of Fairfax announced today (Tuesday).
The 50-unit project was the first one approved under the city’s Affordable Dwelling Units (ADU) program, which was established on June 23, 2020 to promote the inclusion of affordable units in new residential developments.
“Everyone in the region is designing new ways in which to provide more housing, and more importantly, more affordable housing,” Fairfax City Manager Rob Stalzer said. “EYA, as the developer, brought significant expertise and creativity in delivering a project that supports the area’s growing housing needs.”
Sutton Heights was approved by the Fairfax City Council in the summer of 2020 after 16 months of discussion, The Connection reported at the time. During that time, EYA provided input as the city amended its zoning ordinance to add affordable housing requirements for any development with 30 or more units.
Though the project only includes five ADUs, it offered a rare opportunity for residents looking to buy a home instead of renting one. Fairfax City has three developments with dedicated affordable rental units: West Wood Oaks (10734 West Drive), Scout on the Circle (9450 Fairfax Blvd) and The Moxley (4040 Gateway Drive).
The Sutton Heights units were open to first-time homebuyers who earn 70% or less of the area median income (AMI), among other criteria. Fairfax City’s median household income is $118,492, per its 2023 fact book.
More than 200 people applied for the lottery that the city organized for the units, according to EYA. Finalists were selected in June, and the first resident moved in earlier this month, with all five ADUs expected to be occupied by the end of September.
“EYA is committed to creating mixed-income housing,” said EYA’s Chief Acquisition Officer, Aakash Thakkar. “We appreciated the opportunity to work collaboratively with the City of Fairfax to develop this ADU program, and we are proud to be the first developer in the City of Fairfax to implement it to create economic diversity and housing for a range of incomes.”
Located north of Fair City Mall and Main Street, Sutton Heights consists of three- and four-story townhomes with private garage parking, optional rooftop terraces, and a new promenade with seating and open park space.
According to EYA, more than 60% of residents have moved in. Construction is on track to be completed early this fall.
Under Fairfax City’s ADU program, single-family developments must designate 10% of their total units as affordable to those earning 70% of the AMI or less, while multifamily projects provide 6% of units as affordable to those earning 60% or less. Projects that meet those standards are granted bonus density.
Tysons is going to need more housing.
Home to 17,000 people in 2010, the urban center saw its population grow to 29,620 people by 2021, according to a market study released Friday (Aug. 4) by the Tysons Community Alliance. Fairfax County staff reported earlier this year that there are now 30,124 residents.
Much of that influx came just in the past five years. Tysons added 13,000 households at a growth rate of 19% from 2018 to 2021 — tripling the 6% seen from 2015 to 2018, the market study found.
Its residential growth has easily exceeded that of Fairfax County as a whole (4% from 2018-2021) as well as the overall D.C. region (7% over that time period).
“Tysons is no longer just a place to shop and go to work,” said Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who represents most of Tysons. “The addition of Metro and now the completion of the Silver Line, investment in parks and public amenities, as well as the construction of bike trails, is creating connections within Tysons, to the region and beyond. People recognize Tysons as the type of community that they want to call home.”
While the county’s population has started to stagnate, Tysons is projected to reach more than 42,000 residents by 2030, though that pace would still fall short of the county’s goal of 100,000 residents by 2050.
To accommodate that growth, the area will need to add 4,400 more housing units, including an additional 1,900 affordable units, by 2032, the report estimates.
Tysons has made progress on building up its housing stock, which totals 8,600 units with 1,200 coming online since 2020 — a 16% increase. Another 1,600 units are under construction, and 624 have been approved but are still in planning, including about 516 units in the all-affordable Dominion Square West project.
Of the roughly 2,500 existing affordable units, 1,800 are “naturally occurring” because their market rate is affordable to households earning up to 80% of the area median income (AMI), which is $152,000 for a household of four people in the D.C. area.
However, the vast majority of the 700 committed affordable housing units in Tysons is aimed at people making 60% or more of the AMI. Only 7% are available to people earning under $76,000 a year, and there are no units affordable to people making under $45,000. Read More
In the future, Fairfax County property owners planning to redevelop rental properties may be able to replace affordable housing units on-site with units in nearby locations.
Under drafted administrative guidelines, the county would only provide the option if it’s not “financially feasible” for the property owner to maintain the affordable units on the existing site.
The off-site housing “must be within a one-mile radius of the original property location to the extent practicable,” according to the draft guidelines.
County staff would also evaluate whether the new units are in a comparable location, including whether tenants would have similar access to major roads and transit, county facilities such as schools, and commercial areas.
The county is now aiming for one-for-one replacement of affordable housing units when there is redevelopment, per a March amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.
Specifically, the policy intends to preserve rental multifamily housing units that are either committed affordable — meaning rents are restricted to certain income levels — or market affordable — meaning they’re accessible for households that earn up to 60% of the area median income, even without rent or income restrictions.
The county’s Department of Housing and Community Development is developing draft administrative guidelines for the policy. The ability to move preserved affordable units off-site is outlined in the latest draft, presented to the Board of Supervisors housing committee Tuesday (Aug. 1).
Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw expressed reservations about the feasibility of the 1-mile radius.
“I find it hard to believe that there would be many property owners that would be able to make that work,” he said.
Meghan Van Dam, director of the HCD’s affordable housing development division, acknowledged that in certain circumstances, the 1-mile radius could be a challenge.
“In general, we looked at the 1-mile radius thinking about what might be walkable, what might be reasonable in terms of if you do have support networks in place in your community, how could you access those, where would they be located,” Van Dam said.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who cast the only vote against the comprehensive plan amendment in March, remained skeptical of the policy.
“It increases housing costs, period,” he said.
A final version of the guidelines could be adopted as soon as September. The guidelines will be discussed for a potential vote at a board public hearing on Sept. 26.
County staff also plan to update the county’s Relocation Guidelines, which provide information about how developers of rental and mobile home properties can assist tenants displaced by development. Those guidelines were last updated in 2012.
An affordable housing community could take over a nearly temporary athletic field on Dulles Green Drive.
At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on July 25, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust asked the county to begin the initial steps to transfer the board-owned site at 13500 Dulles Greene Drive to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCHRA) to develop an affordable housing project.
Foust said that inclusionary affordable housing near Herndon’s “amenity-rich area” supports the county’s equity goals.
“The property presents an opportunity for the creation of an affordable housing community as a Transit Oriented Development within 1/3 mile of the Silver Line’s Innovation Metro Station and nearby recreational and commercial amenities,” Foust said.
The site is currently serving as a cricket field and will remain an athletic field until development begins. If FCHRA opts not seek to pursue the project, the property would be conveyed back to the board.
The project would support the county’s goal of providing a minimum of 10,000 new affordable housing units by 2034, Foust said.
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