Tysons Corner, VA

Affordable housing in Tysons is different than the rest of Fairfax County.

Affordable housing across the rest of Fairfax County, and much of the region, is grouped into apartment complexes with units set aside to cater to those at the lowest income levels. But in Tysons, affordable housing is filling the new high-rises.

Abdi Hamud from Fairfax County’s Affordable and Workforce Dwelling Units Program met with the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce earlier today (Friday) to explain the state of affordable housing in Tysons.

Starting in 2010, the Board of Supervisors adopted a policy that would create workforce dwelling units (WDU) in the mid- and high-rise buildings except from other local affordable housing programs.

In total, there are nearly 500 total WDU in Tysons, according to Hamud.

On the rental side, the WDU program covers area median incomes (AMI) at a broader level than other affordable housing programs. The cost of living in Tysons often exceeds the AMI. While Fairfax’s primary affordable dwelling unit (ADU) program serves those at 50 or 70 percent of the AMI, in Tysons the WDU covers incomes from 60 percent through 120 percent.

At least 20 percent of the rental units inside the new mid and high-rise apartments in Tysons must be WDU, with specific percents broken up by income brackets.

  • Two percent of all units must be accessible to those at 60 percent of AMI
  • Three percent of all units must be accessible o those at 70 percent of AMI
  • The remaining 15 percent of  WDU units must be broken equally into 80 percent, 100 percent and 120 percent of AMI

A policy is also in place for WDU in units that are for sale, but Hamud said there haven’t been any yet and none are planned for the near future.

Hamud said one of the largest problems facing Fairfax is the demand for affordable housing far exceeding the supply. According to Hamud, other affordable housing waitlists in Fairfax and across the state are so full they are being closed. But in Tysons, with new projects constantly in development, Hamud said the waiting lists are substantially shorter and easier to access.

Even with this affordable housing program, Larry Rockwell from The Arc of Northern Virginia noted that “affordable housing” can still be too expensive for many living in the area.

The Arc helps support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, many of whom Rockwell said struggle to find affordable housing because the stigma of disabilities leaves higher paying work inaccessible to them. With the expenses many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities face, or for students getting started in the workforce with loan payments, even the affordable housing in Tysons can exceed the advised 30 percent of a salary that should go to housing.

Still, in a region with rents of $2,000 or $3,000 per month, Hamud said it’s important to have tools available to try and help the new workforce of Tysons find a place to live. The county is currently looking at what has been working with the WDU program and what hasn’t, he said.

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