Affordable Housing in Arlington

Arlington is in great need of affordable housing, especially affordable rental units. Fifty-seven percent of Arlington County residents are renters, a staggering rate when compared to 33% renters in the greater DC metropolitan area.

An average 2-bedroom apartment in Arlington costs $1286/mo, up 41% since 20001. To afford this rent, a household must earn $51,400/year, or $24.73/hr1. Forty-two percent of Arlingtonians are unable to pay this much for housing1. In fact, only 25% of Arlington's Police Officers and 9% of Fire Fighters live in the county2. This is not to mention wage earners on the lower-end of the scale. It would take five people working full-time to afford an average 2-bedroom apartment in Arlington at $5.15/hr, the minimum wage.

The high cost of housing in Arlington is driving residents farther into the suburbs making it difficult for local businesses to recruit workers, further threatening the county's economic stability and contributing to traffic congestion. The Arlington Greens find this disparity unsustainable and damaging to our community.

Buckingham Village Debate

Buckingham Village, a depression-era, garden-style apartment complex, has become a symbol in the debate about rampant development and affordable housing in Arlington. The Arlington Green Party has joined residents and local activist groups in an attempt to protect the remaining 456 affordable apartments at Buckingham Village from being replaced with expensive condos, townhouses, and high-rises.

Buckingham Village 2 leveled; to be replaced by high-rise.

There are 3 "villages" that comprise the Buckingham Village Apartment complex. With the blessings of the Arlington County Board, most of village 2 has already been leveled by developers to build a high-rise apartment building. This has fueled extensive debate about the fate of villages 1 and 3. The remaining apartments are as follows:

Buckingham Village (as of Spring 2007)
Apartment Size # of Apartments Average Rent
1-Bedroom 210 $930 - $1100 / mo
2-Bedrooms 231 $1200 - $2000 / mo
3-Bedrooms 15 $1500 / mo

Roughly one-ninth (10,000) of Arlington County's apartments are considered affordable, defined as 60% the area median income. This is down 10,000 units since 2000 and the number is still decreasing. Buckingham Village accounts for 5% of all remaining affordable apartments in Arlington; we cannot afford to loose any of them. The residents at Buckingham are largely families with children, senior citizens, and immigrants, non of which cannot afford to pay higher rents.

In March 2007, the County Board patted itself on the back and received much fan fair for striking a deal with developers to make 300 units "affordable" after the demolition and new construction at Buckingham. The "affordable" units would be available to residents who earn 60% to 80% the area median income (AMI). While units at these "affordable" prices may help retain some of Arlington's middle-income families, the salaries needed to afford the new condos and apartments are well out of the range of most current Buckingham Village residents. Not only will Buckingham residents be displaced from their homes, they will be pushed out of this county entirely.

Area Median Income (AMI) 60% AMI 80% AMI
1 income household:
$63,200
$37,920 $50,560
2 income household:
$72,000
$43,200 $57,600
3 income household:
$81,300
$48,780 $65,040

Activists, including Green Party members, lobbied unsuccessfully to designate Buckingham Village a historical property, hoping that the county itself would purchase and restore the properties - which could have been done for less money than the county is loosing to the developers in tax subsidies (9% the value of the new high-rise, estimated at $20 million) and loans ($7 million in loans from the county for the building of the high-rise).

The Arlington County Board sold-off a piece of local history and essential housing so that developers could make maximum dollar. The revenue that developers can expect to earn after Buckingham Village is razed and redeveloped is in the ballpark of $450 to $550 million dollars. Arlington County does not need more over-priced housing; it needs political leadership to direct smart, sustainable growth.

The Arlington Greens are not about to give up on affordable housing. Here is a summary of our major actions and accomplishments at Buckingham Village:

  • Greens participated in the Wake Up! Arlington ad hoc citizenŐs forum which attempted to raise community awareness about critical loss of affordable housing. This citizen's group made several recommendations to the county board including:
    • The establishment of an Arlington Housing Authority
    • A moratorium on further tear-downs and building of overpriced, McMansion-style housing.
    • A 'Quality of Life' designation, roughly parallel to the historic designation now given to neighborhoods, which would protect existing housing.
  • The Arlington Greens joined with the Matthew25 Group in calling for the historic designation of Buckingham Village Apartments. Our coalition also protested the County's concessions to developers and the tearing down of Village 2.
  • The Arlington Greens made public statements regarding the agreement between the County Board and developers, asking instead that the County consider a temporary moratorium on any further development.
  • The Arlington Greens initiated a petition asking the County and State governments to impose a temporary moratorium on further demolition or building of new housing or condo conversions until controls could be put in place to preserve existing affordable housing. One thousand signatures were obtained for the petitions from single family home owners and apartment dwellers and presented to the County Board.

1 National Low Income Housing Coalition, www.nlihc.org
2 Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, www.apah.org