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Wesley Housing’s The Arden apartments, currently under construction near the Huntington Metro station, is a recent recipient of Fairfax County’s annual federal funding from HUD (via Fairfax County Housing and Community Development)

Fairfax County has gotten a little help from the federal government for its efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing.

The county was awarded a total of $8.9 million in grants and other funds by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner announced on Friday (May 13).

The funding comes from three different programs:

  • $5.9 million in Community Development Block Grants, which can be used for housing construction, homeowner assistance, infrastructure, economic development, and other community projects
  • $2.5 million from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which supports partnerships with nonprofits to provide affordable housing and direct rental assistance to low-income individuals
  • $515,135 from the Emergency Solutions Grant program, which funds emergency shelters, services for people experiencing homelessness, and homelessness prevention programs

The county typically receives approximately $8.5 million each year from those programs, according to the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says federal funds “are critical” to helping the county achieve its affordable housing goals, which was recently doubled to 10,000 new units by 2034.

“I thank Senators Warner and Kaine for helping us to advance housing opportunities for veterans and their families, providing supportive housing for those with special needs, enabling older adults to age in place, and much more,” McKay said. “Fairfax County is working every single day to ensure that everyone here access to a safe, secure, and affordable home.”

With the block grant and HOME funds, the county says it has been able to create or preserve over 800 affordable housing units, along with 220 affordable rental units, in the past five years. Projects that have benefitted include Wesley Housing’s The Arden in Huntington, the new Lee District Community Center, and a planned acquisition of 12 condominiums by the nonprofit Pathway Recovery.

According to Housing and Community Development spokesperson Benjamin Boxer, the new funds will be allocated in accordance with the county’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan and the related One-Year Action Plan, which set housing goals and establish services for older adults, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, and households earning 30% or less of the area median income.

The newest One-Year Action Plan, which is currently under review and will take effect for fiscal year 2023 on July 1, calls for funding for 13 different projects, ranging from rental assistance vouchers to home repairs for seniors and people with disabilities in Falls Church and Herndon.

Overall, Virginia will receive $114.7 million from HUD.

“All Virginians deserve access to safe and affordable housing, but rents and home prices have skyrocketed across Virginia in recent years,” Kaine and Warner said in a joint statement. “We’re glad that this funding will go to supporting the construction of new affordable housing units and help Virginians access more housing options.”

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Clawes Carpets’ storefront in Oakton (via Google Maps)

In recognition of National Small Business Week, which started Sunday (May 1), Sen. Tim Kaine is sharing success stories from across the state, include several Fairfax County businesses.

“Despite facing difficult challenges throughout COVID-19, small businesses have adapted to the pandemic, kept workers employed, and continued to support their communities,” Kaine said yesterday (Monday) in a statement. “Our small businesses are the backbone of our communities. I’m glad I’m able to share some examples of resilient small businesses across Virginia, many of which have used federal COVID relief to keep the lights on during the pandemic.”

Kaine announced the initiative last month, encouraging Virginians to nominate small businesses for recognition through a Virginia Small Business COVID Success Stories portal.

Several business owners identified their establishments and described how they received help during the pandemic.

Here are some of the Fairfax County business highlighted by the senator, per the news release:

  • John Norce from Vienna wrote in about his small business, Medicare Portal, which helps provide education and enrollment services to residents in Virginia during the pandemic. They received PPP funds to help them transition to virtual services. He wrote: “Virginia has provided a great environment to allow small businesses to grow pre- and post-pandemic.”
  • Debi from Reston wrote about her nonprofit that provides day programs to adults with disabilities. She pivoted to programs on Zoom during the pandemic, and received PPP funding to help cover costs. She said: “An unexpected outcome from going virtual during COVID is we now have the technical infrastructure to provide…virtual programming for participants who are on bed rest from surgeries…Now they can enjoy the benefits…while recuperating even months at a time!”
  • Valerie from Fairfax wrote in about Clawes Carpets, a family-owned small business that successfully adapted to online sales during the pandemic. They received a PPP loan to help cover payroll and rent, and did not lay anyone off.
  • Shannon Link from Lorton wrote about FIT4MOM, her business providing wellness services for mothers. During the pandemic, she successfully pivoted to online fitness classes, social events, and children’s activities and continued to provide a community space for women in the area. She received EIDL funding. She wrote: “My team and I did not relent. We are coming out on the other side!”
  • Robin from Reston wrote in about the Pearl Project Institute for Innovation in STEM Literacy, her nonprofit that is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of tech talent, especially among women.
  • Harsha Rajasimha from Herndon wrote in about Jeeva Informatics Solutions, a small business that develops software to better accelerate clinical research.
  • Tess Rollins from Herndon wrote in about Simply Enhance, her business offering graphic design and brand strategy services for small businesses.

The Small Business Administration oversaw the distribution of over $400 billion in emergency relief funding last year.

According to the SBA, which defines “small” businesses based on annual revenue and the number of employees, small businesses have been responsible for two of every three jobs added to the U.S. economy over the past 25 years.

Photo via Google Maps

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A federal budget plan approved by the U.S. House includes funding for more Fairfax County Capital Bikeshare stations (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A federal budget plan passed by the U.S. House yesterday (Wednesday) would send more than $8.3 million to Fairfax County, Virginia’s senators report.

Designated H.R. 2471, the $1.5 trillion spending package funds the federal government for fiscal year 2022, which began on Oct. 1, 2021, and ends on Sept. 30. It also includes $13.6 billion in aid to support Ukraine during Russia’s invasion and releases funding for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law in November.

The House approved the package with two separate votes of 361 to 69 and 260 to 171 after removing a portion that would’ve provided $15.6 billion for COVID-19 response efforts, including vaccines and testing — measures that would’ve faced an uphill battle in the Senate, which will now take up the budget.

“We are pleased to see the House of Representatives vote to pass a full-year spending package, which will prevent a costly shutdown and provide key federal funding for some of Virginia’s top priorities,” Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner said in a joint statement.

According to the senators, the package contains more than $85 million in earmarks for Virginia, including the following allocations for Fairfax County, per Warner’s office:

  • $2 million for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board’s Merrifield Crisis Response Center, which provides mental health, substance use, and developmental disability services
  • $1.7 million to develop Fair Ridge at West Ox, a affordable housing community that the nonprofit Cornerstones Housing has proposed building near Fair Oaks Mall
  • $1.03 million to boost the county’s First Time Homebuyers Program, which helps low and moderate-income families purchase affordable housing
  • $1 million to purchase equipment and expand Capital Bikeshare facilities for underserved areas
  • $742,000 to support a diversion program for adults who have gone through the criminal justice system
  • $400,000 to help the county launch a new skills development center that would assist minority and low-income residents disproportionately affected by the pandemic with job training and finding employment
  • $1.5 million for the Residences at Government Center II, a planned affordable housing development with up to 275 units

According to Rep. Gerry Connolly’s office, the $2 million for the Merrifield Center would be used to redesign the facility with security enhancements and additional capacity to support an expanding array of services, including the county’s Diversion First efforts.

“This redesign is necessary due to significant programming changes since the opening of the building,” the release says.

The spending package also includes $1 million for the Fairfax County Health Department to develop a “Stable Families, Thriving Futures” program focused on “improving the immediate and long-term educational, employment, and health outcomes of pregnant and parenting teens and non-parenting young adults ages 15 to 25 in Fairfax County’s underserved communities of color.”

If the Senate adopts the budget as is, George Mason University will receive nearly $2 million to establish Virginia Climate Center in partnership with the county, Fairfax City, and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.

Another $1.15 million has been allocated to GMU for a learning laboratory where students will design and implement projects aimed at improving social and population health:

The centerpiece will be the launch of a Summer Immersion Institute (SII) for 96 students. The SII curriculum will focus on building students’ capacity to address social health for communities and ensure access to care for marginalized communities in Fairfax County, especially for communities who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These projects reflect the shared priorities of local leaders, and I am greatly looking forward to seeing these dollars in action for the people of Northern Virginia,” Connolly said. “This funding will be put toward critical efforts to bolster Northern Virginia’s response to climate change, expand affordable housing initiatives, invest in workforce development and training, and more.”

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