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Fairfax County Board Considers New Workforce Housing Program Rules

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is aiming to formally update its Workforce Dwelling Unit (WDU) policy to provide more affordable rents for local workers as rents continue to increase across the region.

The proposal, which will come before the board for a public hearing and a vote today (Tuesday), offers greater flexibility to developers and has a particular focus on the Tysons Urban Center.

Under the proposed policy, developers in Tysons would have two options for meeting their workforce dwelling unit requirements:

  • Make 13% of the units WDUs, with a breakdown of 2% at 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), 3% at 70% AMI, and 8% at 80% AMI
  • Or make 10% of the units WDUs at 60% AMI

Adopted in 2010, Fairfax County’s current Tysons WDU policy gives developers a 20% density bonus if they commit to making 20% of their rental units affordable at various income levels for at least 50 years.

Fairfax County Housing and Development Director Tom Fleetwood says expectations for WDU commitments in Tysons are higher than in the rest of the county “because of the density available in the Tysons Urban Center.”

The Board of Supervisors initiated a review of the county’s workforce dwelling unit policy last July after a task force convened in March 2019 found that the policy was, in effect, allowing market-rate units to be considered WDUs by including units at 100 and 120% of the AMI, which is currently $126,000 for a family of four in the D.C. area.

The task force recommended amending the policy so that it can more effectively serve its purpose, which is to provide more affordable housing in the county’s urban and mixed-use centers, like Tysons.

“We conducted a housing strategic plan process over the last two or three years, which identified, sort of these lower incomes as being in the greatest need,” Fleetwood said. “While at the same time, the higher income tiers that were served under the original version of the WDU program really were closer to the prevailing market rents here in Fairfax County.”

About 1,600 WDUs have been introduced in Fairfax County under the current policy, according to Fleetwood.

Based on a county staff report released in Janaury, the proposed amendment lowers the household income levels included in the rental WDU program from a maximum of 120% AMI to 80%. It also now includes households at 70% and 60% of AMI in the program.

It also updates the policy to allow developers outside of Tysons to get a 12% density bonus by offering 8% of their rental units as WDUs, a drop from the current 12% threshold. 4% of the units should be at 80% AMI, 2% at 70% AMI, and 2% at 60% AMI.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the proposed policy changes be approved when it met on Feb. 3.

The amended policy that the Board of Supervisors is voting on today also includes revisions to update data, rework outdated terminology, and remove references to programs that no longer exist.

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