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The Arlington County Board held a work session this week with representatives from the Planning Division and Planning Commission to discuss projects and priorities for the coming year. This work session provided an opportunity for County Board members to interact with the planning department and ask questions about future planning projects and initiatives.

In the upcoming year, the County plans to complete four General Land Use Plan (“GLUP”) studies and a five-year review of the Comprehensive Plan. The County also plans to complete the Four Mile Run Valley Planning Program and the Courthouse Square Plan Addendum Implementation. The Planning Division will also be supporting the Housing Division with completing reports and recommendations for Market-Rate Affordable Units (“MARKs”) and Affordable Dwelling Units (“ADUs.”) It was also discussed that the Lee Highway Planning Initiative will be a major focus for the Planning Division in the coming years. Finally, it is expected that changes will be made to the County’s sign regulations to comply with recent case law decisions.

Legislation proposed in the Virginia House of Delegates would give the City of Fairfax specific authority to adopt an affordable housing ordinance offering bonus development density in projects that provide an affordable housing component. Legislation at the state level is necessary, because under Virginia’s Dillon Rule a locality has only those powers that are expressly granted, those that can be implied from an express power and those that are essential and indispensable to the locality’s functions. Under the proposed legislation, the City of Fairfax could then move to adopt an amendment to its zoning ordinance that would allow bonus density in exchange for affordable housing. This would help solve an issue that recently arose in two City of Fairfax projects, where the City encountered redevelopment proposals and sought affordable housing contributions as part of the projects.

October 28, 2010
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For those of you out there who own and/or operate affordable housing subsidized by HUD, you should take note that the protections extended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) have been permanently extended to HUD Section 8 properties.  The final rules published yesterday in the Federal Register now make the prior 2008 interim rules permanent with some alterations and clarifications.  If you did not know that VAWA protections extended to your HUD tenants, take note.   VAWA, when enacted in 1994, was supposed to be self-implementing; however, regulations were needed to explain how these self-implementing provisions would be implemented and incorporated under existing federal regulations. 

This year's proposed Constitutional Amendments are now up for review prior to being voted on during the November 2, 2010 General Election this fall.  There are three proposed amendments on the table:

The area considered to be inclusive of Fort Myer Heights is basically the down-hill slope from Arlington's Courthouse Sector on the hill above of Route 50 north of Fort Myer, bounded to the north by Clarendon Boulevard and to the south by Route 50, Courthouse Road to the west and Pierce Street to the east.  What makes this area interesting, however, is the plan adopted by Arlington County to try and preserve the area's dwindling stock of aging garden-style apartments, which many find valuable from a historical perspective and others find valuable because of the affordability of these units (whether committed affordable units or as market affordable units).  The County has been unable to prevent the redevelopment of a number of sites in this area because planned densities are not sufficient to induce developers from entering special exception processes, and have instead chosen to move forward with by-right townhouse and condominium projects, effectively omitting the County from the redevelopment process.

Views at Clarendon Rendering

At the risk of engaging in a bit of direct self-promotion for perhaps the first time, today we have a guest post from Raighne Delaney, a shareholder of Bean, Kinney & Korman, P.C. and lead counsel in the successful dismissal of a case on April 12, 2010 pending against the Views at Clarendon Corporation, Inc. involving an affordable housing project here in Arlington. Raighne’s comments regarding the case follow:

On April 12, 2010, Judge Hilton of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed a suit seeking to halt the Views at Clarendon affordable housing project in Arlington, Virginia. The plaintiff, Peter Glassman, claimed the project violated the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions’ establishment clause by allegedly using Arlington County government funds to erect and repair a church and support the church’s ministry. The court roundly disagreed with these allegations, finding that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to properly allege an Establishment Clause case. The court granted the various defendants motions to dismiss as to all counts of the case with prejudice and no leave to amend was granted.

If you are an owner or operator of affordable rental housing (property with four or more units), it might be worth noting that the General Assembly has just restricted your local real estate tax assessor's discretion to value your property to one method.   Senator Whipple, apparently at the request of the Virginia Housing Commission, patroned a bill passed by both houses this session to amend Section 58.1-3295, requiring localities to assess real property being operated as affordable rental housing solely via the income valuation approach.  Presumably, the reason for this was that local assessors have been trying to tax committed affordable rental housing (i.e. housing that is legally bound to remain and operate as affordable housing at limited rents), at rates that do not reflect these income stream restrictions, by using methods to determine fair market value other than the income approach.

I don't know how many people out there tracked the events at the sustainability forum out in Portland a few weeks ago, but one of the notable take-aways from the event was that HUD Secretary Donovan used the event as an opportunity to announce that HUD was launching it's new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (OSHC) under Deputy Secretary Ron Sims.  OSHC is funded in HUD's 2010 budget.  This follows on the heels of the announcement to create the Inter-agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities between DOT, HUD and EPA last June.

A quick “congrats” to Jim Pritchett who has been named Executive Director of Alexandria’s relatively new Housing Development Corporation. The Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) is a non-profit developer and owner of affordable housing, primarily focused on projects located in the City of Alexandria, Virginia.