Proposed New Affordable Housing Rules
<Ken Marcus>
As you may know, the County Board, the Planning Commission and the Housing Commission have all be considering some controversial new rules regarding affordable housing. In order to encourage public participation, the Civic Federation's Planning and Zoning Committee has endeavored to explain some of the options now being considered. That explanation is pated below.

Policy Change Alert

The County Board will be considering a significant affordable housing policy change related to building density in the Arlington General Land Use Plan prior to the next Civic Federation meeting. (The purpose of policy change is to implement the County's target (target 3D) for inclusion of affordable housing in new site plan construction. You can find the County's revised targets at http://www.co.arlington.va.us/cphd/housing/targets/targets.htm )

WHAT: Policy governing affordable housing options for Arlington when a developer volunteers to use the site plan development option. Three possibilities currently under consideration:
1. "Manager's Option": Require from site plan projects a cash payment (of $4 per square foot or $4500 per unit) or replacement of any affordable housing lost in the course of a development project. If payment option chosen, money would be set aside for housing on site or nearby; (See proposal at http://www.co.arlington.va.us/cbo/meetings/2003/dec/1206/32b.pdf)
2. "Ad Hoc Committee Option": Require that site plan projects provide affordable housing units in an amount equal to 10% of the total density either on-site or 15% of the total density within ½ mile of the project;
3. "Zimmerman Proposal": Require from site plan projects on-site affordable housing units equal to 15% of the difference between what would be the by-right density (not using site plan) and the maximum ordinarily permitted site plan density ("base" density).

WHEN: To be considered at the County Board meeting on February 21st. It is the first non-consent agenda item, likely to be heard mid-morning.

WHICH AREAS ARE AFFECTED: All areas in a zoning district with a site plan option or in plan areas that permit re-zoning to a zoning district with a site plan option, including the Metro Corridors, Lee Highway and Wilson Boulevard west of Ballston, much of Columbia Pike outside the form-based code area, Glebe Road south of Lee Highway to the Alexandria border, Shirlington, Jefferson Davis Highway, Pentagon City, all Phased Development Site Plan Districts. These areas generally are already zoned commercial or multi-family residential, or are eligible to be re-zoned as such under the County's land use plan.

1. Read the staff report and attend the County Board meeting; (See http://www.co.arlington.va.us/cbo/meetings/2004/feb/0221/index.htm)
2. Consider each of the three proposals and bonus density and what they might require in terms of administration, support as well as initial reviews (e.g., measurements, costs, revenue neutrality). Consider which approaches are most fairly sustainable over time (e.g., self-correcting). Consider any other factors that might impact your neighborhood and "affected neighborhoods", infrastructure, parking, traffic, etc.;
3. Monitor or attend the Planning Commission (Tuesday, 2/17 at 7:30 p.m. in the County Board room) and Housing Commission (Thursday, 2/19 at 7 p.m. in 2100 Clarendon Room C & D) hearings on the three proposals;
4. Consider taking a position with the County Board on the un-addressed bonus density issue, including, but not limited to, whether your neighborhood would favor continuing or expanding bonus heights and densities for affordable housing: (a) whenever a developer requests them; or (b) only when the impacted neighborhood supports them.

Bill Gearhart, Co-Chair, Planning and Zoning Committee: bill@civfed.org

NONE OF THE PROPOSALS FOCUS ON THE QUESTION OF BONUS DENSITY, raising the possibility that the County will continue the practice of granting bonus densities above the densities called for in the applicable zoning district or in the County land use plan, or, alternatively, that the county intends to use the new polices to largely replace bonus density as the primary tool for obtaining affordable housing.

Historically, when a developer submits to site plan review, he gets 20%-800% greater "base" density than would be allowed by-right, as well as other considerations, in exchange for substantial input by the community into the development plans and community benefits such as utility under-grounding or public meeting space. In recent years, an additional 25% in "bonus" density has been given to developers who use a portion of the extra profits to build some on-site affordable housing. This extra 25% bonus density has troubled some Federation members.

Some members of the development community have suggested that if one of the three new proposals is adopted, it should only be in conjunction with even more bonus density. Other citizens have urged that these proposals should largely take the place of the 25% bonus density tool. Federation members should consider whether affordable housing contributions should be sought primarily in the "base" site plan density or primarily in extra "bonus" density.
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