With the arrival of Amazon speeding up our growth and development, it is even more of a challenge to ensure Arlington remains a diverse community where people of all incomes and backgrounds can afford to live and work. Since 2000, affordable housing has declined by two thirds. Many people who form the backbone of our community — our police, firefighters, teachers, and nurses — find it just too expensive to stay in Arlington. Many of us who raised families in Arlington find that our own children cannot afford to live here or struggle to do so. There is no single solution, but there are a number of key areas on which I have focused since joining the Board and which need more attention moving forward.
Affordable Housing: We can all be proud of Arlington’s work to end homelessness and efforts to keep a good supply of housing affordable for people at all income levels. It’s the right thing to do. A healthy community needs a diversity of people to stay healthy. Currently about 5% of our County budget goes to our programs providing housing support. Also, we must continue working with developers who want to build higher than is allowed. They often trade the extra height for a guarantee of affordable units or contributions to the revolving Arlington Housing Investment Fund (AHIF).
These developers must come before the Board for plan approval, and we monitor them to ensure we are getting the full benefit promised. We must also find more ways to work with property owners through tax incentives, credits and loans, so that they are willing and able to maintain affordable rates for the properties they own. See Affordable Housing on the County website: https://housing.arlingtonva.us/affordable-housing/
Finally, we have started adding some zoning flexibility to make it easier for people to share their homes either with renters or caretakers and adult family members. This enables more people to stay in Arlington as home owners since they can share their costs, and renters can have more options. I’m interested in continuing to look at adding flexibility where we can, while preserving the essential quality of our neighborhoods.
Affordable Living: In many ways, affordable housing is about affordable living. We can do more to make it easier for people of all ages to live here if we focus on more than just housing costs.
Childcare: For our young families, affordable, quality childcare is crucial. Arlington has the highest-priced childcare in the region…if you can find it. Our Childcare Initiative is seeking to help by removing barriers to starting childcare centers and in-home childcare services. A community that can provide low-cost, high-quality childcare will attract and retain talented workers with young families.
Support for Seniors: For our older residents anything that makes it easier for them to stay in their homes is good. That’s what the vast majority of older people say they want, and I’ve always supported this effort. Arlington has many programs to support seniors, including senior tax relief programs for those whose fixed income makes it too hard to pay taxes on their homes. I strongly supported the changes to zoning to make it easier for people to share their homes, which can enable seniors to make some money renting a room or portion of their home and/or have a caretaker or family member live in to assist with home and property maintenance as well.
I was pleased to support the establishment of Arlington Neighborhood Village (ANV) in 2015 which is a volunteer-driven, non-profit organization dedicated to helping older residents of Arlington County. ANV provides a strong volunteer network to help with small home repairs, running errands and connecting with others and our Arlington services.
Those services include Arlington Adult Day Programs which offer activities, exercise and nutritious hot lunches. Our Park and Recreation department has an extensive program that provides access to travel, fitness, learning, arts, recreation and more. All these programs make it easier for seniors to continue to live in Arlington and lead rich and rewarding lives. I will continue to support these programs and look for innovations that may come in the future with technology that can assist with medicines, remote doctor visits and more.
Transportation: Transit that is affordable and reliable makes it possible for more people to get around without a car. Families with children tend to need and want cars. Though if we provide good transit, they are more likely to be able to have one, rather than two cars, which saves in car payments/insurance/gas. We have added many more protected and/or marked bike lanes making it easier to travel by bicycle for work or to do errands. Some people, even families, can manage without a car at all, especially as ride- and car-sharing companies become established. And, our bus service and connections across Northern Virginia are improving all the time. (See Transportation Page for more.)
Supporting our Non-Profits: Arlington is fortunate to be home to so many wonderful non-profit organizations that uphold our values as an inclusive community. They support Arlingtonians on matters ranging from healthcare and housing to supporting immigrants and fighting hunger and more. We are also fortunate to have local churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious communities that work within our County to maintain affordable housing. Successful non-profit and community organizations extend the helping hand of government by leveraging volunteers and private funds and excelling at personalized service delivery.
Quality Living — Recreation and Green Space: Quality living means a quality environment for everyone. Arlington’s scarcest resource is open space. At just 26-square miles, we are the smallest self-governing county in the United States. It is essential that we maintain as much of our open space for recreation and nature as we can, despite the increasingly tight constraint of a rising population. As we become denser and more people live in apartments without yards, we need to balance parkland for both active and passive uses: ball fields, trails, and preserved forest and waterways. We also must embrace opportunities to enhance the green space in our urban centers – urban forestry, green roofs, pop-up parks and more. I support preserving existing parkland throughout the county and making it accessible for everyone. I was proud to attend the opening of our first all-ability playground at Quincy Park.
I was pleased to approve the update of our Public Spaces Master Plan which is a comprehensive plan for our future parks and will be updated soon. I have been working for several years now to find an opportunity to acquire the air rights over I-66 to construct fields and park space or other public uses, which would improve our environment and stitch our community back together. This is a long-term effort but could make a tremendous difference for Arlington in the future, and I will continue to pursue it.