Tysons, VA

The Falls Church City Council took a notable step earlier this week in its effort to increase affordable housing.

The city council unanimously approved a resolution on Monday (Feb. 8) to reduce some of the voluntary concessions attached the city’s Broad and Washington mixed-use project in exchange for a commitment from the developer Insight Property Group to provide more affordable housing.

“I’m very excited about this project,” City of Falls Church Mayor David Tarter said. “The possibility of having increased affordable housing and raising the bar in that area is one I think is very exciting for our community.”

In its initial voluntary concessions agreement, Insight said that 18 of the 339 residential units planned for Broad and Washington would be available for below market value. Nine studio efficiency units would be at prices affordable for households making 40% of the area median income (AMI), and the remaining nine would be two-bedroom units for households making 60% AMI.

The voluntary concessions agreement also included an option to trade off other cash proffers that were proposed for schools, stormwater funds, and Bikeshare facilities, as well as a concession for libraries and park and recreation.

The newly approved resolution permits city staff to ask for 15 additional affordable studio units at 80% AMI, making 10% of the units in the Broad and Washington project available at some level of affordability below market rate, according to City Manager Wyatt Shields.

“What we’re getting in Broad and Washington is probably the richest mix and largest contributions in [voluntary concessions] across the board,” Councilmember Letty Hardi said. “So, while we can always do better, I do want to make sure people understand that we are getting a lot from this project.”

The resolution reduced Insight’s funding obligations to school capital costs by $2.3 million and to libraries and parks and recreation by $153,000 to allow for the increase in affordable housing.

While the project received unanimous approval, Councilmember David Snyder voiced concern with the manner in which the additional affordable housing was procured.

“My preference had always been that we not rob Peter to pay Paul, that we would add this on and use our leverage with developers,” Snyder said. “I want folks to understand that, yes, I support an increase in affordable dwelling units. This is not at all my preferred or desirable approach to funding them. I think we had other opportunities that were not taken.”

The Falls Church Planning Commission gave its support to the Broad and Washington project on Dec. 2 after a public hearing, but the group encouraged the city council to explore options for adding more affordable housing to the mixed-use development.

The city council voted on Jan. 25 to approve a comprehensive plan amendment, special exception, and the sale of a parking lot on Park Place to pave the way for Insight’s project.

The development plans call for a 56,000-square foot grocery store — likely Whole Foods — on the ground floor and mezzanine levels. At least 6,500 square feet of ground-floor space will be dedicated to other retail, sales, and restaurants, while 5,000 square feet has been set aside for the arts group Creative Cauldron.

A site plan for the development is expected in June, according to Shields.

Image via City of Falls Church

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