Nicole Braxton wanted to move out of New York City so she could provide a better home for her two children. She soon realized the cost of living in Northern Virginia wasn't much different from New York.
When she heard about the new magnet housing rental program in Fairfax County, she jumped at the chance to apply. The county, in partnership with the Fairfax County Housing Authority and the Department of Housing and Community Development bought 13 new affordable housing apartments at Legato Corner Condominiums, 12130 Banbridge Court, last month for $1.27 million. The units are dedicated specifically for newly hired teachers in the critical field areas of special education and high school mathematics, and Fairfax County Government employees, with a special priority for public health nurses.
“We want to attract those people who want to build a career in this county,” said Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield). “These are the first fruits of the grand vision for workforce housing in Fairfax County.”
THE NEW ACQUISITION brings the total number of affordable units purchased by the county to nearly 1,200, said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Gerry Connolly (D-At-large). A similar goal should be set specifically for the magnet-housing program, he said.
“We’re hoping for hundreds of similar opportunities in the next cycle, with the cooling of the [housing] market,” said Connolly.
The board approved the allocation of one penny from the real estate tax to go toward the overall initiative in the spring of 2005. That brought in almost $18 million last year, which has already been spent. This fiscal year, the board is working on spending the $21.9 million fund on more units, including many more magnet-housing units.
The magnet housing targets recruiting and retaining quality employees, said Sherry Rowe, employment manager of the county’s human resources department. Since so many of these employees' typical salaries don’t match up to the county’s median income of $50,570, many employees have to commute long distances to and from work. They end up not being able to live in the county they serve, said Connolly.
“I think the magnet housing program is going to work marvels for us,” said Rowe.
Superintendent Jack Dale of the Fairfax County Public Schools said the program is especially important because one of the main goals of the school system is to make sure teachers feel like they are “part of the Fairfax family.” That is hard to do, he said, if they’re living outside of the county.
That’s why Braxton jumped on her chance to be one of the first beneficiaries of the new program. She said she faxed her application everyday, because she wanted to make sure she could move here with her two children and better her financial situation. Typical apartment rent rates would not have allowed that, she said, so she is extremely grateful for her new apartment.
“Because I got it, I’ve been spreading the word to everyone,” said Braxton.
Braxton received the only three-bedroom apartment available out of the 13 purchased at Legato. Braxton has a son and a daughter, and said it was important that she got the three bedroom so they could have separate rooms. Each apartment has stainless steel sinks, Formica countertops that look like marble, ceramic tile in the entryways, kitchen and bathrooms, and carpet throughout. The one-bedrooms are renting for $715 per month, two-bedrooms are $855 per month and Braxton’s three-bedroom is $980 per month. Typical rent prices for surrounding apartments in Fairfax are around $1,400 to $1,600 for two-bedrooms.
“I am entirely grateful in hearing how this initiative got started,” said Braxton.