The vision for Housing Arlington is a more inclusive housing community that takes care of its neediest while providing ample opportunity for its middle class and beyond, one that is grounded in equity, opportunity, stability and adaptability. The initiative focuses on the following guiding concepts:
- Affordable Housing: How do we create housing opportunities for our low-income population, using affordable units, grants, home buying assistance and more?
- Missing Middle Housing: How do we create a range of moderately-priced homes for households with incomes too high for subsidies but too low for many market-rate homes?
- Multi-Level Partnerships: How do we better use local, regional, state, and federal; public, private and non-profit partnerships to innovate in housing policy and practices to enable Arlington to achieve its housing affordability goals and objectives?
While the critical work of providing support to low-income residents continues, housing affordability for many Arlington residents is recognized as an increasing challenge. Traditional affordable housing efforts focus on financial and planning tools that serve residents on the lower end of the economic spectrum, usually 80% or below of the area median income. Examples include development of committed affordable units, housing grants for low-income renters, down payment and closing cost assistance for moderate income homebuyers, and real estate tax relief for low- and moderate-income senior homeowners. Several Housing Arlington initiatives support new and creative efforts to meet the needs of low-wage, low-income, special needs and elderly households. These strategies are critical to achieving Arlington’s vision to be a diverse, inclusive and sustainable community that all can call home.
However, housing affordability is also a challenge for middle-income households with incomes too high to qualify for subsidies, but not high enough to afford newly built or moderately-priced market rate homes that meet their needs. The term “missing middle” was coined by Daniel Parolek to define a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types compatible in scale with single-family homes that help meet the growing demand for walking urban living. Examples include stacked flats, triplexes, fourplexes and smaller multifamily buildings, and can represent more naturally affordable housing options.
While the term was developed as a design concept, it has also begun to resonate as an affordability concept, generally referring to households earning between 80-120% of the area median income. In Arlington, this translates to annual income in the range of $65,000 (for a single-person household at 80% AMI) to $140,000 (for a four-person household at 120% AMI). These households, many of whom are already here, are seeking both a housing type and price point that are not readily available in the Arlington market. The housing type supports residents as they look to move from rental to ownership, start their families and downsize as they age.
Housing Arlington sees more effective solutions within our reach; combining planning and implementation tools, housing policy, financial resources and innovative local and regional public-private partnerships to generate holistic solutions for residents along t the economic spectrum. Over a multi-year period, Housing Arlington will use individual initiatives and programs to answer the questions above – and the inevitable new issues that will crop up over time. It will build on decades of work with previous initiatives and the Affordable Housing Master Plan (adopted in 2015).
These focus areas will make up the scope of the larger initiative:
- Land Use Tools
- Financial Tools
- Institutional Partnerships
- County Employee Housing
- Condominium Initiative
- Affordable Housing Master Plan Update
Process and Scope
Housing Arlington is a County Board initiative, coordinated by the Housing Division in the Community Planning, Housing and Development Department (CPHD) and supported by the department’s Planning Division as well as the Departments of Human Services, Environmental Services, and Management and Finance. Individual initiatives under the Housing Arlington umbrella may be led by other divisions or departments. Other County Departments, such as Arlington Economic Development, may also assist several of the initiatives. As a key aspect of these initiatives is greater collaboration, both within and outside County Government, other stakeholder groups and organizations will be engaged as the initiatives are implemented. The Housing Arlington initiative will receive County Board prioritization of resources and time.
The primary role of the Housing Commission, as the Board’s advisory commission on County housing policy, is to provide general guidance as staff develops specific Housing Arlington strategies. The Commission will receive and discuss updates as provided by staff on a regular basis, and will provide policy guidance as initiatives are developed. The Housing Commission may host or facilitate community engagement opportunities as appropriate, and its recommendations will be requested prior to any relevant County Board action.
Housing Arlington is an umbrella program with several individual initiatives, each with their own goals, timelines and engagement opportunities.
The County Manager presented the Housing Arlington initiative at the April 25 County Board 2019 meeting. Staff invited the community to share their thoughts and feedback on Housing Arlington at a May 29 kick-off event. Housing Arlington initiatives have individual timelines, with some initiatives already underway and others soon to launch.