Will affordable housing units in Arlington remain affordable?

Affordable housing units. (WJLA photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) – On Wednesday crews broke ground on a new apartment complex along Carlyn Springs Road in Ballston that will be among 1,200 additional units to the county, including more than 100 new units considered affordable housing. But a new study is raising concerns about whether they will be affordable for long, as rents continue to soar sky high across the county.

David Gray is retired, living on a fixed income at Buchanan Gardens, one of several affordable housing complexes off Columbia Pike.

“The market, in general, is just rising and rising and rising,” he said.

Gray says more affordable units are needed countywide for people like him, plus firefighters, police officers and teachers.

“The people who made Arlington what it is now ought to have some right to live in Arlington on a continuing basis,” he argued.

Construction of apartments, condos and retail can be seen all over Arlington, much of it luxury and high end. Penzance, a developer out of Houston, is planning to build a 22-story upscale apartment building on Fairfax Drive in Ballston. Rent is rising with each new project, and a new county study shows that by 2020, affordable housing—defined as costing less than 30 percent of household income—could be virtually gone in Arlington.

“It is a challenge,” said Arlington County Board member Mary Hynes, who welcomes all the shiny growth but says economic diversity is critical. “It’s our value, it’s our priority, it’s what we’re hoping to get is a reasonable balance.”

The new project in Ballston is only 104 new units. But every new unit counts everywhere, according to Nina Janopaul, president and CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.

“All of the metro communities are going to have to mobilize and figure out how to address this problem. This isn’t just an Arlington problem. It’s a region-wide problem,” she said.

Leaders in Arlington aim to have 15 to 20 percent of county housing deemed affordable. They realize that goal will be harder and harder to achieve as time goes on.

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