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Silver Line Expansion Expected to Increase Affordable Housing Demand

Northern Virginia community leaders are looking for affordable housing solutions as the Silver Line expansion gears up to bring more people to local urbanized areas.

The Dulles Chamber of Commerce brought together representatives from Fairfax and Loudoun counties to talk about what the expansion means for the future of affordable housing at a public meeting yesterday evening. The conversation focused on roadblocks to construction, current demand for units, land-use policies and who needs subsidized housing.

The Silver Line extension is expected to be completed in 2021 and will run from Fairfax County into Loudoun County.

But, the cost of living is not sustainable for lower-income people working in the area, according to Tom Fleetwood, the director of Housing and Community Development for Fairfax County. The average income only increased by 10% while the cost of housing increased by 17% from 2010-2015 in Fairfax County.

Fairfax County will require at least 15,000 new affordable housing units in the next 15 years to support families earning 60% of the median income and below, according to Fleetwood.

Currently, there are 30,000 low-income renters in Fairfax County that are paying more than one-third of their income on housing. “This means that they’re what we call a ‘cost-burden’ and that they have less money to contribute to our economy,” he said.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, four minimum wage jobs are needed in order to afford the average apartment in the county.

Once the Metro extension project is complete, the housing disparity is only expected to grow.

In Tysons and Reston specifically, Fleetwood said that the biggest challenge is the limited availability of land for affordable housing projects. To combat this, updated inclusionary zoning policies have been a large help in rethinking how space is used, he said.

“Visionary zoning policies have produced a substantial number of below-market units that are serving working families in Tysons and in Reston,” Fleetwood said but didn’t volunteer a specific number.

Stephen Wilson, the president of SCG Development, which has an office in Tysons, offered examples at the meeting of how his company has worked around small parcels of open land.

At Ovation at Arrowbrook in Herndon, SCG Development is branching out and working with community planners to incorporate affordable housing close to stations like Innovation Center.

“Land is a precious commodity everywhere, but particularly around high-density areas,” he said.

Image courtesy Fairfax County

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