Pursuing Affordable Housing Now

Apr 3, 2019

by David Levine, President/CEO

It seems that attitudes are shifting on the need for affordable housing.

Amazon’s decision to locate its HQ2 in Crystal City was one factor. Almost overnight, everyone began to talk about affordable housing. Amazon brought the conversations about the existing gaps in affordable housing to the forefront.

In Fairfax County, earlier in March, the Affordable Housing Resource Panel (AHRP) made recommendations to the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee. Among other requests, the AHRP asked the Board to add funding for new affordable housing production and resources. The Board’s Budget Committee will consider the AHRP recommendations as part of the budget guidance for the year after next (FY2021).

The AHRP is requesting, too, $25 million in County funding and resources to be added to the existing Penny for Affordable Housing Fund. That additional public funding will go to new affordable housing production. Ideally, the goal is to produce 5,000 units of affordable housing over the next fifteen years (“5K in 15,” the banner reads).

Another benefit of public funding is in its leverage. Once public funds are committed to affordable housing production, then these funds can be leveraged two or three times with federal and private resources. The public funds create an even larger impact because of this leverage.

With all the press around affordable housing, it has risen as a priority for many people across the country, too. The “Opportunity Starts at Home” advocacy group —which champions multi-sector affordable housing solutions —released the findings of one of its recent polls.

They found that “60% say housing affordability is a serious problem in the area where they live, which is up 21 points since 2016.” The authors reported on other findings, too. For example, more than three-quarters of the respondents believe that government has an important, if not critical, role in affordable housing production.

It looks as though government officials are sensing these priorities. They see that it is time to act.