Santa Claus has already taken up temporary residence at Tysons Corner Center, but that won’t stop him from dropping by a couple of other spots around Tysons this week.
Coming up first, a particularly debonair St. Nick will host an evening of cocktails, cinema and charity on Friday (Dec. 8) at CMX Cinebistro in Tysons Galleria (2001 International Drive).
The character of Fashion Santa was created in 2014 by runway model Paul Mason, whose career has included work with designers like Gianni Versace, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani — brands that can all be found at Tysons Galleria, either through their own stores or department stores like Neiman Marcus.
Mason says the character emerged during a somber period in his life when he stopped shaving out of grief over his mother’s death. Realizing that his beard made him resemble Santa, he decided to use the look for a good cause.
“The Fashion Santa character has had a really positive reception,” he told FFXnow by email. “It’s just a lighthearted new approach to jolly old Saint Nick. Fashion Santa brings awareness to different charitable initiatives and causes instead of making toys. It’s a new take on holiday giving.”
Fashion Santa previously visited the mall last year for a holiday reception that included a sneak peek of the restaurant Jiwa Singapura, which opened this past February. Attendees were encouraged to donate to the Capital Area Food Bank.
This year’s event will consist of a meet-and-greet at CMX Cinebistro’s bar from 7-9 p.m. and a “special” 7:45 p.m. screening of the Disney movie “Wish.”
Meet-and-greet attendees will get a complimentary photo with Fashion Santa and sip “festive” cocktails, according to the event page. Admission is free, but reservations are required, and the mall is encouraging $10 donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic chapter, the event’s charity partner.
Access to the “Wish” screening comes with a $25 donation, which also includes a Santa photo and a “goody bag.” Last month, Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, a nonprofit that supports kids with critical illnesses, organized a preview of the animated film for local families at AMC Theatres in Tysons Corner Center.
Tysons Galleria Senior General Manager Rich Dinning says the mall is “always honored” to work with Fashion Santa “in support of important causes.”
“This year, Fashion Santa’s appearance at CMX CineBistro…promises to be a festive evening,” Dinning said in a statement. “Tysons Galleria has had an ongoing partnership with Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and we are thrilled to close out the year with this fundraiser.”
Santa’s Workshop Holiday Extravaganza at The Boro
Santa is also scheduled to appear at The Boro (8350 Broad Street) this Saturday, Dec. 9 for photos, crafts, music and other free festivities.
“At Santa’s Workshop at The Boro, guests of all ages will be invited to enjoy a fun filled morning of holiday kids crafts, a DJ dance party, specialty hot chocolate bar with lots of fun fixings from Bluestone Lane, a holiday themed bounce house, and calligrapher on site to customize ornaments,” the event page says.
Santa will be available in his workshop at Boro Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The overall event will start at 11 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.
If the event gets rained or snowed out, it will be rescheduled for Dec. 16.
“If there is no need for an alternative date, there will be a Santa Pop-Up on December 16 in Boro Park as another chance for guests to come see Santa,” The Boro said.
Santa is also continuing to take photos at Tysons Corner Center through Christmas Eve on Dec. 24.
(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) After almost four years of dreaming, planning and building, the team behind Ometeo is ready to introduce its spin on Tex-Mex cuisine to Tysons.
Ometeo recently announced through Eater DC that it would open this week but hadn’t landed on an exact date yet. At least initially, it will be open at 4-10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 4-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, according to a public relations representative.
Ometeo will be the first ground-level dining option to arrive at Capital One Center since the pub City Works closed in 2020. Capital One’s headquarters campus is also home to the Japanese restaurant Wren in The Watermark Hotel and Starr Hill Biergarten, which will expand with a new, street-level brewpub next year.
(Correction: This story previously said Starr Hill is relocating to the new space. The existing biergarten in The Perch will still operate after the brewpub opens.)
“With the corporate density of Tysons and how much activity and…opportunity there is there, combined with the fact that there are a lot of residents in McLean and Great Falls that can access that campus pretty easily without even kind of venturing all the way into Tysons, we thought the location was really strong,” Carman said.
Carman says the partners at Long Shot Hospitality, the D.C.-based restaurant group behind The Salt Line and Dauphine’s, wanted to create a Tex-Mex concept that combines the comforts of a chain restaurant with a more “elevated” and “chef-driven” approach.
“We thought that it might be something that the area needed, and it was definitely something that we were passionate and excited about exploring,” Carman said. “So, that was several years ago, almost three or four years ago when we started talking about that…I think that we’re all really glad that we set out to execute it, and we’re pretty excited with how it turned out.”
For the chef who could propel their vision into a reality, the partners turned to El Paso, Texas, native Gabe Erales, who became the first Mexican American winner of the cooking competition TV show “Top Chef” in 2021.
In addition to already being acquainted with Erales on a social basis, the team felt he could bring “a lot of authenticity and a lot of knowledge to the concept” as someone who has built his career on exploring regional Mexican cuisine, Carman says.
Erales’s “Top Chef” victory was overshadowed by an Austin American-Statesman story that alleged he’d been fired from an Austin restaurant for “repeated violations of the company’s ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women,” including cutting a female employee’s hours after they’d ended a sexual relationship.
In that story and a subsequent public apology, Erales said he had a “consensual” relationship with an employee who was affected by “poor decisions” he made as a manager, but he denies that his actions reached the level of sexual harassment, as labeled by news reports.
“I’ve grown from it,” Erales told FFXnow. “I’ve taken a lot of steps in the last few years to just become a better leader, a better business owner and a better chef ever since.” Read More
A flurry of snow days will be on the table for Fairfax County Public Schools this winter, though it remains to be seen how much the weather will oblige.
“This adjustment aims to maximize in-person learning and to ensure equitable access to instruction and student services for all students,” FCPS said yesterday (Monday) in a press release.
Like other school districts across the country, FCPS experimented with remote and hybrid learning during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the initial rollout was hampered by technology issues, and many students and staff reported experiencing mental health struggles.
Though in-person classes fully resumed in August 2021, FCPS is still grappling with the fallout of the pandemic’s disruptions, from learning losses and a spike in chronic absenteeism to a federal mandate to compensate special education students denied the services they needed during virtual learning.
FCPS revised its snow-day policy starting in the 2021-2022 school year so that virtual learning would kick in after five days of cancellations due to inclement weather. All five days got used up that year, but the D.C. area saw almost no snow last winter, rendering the policy unnecessary.
This winter is expected to be a different story. The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang is predicting that the region will get the most snow in five years, a forecast echoed by local TV weather teams.
Still, a break from school shouldn’t mean a break from learning, according to FCPS.
Superintendent Michelle Reid is soliciting suggestions for ways to keep students engaged during snow days and over winter break at [email protected]. FCPS says any submitted ideas will be shared on its website as “a valuable resource for students and families.”
More from FCPS:
On snow days, students will still have access to educational resources. They can utilize Tutor.com, complete supplemental learning opportunities recommended by their teachers, and tune in to educational programming available virtually and on public access television channels:
- Elementary school instruction: Red Apple 21
- Middle school instruction: Channel 25
- High school instruction: Channel 99
Dr. Reid expressed enthusiasm for continued learning opportunities outside traditional classroom settings during snow days. Whether exploring the physics of sledding down a hill or experimenting with ratios to create the perfect mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream, students are encouraged to embrace the diverse learning spaces that abound during inclement weather.
FCPD Steps Up DUI Enforcement for Holiday Season — “During this campaign, running from December 4 to December 29 the squad will increase their staffing and focus on ensuring our roadways remain safe this holiday season. These initiatives are aimed at promoting sober driving, pinpointing impaired drivers, and increasing officer presence on the roads.” [FCPD]
ICYMI: Pedestrian Hit by Metrobus in Annandale — A woman was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries last night (Monday) from a crash on Little River Turnpike and Hummer Road. First responders found her trapped under the front axle of a Metrobus, shutting down eastbound Little River, per scanner traffic. [FFXnow]
Future Unclear for Hoped-for Springfield FBI Site — “After decades of effort, a much longed-for economic recovery in the Springfield area of Fairfax County is slowly happening…But the future remains uncertain for a 58-acre site owned by the General Service Administration, which has long been a local eyesore.” [Washington Post]
Man Who Shot at Police in West Falls Church Indicted by Arlington Jury — “A grand jury has returned an indictment for a man on felony charges in connection to a wild police chase in October 2022. The indictment against Ricardo Singleton, returned last Monday, included charges for eluding police and shooting a firearm from a vehicle within 1,000 feet of a school.” [ARLnow]
Springfield Town Center Owner Close to Bankruptcy — “Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust is on the verge of its second bankruptcy since 2020, Bloomberg reports, citing anonymous sources close to the matter. The company is also seeking funding to facilitate the process, which would be a Chapter 11 reorganization.” [Bisnow]
Man Arrested After Shoplifting $3,500 Coat in Tysons — A 41-year-old Maryland man was arrested Friday (Dec. 1) after allegedly shoplifting a coat worth over $3,500 from Sak’s Fifth Avenue at Tysons Galleria. Police say he had been stealing from the store for more than a month, recovering over $49,000 in merchandise and “burglarious tools” in a home search. [FCPD]
Reston AI Startup Raises $15M — “Rohirrim, a Reston artificial intelligence company, has raised $15 million to continue working on its ChatGPT-like tool that helps companies speed the process of bidding on jobs…Its software product — dubbed Rohan — uses a customer’s secure data to help proposal writers more efficiently collect internal information to write [request for proposal] responses.” [DC Inno]
Longtime Reston Farmers Market Manager Retires — Saturday (Dec. 2) was the final day of this year’s Reston Farmers Market at Lake Anne Village Center — and the last day managing it for John Lovaas. The retired foreign service worker has been involved in the seasonal event ever since it was proposed to the Reston Association board in 1997. [Patch]
Tysons Company to Provide Airplane WiFi — “Tysons, Virginia-based Intelsat will outfit hundreds of American Airlines regional jets with high-speed Wi-Fi, as part of American’s ongoing in-flight streaming upgrades throughout its fleet. Beginning early next year, Intelsat will begin installing equipment on nearly 500 dual-class regional jets.” [WTOP]
It’s Tuesday — Clouds will increase throughout the day, with temperatures reaching a high of 46. At night, scattered rain and snow showers are possible before 1am, when the weather will shift to rain before returning to a mix of rain and snow after 4am. The night will be mostly cloudy with a low temperature of around 36. There is a 40% chance of precipitation. [Weather.gov]
In between the sprawling lawns of Loudoun County and the riverside lofts of Alexandria lie clusters of struggling, predominantly non-white neighborhoods that are increasingly left out of the success and prosperity experienced by Northern Virginia as a whole, recent research notes.
In fact, conditions in some of those neighborhoods — called “islands of disadvantage” — have been in decline for years.
According to a new report by the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, poverty, rates of people without health insurance, educational attainment, job opportunities and overcrowding all worsened in those neighborhoods between 2013 and 2021.
At the same time, the report notes the economic progress seen in some areas was also accompanied by gentrification and displacement of people of color.
“What is otherwise a healthy and wealthy area is also home to areas of concentrated disadvantage,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, lead author of the VCU report. “This is not something that is widely known, that people are living in deep poverty just a short distance away from the McMansions and golf courses.”
The report, “Lost Opportunities: The Persistence of Disadvantaged Neighborhoods in Northern Virginia,” compares census data from 2009-13 and 2017-21 for Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the city of Alexandria to understand the social and economic changes the region has experienced over time.
The report, commissioned by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, builds upon previous research led by Woolf that showed the disproportionate amount of non-white residents that make up struggling neighborhoods experience substantially higher rates of premature death compared to Northern Virginia as a whole.
The latest research found that between 2009-13 and 2017-21, 92% of Northern Virginia census tracts saw an increase in median income, 73% had a rise in residents with a bachelor’s degree and 59% experienced gains in the proportion of adults with a high school diploma. Poverty and uninsured rates decreased in 52% and 78% of the region’s census tracts, respectively.
However, some “islands of disadvantage” experienced opposite trends during those time periods. One section of Bailey’s Crossroads in Fairfax County saw median household income decrease by about $10,000, child poverty rates nearly double to 63% and the overall poverty rate climb to 30%.
In one census tract in the Bull Run area of Prince William County where the Hispanic population increased by 53% while the white population fell by 38%, median household income increased by only $2,140, the poverty rate increased by 60% and overcrowded housing increased by 187%.
While some struggling neighborhoods saw a slight increase in median household income, Woolf said those gains have not risen proportionately to keep up with the cost of inflation.
“It’s not enough to keep people out of poverty,” Woolf said. “We live in a time with rising health care costs, rising costs for child care and inflation that’s causing increased prices for food and other necessities.”
At the same time, economic progress in some areas was accompanied by increases in the size of the white population, suggesting gentrification and displacement of people of color may have also been underway.
Researchers pointed as one example to the Courthouse area of Arlington County, where median household income increased from $87,233 to $132,603 and the poverty rate plummeted from 19% to 5%. However, at the same time the share of the population that was white grew from 48% to 68%, while those of the Black and Asian populations declined by 42% and 72%, respectively. Similar displacement trends were also seen in Old Town Alexandria, areas of Annandale and the historically Black neighborhood of Green Valley/Nauck.
The report said it is unclear if the relief programs instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, like economic assistance and eviction moratoriums, accounted for some of the progress seen in certain areas, like increases in median income — or if that progress was only temporary.
While some might argue that economically struggling Northern Virginia residents should move away from an area where the cost of living is so high, Woolf said it’s not that simple. Not only is moving unaffordable for many of these families, Woolf said, but “economists and others have shown that regions thrive when there is diversity and when there is equity and opportunity across the population.”
“So systematically displacing low-income families and people of color from a region is not a healthy strategy for trying to give an opportunity for everyone to thrive,” he said.
Moving forward, Woolf said policymakers need to invest more into marginalized communities and commit resources to improve their living conditions and health.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay said the county’s One Fairfax Policy, which was passed in 2016 with the intent of combating racial and social disparities seen in some neighborhoods, aims to address many of the problems identified in the study.
“Whether it be through building more affordable housing units, creating more public transit options, or fully funding our school budget, we are constantly working towards breaking cycles of poverty and expanding our resident’s access to basic needs,” McKay said in an email.
A top-tier Italian soccer club is making a play for Tysons.
AC Milan, which claims to be the “most popular Italian football brand” in the U.S., announced last month that it has chosen Fairfax County as the site of its first youth training academy in North America.
Offering programs for kids aged 5 to 17, AC Milan Academy Virginia will launch next spring at 8300 Boone Blvd, Suite 500.
“AC Milan Academy Virginia is another piece in the consolidation process of the AC Milan brand on a global level,” Maikel Oettle, the club’s chief commercial officer, said. “The launch of the AC Milan Academy project in the US territory attests to our commitment and our contribution to the promotion of football in North America, through which we aim to export the values of AC Milan worldwide.”
Founded in 1899 by some Englishmen living in Italy, Associazione Calcio Milan operates 16 training academies in Europe and Asia. It made its first foray into North America this summer with a series of junior camps in Canada.
To introduce itself to the area, the club is bringing a junior camp for kids aged 6 to 17 to George Mason University’s Fairfax campus. Registration is currently open for the camp, which is aimed at potential Academy players and will take place from Dec. 6-9.
Led by Davide Battistini, who has also served as head coach at the Vietnam and Saudi Arabia academies, the Virginia academy will have programs for U6 (ages 5-6) through U18 (ages 17-18). Participants will work with both specialized professionals and local technical staff who will support their “personal and sporting growth,” the club said.
The academy’s creation stems from a partnership between AC Milan and Black & Red Pumas, which is named after the club’s colors and top sponsor. Vienna resident Dario Scatena founded the company as an AC Milan fan.
“I am very pleased with this collaboration that will bring the colours and values of AC Milan and Italian traditions to the American territory,” Scatena, the CEO of Black & Red Pumas, said. “I am very confident that the excellence and the AC Milan Method will bring great benefits, firstly for the young players in their personal growth, and then for American soccer. This is a family for me, and I look forward to both girls and boys feeling part of this great family and growing in every aspect with its values.”
Fairfax County is looking to update its guidelines for how rental and mobile home developers can assist displaced tenants for the first time in a decade.
Director of Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development Tom Fleetwood presented the proposed guidelines to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a housing committee meeting last week (Nov. 28).
“The goals are to maintain our commitments to affordable housing, to ensure that as many of our existing residents who depend on affordable housing are able to stay in it, and that we’re able to also move forward with redevelopment as we need to,” Fleetwood said.
Last updated in 2012, the Relocation Guidelines provide a plan for residential developers to follow for multi-family rental buildings or mobile homes that are going to be demolished, rehabilitated or converted.
Under the new guidelines, owners would be required to engage with the existing tenants and develop a relocation plan for them. The guidelines will also apply to all affordable housing owned, managed or funded by the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority and properties subject to the Preservation Policy adopted in March.
“Our expectation is that [the developers will] provide moving cost reimbursement and housing counseling, and that they will provide staffing to conduct these activities,” Fleetwood said. “We want the owner to create a property profile so that we understand who’s living there, what the rent rolls look like, what opportunities there are for tenants to move into units that best match their needs.”
According to Fleetwood, another goal is for every tenant who is relocated to be able to return.
“In the event all tenants are unable to return, a priority ranking system tool will help property owners prioritize those with the greatest need,” the presentation said.
For example, priority could be given to a household with children or a disabled person living in it.
Developers could also be required to make up any differences in security deposits.
“If someone has to move, and the security deposit at their new home is higher than their existing security deposit, we would expect that a developer would pay that difference,” Fleetwood said.
Tenants facing permanent and temporary relocation will receive both relocation services and reimbursement of moving costs. Those who have to permanently move would also get relocation payments or a tenant assistance fund that would provide a time-limited rental subsidy.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck questioned how the guidelines and expectations would be enforced, which he said could be one of the biggest challenges.
Fleetwood said there are plans to hire a specialist who will be in charge of monitoring relocation plans.
The county will now conduct outreach and collect feedback before releasing a revised draft of the new guidelines next April. The proposal will be submitted for the board’s final approval in June.
Image via Google Maps
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) The winners of Vienna’s first-ever holiday display lottery have been revealed.
A menorah and illuminated dreidel were installed late last month at the Town Green, joining a live Christmas tree — also a first for Vienna — that was lit during the annual Church Street Holiday Stroll last Monday, Nov. 27.
Commemorating Hanukkah, which will unfold this year from Dec. 7-15, the menorah was installed on Nov. 28, while the dreidel came into place the following day. They were submitted, respectively, by the Chabad Tysons Jewish Center and Jewish Moms of Vienna.
The winter solstice, which kicks off the season with the shortest day of the year, will arrive at 10:27 p.m. EST on Dec. 21.
“We live in a multicultural community, and we wanted to provide an opportunity for various winter holiday traditions to be honored in our public space,” Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton said. “Residents from all walks of life gather on the Town Green for celebrations throughout the year, and we look forward to seeing various festive displays that represent our community during the season of peace and light.”
Announced in early November, the lottery gave residents an opportunity to submit their ideas for winter holiday decor that could be installed alongside the new Christmas tree. The submission period was open through Nov. 17, and the winners were notified by Nov. 22.
However, the town only received three submissions — the maximum number it planned to select — so no actual lottery was necessary for this first year.
At the Chabad Jewish Center’s request, the town will host a menorah-lighting ceremony at the Town Green (144 Maple Avenue) at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.
(Correction: This article initially listed the start time for the menorah-lighting ceremony as 4 p.m.)
All of the displays can remain up until Jan. 10.
In other Vienna holiday news, voting is underway for the town’s annual window decorating contest. Winners will be announced during a holiday reception at Town Hall (127 Center Street South) on Friday (Dec. 8).
Local Family Mourns Loved Ones Killed in Gaza — Hani Almadhoun and his family are “numb with grief” after his brother, sister-in-law and their four children were all killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza the morning after Thanksgiving — just before a pause in attacks that resumed Friday (Dec. 1). A memorial service was recently held in Franconia. [NBC4]
Lumber Yard Closes After Two Centuries in Business — Smoot Lumber yard shut down Friday after operating for more than 200 years. Located in Springfield at the border with Alexandria City, the “supplier of mouldings, doors and windows has been a staple for local builders since it was founded in 1822.” [ALXnow]
Police Rescue Dog Stuck in Air Vent — “A 17-year-old Shih Tzu named Maya had to be rescued after somehow getting herself stuck in an air duct last weekend in Fairfax County, Virginia. The rescue and reunion with her owner played out on police bodycam footage posted on social media Friday by the Fairfax County Police Department.” [WTOP]
County’s Hypothermia Shelter Program Underway — “Our Hypothermia Prevention Program is in place to ensure no one experiencing homelessness sleeps outside during the winter. The program provides warm shelter, food, clothing, connections to supportive services and more for unhoused individuals.” [Fairfax County Government]
N. Va. Officials Concerned by Transportation Funding Changes — “Some Northern Virginia elected leaders and transit advocates are expressing concern over plans to change SMART SCALE, the commonwealth’s transportation funding program. They say the proposals could make standalone bike and pedestrian projects less competitive for funding, and could also hurt support for transit.” [DCist]
Fairfax City Adopts Non-Discrimination Program — “The Fairfax City Council affirmed the city’s commitment to non-discrimination when it adopted the city’s first formal Title VI program on Nov. 28…Title VI provides that no person shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, color, or national origin,” later expanding to include “disability, age, income status, sexual orientation, gender identification, and persons with limited English proficiency.” [City of Fairfax]
FCPS Electric School Buses Reach Milestone — “Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) recognized a milestone during an event on Tuesday [Nov. 28] — a combined one million miles driven by Virginia electric school buses. Employees with the school district and Dominion Energy gathered in Lorton, Virginia at 11 a.m. to celebrate the achievement.” [WJLA]
Fire Department Shares Hannukah Safety Reminder — “Hanukkah starts this week! To keep safe and festive, consider using battery-operated flameless candles. If using traditional candles – ensure your menorah is on a sturdy surface & keep at least 1ft from anything that can burn. Don’t forget to blow out all candles!” [FCFRD/Twitter]
It’s Monday — Expect a partly sunny day with a high temperature of around 52 degrees and a northwest wind blowing at 6 to 9 mph. As evening approaches, the skies will be partly cloudy and the temperature will drop to around 36 degrees. [Weather.gov]
In the future, people who earn more than Fairfax County’s median income will likely no longer be able to buy workforce housing.
A task force recommended to the Board of Supervisors housing committee on Tuesday (Nov. 28) that the top income bracket be dropped from the Workforce Dwelling Unit (WDU) Homebuyer Program, which currently provides price-controlled townhouses and condominiums to people who make 80% to 120% of the area median income (AMI).
Building on a revision of the county’s rental WDU program in 2021, the task force proposed dropping the 120% AMI tier and adding 70% AMI households — which are already offered at some properties — as part of a general policy overhaul intended to make the homebuyer program more efficient and effective.
“The recommendation that came out of the task force was really to reset the program and shift everything down by a third,” Anna Shapiro, the county’s deputy director of real estate finance and development, said. “…It was recognized that there is a financial impact to resetting the program, but it would be balanced by the predictability of having the policy reset in a way that developers understood going into the program what they’d be required to do.”
Initiated by the Board of Supervisors in February, the 13-person WDU For-Sale Policy Task Force included county staff, residential developers, affordable housing advocates and other industry experts. With help from the consultant HR&A Advisors, it met from April to October to evaluate the existing program, research best practices and develop recommendations for improvements.
Right now, the county grants residential developers bonus density if they designate at least 12% of all units as affordable or workforce housing, except in Tysons, which has higher requirements. For WDUs, the countywide policy requires that 4% of the total units target each of the 80%, 100% and 120% AMI tiers.
According to Shapiro, the 120% AMI WDUs are more difficult to sell, staying on the market for 419 days on average — almost twice as long as even the 100% units, which average 235 days. In comparison, units at 70% and 80% AMI sell in around 74 and 104 days, respectively.
In general, the county’s supply of for-sale WDUs is limited, but of the 12 units for 120% AMI that have been produced, 42% remain unsold. The lack of demand reflects stronger competition from market-rate housing, Shapiro explained, noting that 46% of the homes sold in the county since 2020 are affordable to those in the 100-120% AMI range.
With developers shouldering the cost of any unsold units, they have shifted toward units aimed at lower income levels during proffer negotiations, where the county can set conditions for a project’s approval.
“There is a huge demand that we see for units below 80% AMI, so we really wanted to see how we can serve that population better,” Shapiro said.
In addition to adjusting the AMI range, the task force recommends requiring that the number of WDUs with three or more bedrooms be proportional to the number of similarly sized market-rate units.
“If you then produce a lot of two and three-bedroom market rate units but then a lot of your WDUs are one-bedroom or studio, it’s really an equity issue as well as a marketability issue for the property,” Shapiro told the committee.
The task force also proposed expanding the WDU for-sale policy to all sites zoned or planned for medium or high-density residential development, defined as eight or more dwelling units per acre.
According to county staff, the expansion would create relatively limited but still valuable opportunities for workforce housing, particularly in the central and southeastern parts of the county. Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay asked for an estimate of how many units could potentially be added.
“Just to expand it to expand it without any idea of what we’re actually talking about concerns me a little bit,” he said.
Other recommendations are more focused on administrative changes, including tweaks to how the county calculates both initial and resale pricing for WDUs.
While the board generally seemed impressed by the task force’s work, some supervisors questioned whether the 100% AMI tier should also be eliminated to encourage more units at lower incomes, possibly even down to 60% AMI.
“If that number is reduced, we can serve even more people,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “The core of what I think the county’s responsibility is [should be] to support folks at the lower income level first and help those folks build that generational wealth.”
Shapiro noted that 60% AMI households can utilize the county’s Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) rental program, which has two tiers for households earning up to 50% and 70% AMI.
Even though the county’s AMI has climbed to $152,100 for a family of four, residents at that income level or lower could only afford 28% of the homes sold between 2020 and 2023, according to sales data collected by HR&A Advisors.
“That’s a lot of people,” Fairfax County At-Large Planning Commissioner Candice Bennett, who chaired the task force, said. “…This is actually, oddly enough, the ‘missing middle.’ So, think about the three out of four people that we are not able to serve because the market is so astronomically high.”
The Board of Supervisors is expected to endorse the task force’s recommendations, potentially as soon as its meeting next Tuesday (Dec. 5). From there, the board will direct county staff to draft a comprehensive plan amendment revising the WDU for-sale policy.
Image via Google Maps