The Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS) was created in 2003 by a group of citizens who were concerned that Arlington was rapidly becoming a community in which only affluent families could afford to live.
According to Michelle Winters, executive director of AHS, in 2016 the county added 219 units of committed affordable housing but lost 874 units of market rate affordable housing that had been affordable to renters at 60 percent of AMI. She says, "The challenges have persisted and intensified because the housing market has accelerated in the country."
Winters says while 7,000 committed affordable units have been created since 2000, 14,000 market-rate affordable units were lost in Arlington County in that same timeframe. The county’s investment is not adding to the affordable housing stock — it’s not even keeping up with the loss.
Winters says AHS has created an Arlington for Everyone campaign to continue to build widespread support to meet the need for affordable housing. "We are trying to get as many supporters as possible to sign on."
Supporters believe in three principles including support for an Arlington for Everyone in which people from all walks of life are welcomed to live and fully participate in our community, that Arlington is a greater place because of its openness to inclusivity and dedication to social and economic diversity and that creating and maintaining a variety of housing options and a commitment to long-term affordability in Arlington is essential to this diversity.
The Arlington for Everyone website features Arlington stories from subsidized housing residents to retirees to millennials. Tania was born in Lebanon and loves the diversity in her current apartment. "The sense of community that you find in Arlington is one of my favorite things about living here. My hope for Arlington is that our community continues to grow and work toward maintaining diversity and affordability for all of its clients."
Alex moved here from a small town in Kansas as an AmeriCorps VISTA worker with A-SPAN. He says he was shocked when he saw apartments similar to his $335 a month apartment in Wichita going for $1,500 per month here. Because housing is so expensive here, he bounced around a lot but after he started making more money was able to purchase in the Columbia Forest neighborhood through help from Virginia Housing Development Authority. "I absolutely love my neighborhood in Arlington. Columbia Forest is diverse both economically and racially."
Arlington for Everyone is hoping to add more stories of living in Arlington from residents willing to share their experiences about living in their communities. Contact the Arlington for Everyone website or Bethany Keener, communications director at Bethany@allianceforhousingsolutions.org.
Winters looks ahead to next year's budget challenge. "We have to remind people to be pushing as hard as they can. There is a projected budget gap of $25-30 million, bigger than last year's and that was very painful. Last year one of the big issues was that there was no tax cut. This year most people are saying they need to open the possibility of a tax increase." She adds that Arlington has a lower tax rate than other nearby jurisdictions.
AHS is a non-profit organization working to increase the supply of affordable housing in Arlington County and Northern Virginia through public education, policy development, advocacy and innovation.