The declining stock of affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges facing every successful U.S. city and, for that matter, cities around the world, and Alexandria is no exception. Residents are being forced to double up, settle for less, devote more of their income to housing, or even leave the city because of housing prices.
The City of Alexandria has an outstanding track record of using multiple tools to build and preserve affordable housing units. This city is especially adept at partnering with non‐profit housing organizations and taking advantage of federal and state assistance programs.
Maintaining affordability through subsidies as market prices continue to rise puts an enormous strain on our budget, so we need to look for other tools as well. The City frequently convinces developers to provide affordable housing units or contributions to the City’s affordable housing trust fund as a part of developer “proffers” in exchange for, for example, somewhat increased density. The City often wants, however, to use those proffers for other purposes as well.
Lately, I have been encouraging the City to consider making greater use of our zoning authority to provide affordable housing, as many other communities are doing. We could allow the construction of “micro units” in certain areas for residents who don’t need a lot of space. We could also allow the construction of so‐called “granny flats” (auxiliary dwelling units) but only near our Metro stations, so they wouldn’t generate as much demand for parking. We need to seek creative solutions and expanded partnerships, as well as a strong financial commitment, to address the great challenge of affordable housing.
Wayne Hulehan, 2012
Doug Kerr via Flickr, Creative Commons license