Greater Greater Washington

As rents rise, Alexandria tackles affordable housing challenge

The diminishing quantity of housing for middle and low-income workers in Alexandria is reaching epic levels. According to a recent study by the Center for Housing Policy our region is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of families spending over 50% of their monthly income on rent. Unchecked, this trend will substantially hamper the economic and cultural diversity that defines Alexandria.


Photo by Dougtone on Flickr.

A recent report from the Center for Housing Policy shows that, nationally, "[n]early one in four working households spends more than half of its income on housing costs." In recent years, for some, rents have gone up even as incomes have declined.

And, although Alexandria has already gone further than most to protect its affordable housing, the fact remains that rents are rising faster than incomes throughout the region, thanks to a housing shortage that shows no signs of slowing.

Lower income families feel the effects of this economic shift most, as families making less than 50% of the area median income, about $60,000 in Alexandria, have seen the largest increase in the percentage of their income that they spend on housing. They now pay over 40% of their income on housing. Those earning approximately 30% of the area median, about $40,000 in Alexandria, pay closer to 80% of their income on housing.

While most of the apartment rents in the city, even the affordable ones, are most financially accessible to people earning over $60,000 a year, there are thousands of people paying for these units even though their incomes are much lower. The result is they have little, if any, disposable income to live on.

And, these so-called affordable units are becoming ever more scarce. When property owners repair and fix up their buildings they are able to double rents, driving moderate income workers out of our city and further away, forcing longer commutes on them and more congestion on our region.

Last year, the average value of apartment buildings went up about 15% because a shortage of housing choices and the cost of construction continue to drive up costs. Alexandria gives substantial bonuses to create affordable housing projects. The city waives parking requirements. It allows for extra density. It helps non-profits to get subsidized financing.

But, it is evident that these measures are not enough. The lack of supply and increasing cost of managing or building units render it impossible for non-profits, and for profit organizations, alike, to create an apartment that is reasonably affordable to a person earning under $40,000 a year.

In short, our region isn't keeping up with the demand for rental housing. People want to live near jobs and fewer want long commutes from the far-out suburbs, especially with gas prices at over $4.00 per gallon.

The fact is that these trends are likely to continue. Every regional forecast expects significant growth of millions of residents over the next twenty years. This is economics 101. A good economy and jobs insulate us from some of the worse parts of the national economy. However, all of these factors also put huge pressure on rental prices.

Despite the awards Alexandria has won and the millions of dollars we have spent over the last ten years to preserve a range of affordable housing options, there is no city policy that can stop these rental price trends.

Typically, the most affordable housing in any area are the older apartment buildings. As those are replaced and upgraded, we lose affordable options. Building more rental housing now is the best long-term solution, because it increases supply, and because today's new unit will most likely become more affordable over time.

However, if we are to truly impact the supply and demand problems facing our region, it's going to take more than just Alexandria's participation. We will need the whole of our region to recognize and begin to address the problem.

In the conversation about how to keep rents affordable, some have suggested that the city not fix up public housing, or that it not advance public safety improvements, or that it not allow investment in our parks and other city infrastructure, in order to suppress the value of property.

Although purposely running real estate into the ground and encouraging crime would certainly keep some rents affordable, this is a narrow and dangerous approach that ignores the larger national economic trends behind this.

Furthermore, it is inconsistent with the city's identity, as a place where people from many backgrounds and incomes can live safely and enjoy a good quality of life. Smart urban planning and common sense would say there should be a range of housing options throughout the city, not segregated pockets of low income workers in crime ridden, rundown housing.

While some have complained about the fact that the city is demolishing significant blocks of pubic housing right now, the truth is that every unit of public housing that Alexandria is taking down will be replaced with a newer, higher quality unit of public housing that will provide for a better and safer environment for residents to enjoy.

Alexandria's median income is close to $110,000. And, it's going up as more high skilled, high wage people move into our region. But for recent college grads, blue collar workers, teachers, police, construction workers, cleaners and more, it also means living multiple people to a unit or driving hours each day to work here.

If residents, planners and officials want to preserve, and even improve upon, the diverse, vibrant and accommodating character of Alexandria, they will have to go further and exercise open-mindedness, creativity and flexibility in the coming years. And, Alexandria will need the partnership of the greater Washington region to make a true impact on rent-to-income ratios as the city and metro area continue to expand and evolve.

Rob Krupicka is an Alexandria City Councilman and a member of the Virginia Board of Education. He lives in Del Ray. 

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This is a decent statement of the problem, but _no_ concrete proposals for a solution. An elected representative comes out against increased crime -- wow, there's a news story. But seriously, councilmember Krupicka, what do you actually _propose we do about it_?

by Simon on Mar 20, 2012 12:45 pm • linkreport

Does Alexandria have requirements for new developments which mandate a certain number of units be set aside for affordable housing?

by Fitz on Mar 20, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

"But, it is evident that these measures are not enough. The lack of supply and increasing cost of managing or building units render it impossible for non-profits, and for profit organizations, alike, to create an apartment that is reasonably affordable to a person earning under $40,000 a year.

In short, our region isn't keeping up with the demand for rental housing. People want to live near jobs and fewer want long commutes from the far-out suburbs, especially with gas prices at over $4.00 per gallon."

I'd argue that it is worse; in this area it is closer to $80K.

Federal tax incentives aren't helping. 80K a year is around 60K after tax. spending 40% of your after tax income on housing is about where we agree affordable housing is breaking down. So that is 24,000 a year, or two thousand a month.

Rent alone is around there. That is maybe $1500 in mortage payments.

by charlie on Mar 20, 2012 1:12 pm • linkreport

Good thoughts, Rob.

I recommend Matthew Yglesias' short e-book The Rent Is Too Damn High. His argument is basically that housing prices are inflated in urban areas because demand is high and that myriad local regulations that limit density and mandate parking prevent supply from keeping up with demand. The solution is to allow more density.

by Nathan Bruinooge on Mar 20, 2012 1:14 pm • linkreport

@Nathan

city of alex is already taking steps to do that.

This post reads more like a defense against certain critics of alexandria. Its well written and I appreciate it for laying out the issues well.

I think it is clear that market forces 'want' city of alex to be upper middle and upper income. If city of alex nonetheless wants to maintain economic diversity, and wants that economic diversity in high QOL areas, ultimately the only way is to use the tax revenues from the upper income people to pay for the affordable housing, directly or indirectly. I think the antis in Alex need to address that - does it make more sense to tax for housing subsidies, versus opposing redevelopment and transit in the hope that will somehow keep rents down.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 1:30 pm • linkreport

Why do we need affordable housing in the first place? Other than "white guilt" I don't understand why people push this.

"If the poor are pushed out of an area, then who will do the menial jobs? "

That's the only rationale answer i have ever heard and it's balderdash. The poor will still continue to do those jobs, but charge more (and rightly so) because their expenses have gone up.

by TGEoA on Mar 20, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

We're not talking about housing the poor here, we're talking about providing reasonably priced housing for the vast majority of the middle class workforce.

Someone earning $40k a year is not exactly skimming the top of the poverty line - yet finding housing at such a range is incredibly difficult.

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2012 1:35 pm • linkreport

@TGEoA

I would, in many cases, suggest that the greatest priority for dealing with poverty is addressing incomes of poor people, and letting their location fall where it may. BUT a great many non-poor citizens of Alexandria chose to live there precisely because of its economic diversity, and express a desire to retain that aspect of their community. Thats a choice thats as worthy of respect as someone elses choice to tradeoff potato chips for pretzels. The question is, whats the best way to achieve that goal. With no explicit addressing of it, people in Alex end up opposing very desirable goals out of hear it will further homogenize their city (see the comments on the Beauregard Small Area Plan). Finding creative ways to provide affordable housing at a range of levels that do not involve holding back improvements in QOL seems like a worthy goal, that can advance the goals of urbanism.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

Good luck with trying to bring down prices with increased density. It would take a long time to add a significant numebr of units, they'd likely be as expensive if not more expensive than most of the housing in the area right now, and openly calling for increased density is like waving a red flag in front of local residents.

by Crickey7 on Mar 20, 2012 2:09 pm • linkreport

I think part of the problem is that this is not just Alexandria - this holds true for most of Northern Virginia. As a current resident of the City of Alex, I'd move to another town and commute into work if it was at all economically viable. However, between the cost of parking in Old Town and the cost of gas or the cost of public transportation - I just can't find rents anywhere that'll make it worth it.
I also have to say that it annoys me to see all the new construction being aimed at upper-income residents. No one is even attempting to build housing that is geared for middle income or lower income.

by Lisse on Mar 20, 2012 2:13 pm • linkreport

Great conversation. I do plan to write more about potential policy approaches to address this. Those got left out of this piece because it is so long. So this will become more of a series.

I do want to address Fitz's question. Alexandria can't mandate a percentage of affordable housing like local government can in Maryland and other states. Virginia law forbids inclusionary zoning. Arlington almost lost all of its (and every other local government's) affordable housing powers by pushing an inclusionary zoning approach a few years ago. The only tool we have have is to negotiate with developers. If the developers feel we are asking for too much (as with Arlington) they go to Richmond or the courts or both and push back (and win).

This isn't about menial jobs, though an economy does need a range of workers to function. College grads, admin assistants, first time workers, not for profit workers all suffer. A company trying to hire has to confront issues of where the employees can afford to live.

And it is false to think stopping urbanism can solve this. Stopping urbanism ensures affordable housing will be lost for good as properties get fixed up and people get pushed out. It is also ironic to say urbanism is at fault since it used to be argued that urbanism increased crime.

by Rob Krupicka on Mar 20, 2012 2:14 pm • linkreport

Lisse -- it is frustrating to see new housing with such high prices. Other than supply and demand, how do we change that paradigm? No government can tell the property owner what to charge. I have talked to some developers recently that are charging much more than they expected they could because the market for housing has been so strong. People are buying/renting at these rents. What business would ask for less if they can get more? This begs a larger question about our overall approach to housing. I'd love to hear thoughts about what folks think should be done or at least tried.

by Rob Krupicka on Mar 20, 2012 2:22 pm • linkreport

A company trying to hire has to confront issues of where the employees can afford to live.

So, why aren't those companies paying a reasonable, responsible wage? Is affordable housing just a form of corporate welfare, indirectly facilitating below market wages for the most vulnerable?

We should ask the question -- are rents too high or are wages too low?

I know a young teacher in Arlington who lives in subsidized affordable housing. You want to know why? She makes significantly less than $30K a year (she works at a private school which typically pays less than public ones). I think she would much rather be paid a reasonable wage commensurate with her college degree and the importance of her job than receive a government handout.

by Falls Church on Mar 20, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

Rob, some of the discussion (at least amongst policy makers) needs to focus on the idea of filtering. That is, new housing with high prices can also benefit affordable housing.

See:
http://www.austincontrarian.com/austincontrarian/2008/06/filtering.html

and:
http://www.austincontrarian.com/austincontrarian/2008/06/im-not-making-this-filtering-stuff-up.html

New, luxury housing will allow the older luxury units on the margins to filter down to more affordable rents/prices.

Of course, if the overall production of new units cannot match demand, then everything will filter up. That's what we're seeing now.

Also, housing markets extend beyond municipal boundaries. What can the various jurisdictions in the region do to coordinate their response and allow for more housing units to be built?

Saying "other than supply and demand, how do we change that paradigm?" kind of reads like "other than solving the problem, how do we solve the problem?" Demand in this region is very strong, supply has not kept up. There are lots of interesting programs out there worth looking into, but all of them must be accompanied by allowing the market to greatly increase supply.

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2012 2:32 pm • linkreport

Some of the responses here read like "well they can afford to live somewhere else" That MAY be the economically optimal outcome - IF you assume that Alexandria residents have no taste for an economically diverse community. Many of them say they do. If thats the case, it makes sense for them to find some way to accomplish that, even if thats not the market outcome

@alex - there are two ways top of the line units lead to more supply farther down the quality chain 1. drawing residents from the existing lower quality/older housing 2. As the new housing ages. The former is limited by the size of the existing stock of class B and below housing - the latter by the time it takes for new class A housing to become class B. There is no assurance that the combination will solve the problem quickly.

And yes, there ARE non supply and demand tools available - there are a range of command and semi command tools. Im not sure which ones are available to City of Alex (and did not realize that inclusive zoning is ruled out in Va) and which ones City of Alex truely has the political will to implement - but non supply and demand mechanisms may well have a role alongside supply and demand mechanisms.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 2:48 pm • linkreport

...it makes sense for them to find some way to accomplish that, even if thats not the market outcome...

If people want it, isn't that "the market"? I mean, the market is "what people want". The means to achieving "what people want" isn't always "achieving the greatest monetary profit for some individual or corporation". I get tired of "the market" being assumed to always be defined as the latter. Thats just one type of market.

by Tina on Mar 20, 2012 3:05 pm • linkreport

"If people want it, isn't that "the market"? I mean, the market is "what people want". The means to achieving "what people want" isn't always "achieving the greatest monetary profit for some individual or corporation". I get tired of "the market" being assumed to always be defined as the latter. Thats just one type of market."

no, what people want is demand. The market is the exchange of goods and services. Its a very efficient way of meeting demands, but not for every good. For example its a terribly inefficient way to produce a good like public radio, which can't be limited in its distribution and can't be charged for. We thus try to meet demand using non market mechanisms (unless you care to call that process a "political marketplace")

If you have exchange of goods and services, but the state imposes limits on it (for example an inclusionary zoning requirement) that is of course a market, but the specific imposition is caused by a non market power - thats why I call that a "Semi-command" solution.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 3:10 pm • linkreport

your saying the people of Alex are demanding (want) diverse SES in the community, there's a market for diverse SES. There are (might be) ways to meet that demand. Sometimes to meet a demand (the market) its an exchange of something besides money that is required. This is one of those cases, maybe.

by Tina on Mar 20, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

@AWalker

There is no assurance that the combination will solve the problem quickly.

Of course not, but I never asserted there was. What I am asserting is that we need more supply, period.

there are two ways top of the line units lead to more supply farther down the quality chain 1. drawing residents from the existing lower quality/older housing 2. As the new housing ages.

No, that's not quite it. When demand is strong, a landlord for a downmarket unit might choose to renovate and upgrade in order to capture higher rents. We've seen this all through DC, where there have been lots of renovations and upgrades to existing structures. You haven't drawn residents up the chain into higher quality units, but you have allowed what was an affordable unit to 'filter up' in the housing market.

Conversely, if you add a lot of new luxury units, then the owner of that downmarket apartment might decide it's too hard to capture those luxury renters, and therefore he won't renovate his building - and that apartment stays on the market at a more affordable price.

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2012 3:27 pm • linkreport

tina

its a classic public good problem. If one person in Alex gets a diverse SES community, so does everyone else. So if the person who wants it "exchanges" money or anything of tangible value, everyone else benefits. You have a few other options - Govt can give something in exchange - money, or rights to additional density, or whatever. Or you can use social pressure (not giving money, but giving intangibles - honor, respect, etc) Or you can use force - the govt says there will be so many units of affordable housing in all new projects.

Im not sure which of those you call "market" - and Im not sure that it matters (other than in the context of "market" having good connotations, whether it leads to an optimal outcome or not).

I doubt that intangibles will motivate developers to a considerable degree. Mr Krupicka has said that the IZ used by DC is not allowed in Va - so density bonuses only work for those projects that go beyond as of right, which is not all of them.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 3:27 pm • linkreport

Some of the responses here read like "well they can afford to live somewhere else" That MAY be the economically optimal outcome - IF you assume that Alexandria residents have no taste for an economically diverse community.

I think AWITC nails it. Economic diversity is nice to have...similar to other things that are nice to have like better parks, schools, transportation, etc. However, resources are not unlimited and folks should realize that increasing economic diversity comes at the cost of not putting that money toward other needs. However, the most efficient answer seems to be killing two birds with one stone by a policy measure such as paying teachers a fair wage. That simultaneously maintains diversity (by not forcing teachers to move out of the community) while improving education (by attracting better teachers).

by Falls Church on Mar 20, 2012 3:35 pm • linkreport

I just think its worth mentioning that there are other systems that significantly contribute to QOL besides the "market" where someone is squeezing the greatest monetary gain out of a situation to the detriment the other systems that contribute to QOL. I get tired of the "market" worship. There are other systems equally or more valuable in contributing to QOL.

by Tina on Mar 20, 2012 3:36 pm • linkreport

"Conversely, if you add a lot of new luxury units, then the owner of that downmarket apartment might decide it's too hard to capture those luxury renters, and therefore he won't renovate his building - and that apartment stays on the market at a more affordable price."

perhaps I did not make myself clear, but thats precisely what I meant.

"Of course not, but I never asserted there was. What I am asserting is that we need more supply, period."

Which does not address Mr Krupicka's problem. Which is, that despite what CIty of Alex is doing to increase supply (see Potomac Yds, Carlisle, VanDorn-Pickett area, Landmark Mall, and Beauregard Small Area Plan) the current market trends are leading to the economic homogenization of the city at distress to many Alex residents (and not only to poor alex residents). Which is not only a bad thing in itself, but it is in fact adding to the opposition to urbanist developments that increase QOL and at least in the short run (but possibly in the long run) decrease the number of affordable units. So, the problem is - GIVEN what Alex is already doing to increase density, how does City of Alex address the affordability issue.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 3:36 pm • linkreport

@AWalker

Which does not address Mr Krupicka's problem. Which is, that despite what CIty of Alex is doing to increase supply (see Potomac Yds, Carlisle, VanDorn-Pickett area, Landmark Mall, and Beauregard Small Area Plan) the current market trends are leading to the economic homogenization of the city at distress to many Alex residents (and not only to poor alex residents). Which is not only a bad thing in itself, but it is in fact adding to the opposition to urbanist developments that increase QOL and at least in the short run (but possibly in the long run) decrease the number of affordable units. So, the problem is - GIVEN what Alex is already doing to increase density, how does City of Alex address the affordability issue.

Yes, Alexandria has done some to increase development and density. I don't know that they've done enough, however.

What about categorical loosening of the zoning code? Allowing city-wide accessory dwelling units? Things of that nature, not just a few key master planned developments.

I also commend Mr. Krupicka for his command of the issues and understanding the problem. It is indeed regional (as the housing market is regional).

What about passing some frameworks for a sort of 'zoning budget' both within the city and within the region?

http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2011/04/27/200745/balancing-the-zoning-budget/

Since we've established that housing costs and transportation costs are related, what about pushing for additional transit capacity that would in turn increase the transit-accessible areas of the city and of the region?

If Alexandria doesn't have the authority to implement IZ or rent control or similar measures, then maybe he should throw Richmond under the bus about it - since that's where the authority lies.

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2012 4:05 pm • linkreport

I wish Arlington Board Members were half as curious and open-minded as Mr Krupicka with respect to these hard issues. Unfortunately, they prefer to rely on empty talking points and hubris.

by Arlingtonian on Mar 20, 2012 4:05 pm • linkreport

"What about categorical loosening of the zoning code? Allowing city-wide accessory dwelling units? Things of that nature, not just a few key master planned developments."

I too would be curious about the status of ADU's in City of Alex.

"Since we've established that housing costs and transportation costs are related, what about pushing for additional transit capacity that would in turn increase the transit-accessible areas of the city and of the region?"

City of alex is looking at bus/lrt transitway corridors in several areas. Including Beuregard, eisenhower/Duke, and north south from Old town to Potomac Yards.

"If Alexandria doesn't have the authority to implement IZ or rent control or similar measures, then maybe he should throw Richmond under the bus about it - since that's where the authority lies."

Im not sure what that means. How does City of Alex throw Richmond under the bus? What do they do? You mean just tell the folks complaining its richmonds fault? hmmm.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 4:21 pm • linkreport

BTW ive now read the MY piece on zoning budgets. It specifically addressed DOWN zoning proposals. In places like Alex, there is no proposed down zoning - the issue is upzoning - a city wide budget requiring a percentage of upzoning would likely stir up as much opposition as the case by case proposals do - arguably worse, without the goodies like specific transit lines and parks to dangle as offsets to increased density.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 4:25 pm • linkreport

Im not sure what that means. How does City of Alex throw Richmond under the bus? What do they do? You mean just tell the folks complaining its richmonds fault? hmmm

Well, sort of. The city officials tell constituents to contact their state-level representatives. Work with those state level reps to pass legislation enabling cities and counties to implement IZ, or for the state to do it itself.

Nothing wrong with telling them it's Richmond's fault if it is actually Richmond's fault.

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2012 4:27 pm • linkreport

"Work with those state level reps to pass legislation enabling cities and counties to implement IZ, or for the state to do it itself."

I know some of the state level reps from alex and FFX. I know something about richmond. Theres not much the Alex and FFX reps can do about the climate in richmond. This still leaves the problem unsolved.

I liked the Accessory dwelling unit idea better.

by AWalkerInTheCIty on Mar 20, 2012 4:29 pm • linkreport

Alex:

As Walker noted, the city is working on transit options. But given the lack of a long-term Federal bill (thanks, Congress...) and basically no help at the state level, they're limited in what they can actually fund. As it is, the city's proposed 10-year CIP pushes streetcar conversion for Crystal City-Potomac Yard into the next decade.

And the city can't exactly "throw Richmond under the bus". Sure, residents can contact their state representatives, but even if the local contingent was fully onboard, there is no way they'd win given the power structure in Richmond.

by Froggie on Mar 20, 2012 4:51 pm • linkreport

If the answer is that you can't do anything without state help (and the state is unwilling), so be it. All the more reason to focus on the things you can control - like zoning.

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2012 4:53 pm • linkreport

Im not quite sure why grants and housing subsidies (I am thinking for the poor, not the 40 to 60k workforce housing) are off the table - though Id like to see some more creative ideas for them.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 20, 2012 5:00 pm • linkreport

I recently wrote this article for the Alexandria Gazette. In it I do offer two solutions for the major development along Beuregard in Alexandria. The first is to reject the plan outright, the second is to ask that it include mixed income levels including housing that is affordable to the residents that live there now.

http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2012/mar/15/letter-housing-beauregard/

It does occur to me that there is a 3rd solution, which is to allow all the development with the agreement that the owners JBG maintain all of Lynnbrook and Meadowbrook, formerly known as the Hamlets. This would preserve the main rental apartment complex in the development area. I look forward to Rob Krupicka focusing more on this project in a future post, which will soon be beore the Alexandria City Council.

by Boyd Walker on Mar 20, 2012 6:26 pm • linkreport

Rejecting development in Beauregard would simply drive property owners to upgrade existing units and would lead to rapid escalation in rents. And it would fail to address supply and demand at all which is the driver of the rent issues I wrote about. Doing nothing is a fine solution if your goal is to get rid of affordable housing forever. You also would get less park land, no transit infrastructure and would be left with little vision for how you manage all of the regional issues that impact the west end -- growth in Bailey's Crossroads, Shirlington, etc. Growth in all of those areas impacts access to services and congestion. We need a new paradigm so people can walk or travel shorter distances for day to day services and so they have better access to transit.

The proposal is a mixed income concept now. But the problem is the average rents will be higher than they are now. The city does not have the power to mandate the rents that are charged. That is a fine thing to write, but it is meaningless in terms of actual policy because you can't actually do anything about it. So talking about it as a policy idea is just an empty promise. Price controls are not legal in VA and have failed in most of the places they have been used. And if you read the earlier conversation, you'd see that inclusionary zoning is also illegal. The best we can do is negotiate with the property owners to preserve units and the total amount they can preserve is dictated by basic economics because there is a cost to every preserved unit. The goal of the city is to maximize the number of units preserved and to prioritize residents that live there now. That is a lot easier said than done. But we are making some progress.

To the third idea It all comes down to financials. It is fine to just say do this or that, but real life does not work that way. The property owner isn't going to do something that would cause them to fail financially. Would you operate your business at a loss? If the value of the development plan isn't worth it, they will just start converting current units to townhouses and upscale apartments. They will always behave in a predictable way to maximize profit. That is why Alexandria hires outside experts to analyze the financials of major planning and zoning projects like this so we can be sure the city is getting every possible penny of value that we can in order to support affordable housing and other community improvements.

by Rob Krupicka on Mar 20, 2012 7:24 pm • linkreport

It's not that there's a lack of provided affordable housing, it's that housing costs are not affordable in this area period. Subtle difference, but it's there. There just isn't anywhere near equal value for housing obtained and dollars spent.

Conspiracy theorists might suggest that the regions' willingness to be a haven for illegal immigration is a large portion of the housing price issue. In order to "control" where the illegals find housing, prices are driven up for the lower middle class and above. And having to live in one of these controlled havens after being priced out of anything reasonable, it's not that far-fetched. As is often the case, one problem begets another. Work on identifying those root problems, and clean up the region. Many other things will fall into place.

by Corey on Mar 21, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

"In order to "control" where the illegals find housing, prices are driven up for the lower middle class and above"

what would be the mechanism to do that? owners of rental properties meeting and agreeing to set rates above the market clearing price? That would result in large scale vacancies, which the data do not show. If you know of warehoused vacant apts, please do tell.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 21, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

Someone earning $40k a year is not exactly skimming the top of the poverty line - yet finding housing at such a range is incredibly difficult.

Yep. One point I make (too) often is that "subsidized housing for the indigent" and "workforce housing for middle-income people" both have great social value, but they're two very different things. And when they're conflated under the term "affordable housing" it erodes support for workforce housing. One of the most effective tools in fighting *against* increased density is to tell your average voter that it's an "affordable housing" policy.

Because when proponents say "affordable housing" people hear "housing projects for the very poor". Opponents have successfully altered the definition of the term. It's time to wave the white flag and move on to some other term like "workforce housing".

by oboe on Mar 21, 2012 5:12 pm • linkreport

It's not that there's a lack of provided affordable housing, it's that housing costs are not affordable in this area period.

Sorry, I'm not certain how this is a distinction without a difference. And while the meaning of the statement seems to hinge on "provided", it seems redundant here.

by oboe on Mar 21, 2012 5:22 pm • linkreport

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