FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: What is affordable housing?
A: Affordable housing is when people don’t have to choose between paying rent and buying groceries, live in unhealthy conditions, and provides a sense of security and community. A place where no more than 30% of income should go towards housing costs.
Q: Why is Fairlington Presbyterian Church looking to develop their property for affordable housing?
A: The leaders of the congregation expressed to the members that “we are called to share what we have been given. The church has more property than it needs, and no longer sits in a sparsely populated suburb. The gift to us from our founders is our property. We should use it wisely in service to God’s mission for us.”
The shortage of affordable housing has an affect on friends and members of the FPC congregation. Some of members can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood and have had to move further away from the church. Some newcomers worship with the congregation for a while but eventually have to move further away and find other churches.
Q: How will the church and the community benefit from the development?
A: The parking lot is in disrepair and will soon require an expensive resurfacing. This expense is unjustifiable as the parking lot modification far exceeds the required parking on a typical Sunday or weekday. The parking lot is graded toward the church, creating recurring water intrusions that will be costly for the church to permanently correct. A cooperative project that would move, change or re-grade the property will solve both of these issues.
The proposal includes the replacement of surface parking and parking lot lighting, sidewalks and the relocation of the playground. A new outdoor play and worship space will be developed and will include providing a replacement fence comparable to the current fence and the trees necessary to achieve the City-required canopy coverage and landscaping requirements. Sidewalks will be provided along with any City required site lighting.
Q: Who will the affordable housing serve?
A: The City of Alexandria’s Affordable Housing Master Plan found the greatest unmet demand to be for affordable family-sized units – particularly three-bedroom units. Therefore, the proposed residential building will feature more than 80% 2- and 3-bedroom apartments. All of the units will be targeted to low-income households, with rents set to be affordable for families at or below 60% of the Area Median Income. The proposed development would be designed with a portion of ADA/UFAS accessible units.
As owner-operators of properties, Wesley Housing does not (and, per federal law, cannot) specify who will live in the properties. The only requirement is that household income does not exceed certain limits. Residents of Wesley Housing properties include individuals of all ages, families including working single parents as well as dual income-earning households.
Q: How might surrounding home property values be affected?
A: Research shows that new affordable housing units in a neighborhood do not negatively affect property values. Wesley Housing in particular takes a lot of pride in our properties and ensures that they are made with high-quality, attractive materials to ensure (among other things) that the properties blends in well with surrounding neighborhoods.
Q: What is the need in Alexandria?
A: Northern Virginia has been plagued by an affordable housing crisis for several decades. 72% of Alexandria housing units that were affordable to low- and moderate-income households in 2000 were no longer affordable by 2010 because of increasing rents from growing demand for rentals following the housing market collapse and economic downturn. According to the City of Alexandria Housing Master Plan, the City has lost (and is continuing to lose) about 600 units of naturally-occurring affordable housing per year. We consider “naturally-occurring” affordable housing to be homes that can be rented (and purchased) at affordable prices simply due to the location, age, or condition of the property.
According to recent forecasts from the George Mason University Center for Regional analysis, the economic outlook for the DC Metro area calls for slower job growth and a transition from Federal contracting jobs (high wage) to a more diverse economy. That, combined with the economic turndown of the last several years, has driven demand for market rate rental housing to new heights. As a result, area rents have risen more than 61% since 2000 and more than one in five area residents pay over 50% of their monthly income for rent and utilities. While local jurisdictions, including Alexandria, have put new tools in place to try to stem the loss of housing that is affordable to lower wage individuals, the available resources are not able to meet the demand, especially as formerly “market affordable” units are upgraded and rents are raised.
Q: How will the addition of a residential building with 75-81 units affect traffic in the area?
A: The infrastructure plans are a top priority to all parties involved with planning this new building. and site redevelopment and this will be studied extensively. The entrance into and out of the residential building and the church is being considered with numerous City departments. A little further into the DSUP process, a traffic study will be procured and the results shared on this site. This will help inform the design of the building entrances and ensure that it will not place an undue burden on the traffic circulation patterns in the area.
Q: Will the residential building contain sufficient parking for its residents?
A: Absolutely! Wesley Housing and the City together have extensive experience determining the appropriate number of parking spaces for a community like this. In fact, the City undertook extensive research on multi family developments in 2014 to develop its new residential parking requirements which were adopted by City Council in 2015. As part of this process, the Office of Housing surveyed (and hand counted) parking use at City of Alexandria affordable housing communities. The latter directly shaped the creation of the city's affordable parking requirements.
Using the City’s calculation of required parking spaces for an affordable housing development, a minimum of 61 parking spaces will be provided for a building containing 81 apartments. Additionally, the neighborhood boasts excellent public transportation options which are expected to be relied upon by a portion of residents rather than cars. This number of parking spaces is in line with the parking utilization rates seen at other similar Wesley-owned apartment communities.
Q: What is the impact of this family-focused housing on the local schools?
A: Wesley Housing’s experience with new developments is that families moving in generally already live within the city/county, if not the neighborhood itself. Therefore, there is not often a dramatic addition of children into the schools. Wesley Housing is in communication with the City of Alexandria Housing Office who has advised that the Planning Office will keep Alexandria City Public Schools apprised of potential new development, especially with respect to the redistricting. That said, This proposed building is not scheduled to be completed until 2021. Apartment occupancy is typically limited to two people per bedroom.