Tysons Corner, VA

Falls Church city officials say now that the city’s housing guidelines have been updated, the real work begins.

On Aug. 12, the City Council unanimously voted in favor of new affordable housing and demographics chapters as the city staff works to update its Comprehensive Plan.

“Revisiting the city’s zoning ordinances is an appropriate thing to do to make sure the rules of the game support the goals the city is trying to work toward,” Paul Stoddard, the city’s planning director, said. “Housing doesn’t operate in a free market. It is heavily constrained by local regulation.”

These approved changes come after months of work and revisions from committees, including the Housing Commission and Planning Commission. Now, city leaders are calling on the public to speak up — to ensure that the plan is implemented.

Housing Commissioner Pete Davis, who acted as an ally for the plan throughout its development, said he emphasized the importance of affordable hosing amendments that will address Falls Church’s “crisis.”

He asked the Planning Commission to “keep affordable housing in the forefront of [its] mind” during an address on Aug, 5.

At the same meeting, commissioners noted changes to the proposal since the group last met, with key adaptions including the addition of religious organizations as a partner to ease housing burdens, a revised definition of median income, the inclusion of accessory dwellings as a solution and acknowledgment that it will take the entire community to solve the issue.

Davis said that the next steps require community members to speak up about affordable housing and continue to put pressure on the Falls Church City Council.

Within increasing pressure from Amazon’s HQ2 coming into the area, Davis said that city officials and community members can no longer remain passive and wait to see how the market reacts — they must act now and push for more affordable housing units.

“We cannot take a hands-off approach anymore,” Davis said.

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The City of Falls Church mayor is fighting a federal tax law change that he warns will put a strain on local residents.

In December 2017, Congress passed a new law that limits the amount of state and local taxes (SALT) that people can deduct from their federal income tax return to $10,000.

Known as the SALT deduction cap, this law has stirred up controversy.

Some people claim it puts people in areas with a higher cost of living at a disadvantage because they will likely pay more in taxes, while others say that SALT deductions disproportionately benefit a small proportion of wealthy taxpayers.

In June, Mayor David Tarter spoke in front of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee by invitation of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) regarding the recent cap on the SALT deduction policy.

Tarter said he is one of a few politicians across the country that are spearheading an effort to reverse the decision or minimize the damage they say it will have on their communities in the near future.

“The new cap on the SALT deduction double taxes citizens on these payments and penalizes workers in high-cost areas, like my city, where wages and income are high but are fully matched by the cost of living,” Tarter told the committee, adding that the new law takes away more tax dollars from the city.

Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields, who manages the city’s finances, told Tysons Reporter that Falls Church residents spend more on housing comparative to anyone else in the country. He added that this new legislation only “exacerbates” the city’s lack of affordable housing.

According to Tarter’s statement to the committee, the median home price in the city is around $825,000 — “That doesn’t buy you a mansion but likely a modest brick rambler built in the 1950s.”

That median home price is drastically more than the $229,000 median home price across the U.S., according to Zillow.

Despite the fact that Fairfax County is among the richest counties in the nation, it still has problematic financial burdens that lawmakers are attempting to solve.

“I’ve heard from a fair amount of people how their taxes have gone up and not at first realized implications,” Tarter told Tysons Reporter while talking about the fallout from the law.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced Wednesday, Aug. 14, that they will waive the tax underpayment penalty for more than 400,00 people who did not claim a special penalty waiver when they filed their federal income tax returns this year.

“Earlier this year, the IRS lowered the usual 90% penalty threshold to 80% to help taxpayers whose withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total 2018 tax liability,” according to an IRS press release.

Locally, this may help residents in the Northern Virginia area who were hit with unforeseen financial burdens recently because of the SALT deduction cap.

“There are no yachts in Falls Church, just lots of hard-working families trying to get by in the high-rent district,” Tarter said. “Most of the folks that I know are two-income families who serve their country through work in government or the military and want the best education possible for their children.”

Ultimately, Tarter hopes that the SALT deduction cap, currently sitting at $10,000 per household, is heightened or eliminated entirely.

“The next steps are up to Congress,” Tarter said. “I suspect, given the way things are right now, there probably won’t be any immediate action.”

Image via C-Span

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The Falls Church City Council will hold public hearings tonight (Monday) on proposed housing and demographics guidelines as the city looks to offer more affordable housing.

The Comprehensive Plan’s chapters for both areas haven’t been updated since 2005, according to city staff.

The new demographics chapter would focus on three areas: trends, projections and how changes relate to community needs, especially for housing, economic development and public facilities.

“Demographics are a critical base of information for city planning; the city’s housing, transportation, economy, parks and recreation, and social framework rely on current and future population trends and need,” according to city documents.

Meanwhile, the revamped housing chapter would outline a vision for how the city can address diverse housing needs through nine focus points.

The city’s Planning Commission voted in favor of both updates at its meeting last Monday, Aug. 5.

The city council meeting is set to start at 7:30 p.m. at 300 Park Avenue.

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The Falls Church City Council aims to revamp its approach to affordable housing as its population continues to grow — and the stock of affordable units quickly dwindles.

The City Council is considering refreshing its Comprehensive Plan’s housing guidelines with a focus on tackling what some councilmembers recently referred to as an “affordable housing crisis.”

Emphasis on Affordable Housing

At a joint work session on Monday (July 15), the council and the city’s Planning Commission reviewed a proposal that would revise the housing guidelines to adjust for demographic changes and the future impact of Amazon HQ2 on the region.

City documents at the meeting confirmed that the increasing demand for apartments cannot keep up with the influx of the population, which is growing at a rate of 2.6% each year.

Councilmember Letty Hardi fronted the discussion at the meeting when she brought up the expiration of affordable housing and the dilemmas facing recent graduates who can no longer afford to live in the area.

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The large affordable housing project near the Spring Hill Metro station is on hold, according to the developer.

The Clemente Development Company is currently busy with The View, a 3 million-square-foot redevelopment project planning on being a new residential, retail and arts hub for Tysons. The project includes The Iconic, a 600-foot tall tower that has the potential to shape the Tysons skyline.

The Evolution, a residential development planned just south of The View, popped up again yesterday (Monday) in Fairfax County permitting, but Antonio Calabrese, a lawyer representing Clemente, said there have been no new plans submitted for the project since it was initially proposed in 2017.

The eventual plan is to include 1,400 multi-family units in a high-rise building that would replace the existing commercial building. All units would be workforce dwelling units.

Calabrese said The Evolution is a separate project from The View and is not part of a proffer related to that project.

Meanwhile, Calabrese said Clemente is moving forward with plans to resubmit The View to Fairfax County staff on Friday (June 14) with hopes to have final approval in the fall.

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(Updated 10 a.m.) There’s no shortage of luxury housing coming into Tysons, but what about affordable housing?

According to Brian Worthy, a spokesman for Fairfax County, the limited number of affordable units in Tysons are near max occupancy. But with new mid- and high-rise developments required to devote a portion of the new units to affordable housing, Worthy said there are more units on the way:

As of May 15, 2019, there are approximately 536 rental Affordable and Workforce Dwelling Units (ADUs and WDUs) that have been constructed in Tysons. The average occupancy rate is 94 percent.

Currently, there are approximately 3,919 rental ADUs and WDUs that have been committed by developers through Board of Supervisors approved rezoning actions. We don’t currently track the total number of these units that have been proposed as part of unapproved developments in Tysons, but to date, the major, approved rezonings have all committed to provide affordable or workforce dwelling units.

Worthy noted that ADUs serve households with incomes of 50-70 percent of Area Median Income (AMI). Fairfax County documents show that range as $38,600-$54,050 for single-family households, increasing proportionally to the size of the household.

Tysons’ WDUs serve incomes ranging from 60-120 percent of AMI, reflecting the higher cost of living in Tysons as compared to the rest of Fairfax. The WDU program is designed to help working households find housing close to employment centers and transportation options.

Creating housing affordable to locals at all ranges of the income spectrum has been a countywide problem. According to the FY 2020 Fairfax County budget, a total of 3,016 affordable units — privately-owned homes that are not bound by rent restrictions — have been preserved in Fairfax County between 2004 and 2018, but the county fell 82 units short of its affordable housing goals for last year.

The county projects a growth of 62,184 households over the next 15 years, of which 18,622 are expected to earn 80 percent of AMI and below.

Chart via Fairfax County Government

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The candidates running to become the next chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will debate each other on climate change, affordable housing, transportation and land use tonight (May 13).

Four Democrats and one Republican are vying for Sharon Bulova’s seat.

Republican Joe Galdo, a former Defense Department technology intelligence analyst who ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate, is the most recent addition. The Democratic candidates include Reston developer Timothy Chapman, Fairfax County School Board Member At-Large Ryan McElveen, Lee District Supervisor Jeffrey McKay and Georgetown Law Professor Alicia Edith Plerhoples.

Sharon Bulova announced her retirement decision back in December, adding to a growing list of supervisors who also decided not to seek re-election. In addition to the chairman, the seats for the Hunter Mill, Providence, Braddock and Lee districts are open to newcomers.

The Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions partnered with the Fairfax Healthy Communities Coalition for the debate ahead of the June 11 primaries. The upcoming election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5.

The debate will be televised at 8 p.m. on Fairfax Public Access Channel 10’s Inside Scoop.

Photo via Facebook

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The Fairfax County Planning Commission moved forward a plan for a new mixed-use residential and commercial development called Hanover Tysons in northern Tysons at its meeting last night (March 14).

The Hanover Company’s plan is to demolish the vacant seven-story office building that was built in 1983 and replace it with a new residential development.

The new residential building would be between five to seven stories with up to 420 dwelling units and include ground-level retail and nearby park space.

In keeping with Fairfax County’s efforts to promote more affordable housing around Tysons, workforce housing will make up 20 percent of the total units, according to the staff report.

Located just west of Jones Branch Park at 1500 Westbranch Drive, Hanover Tysons is a little under one mile from the Tysons Corner Station.

The county’s Board of Supervisors is set to take up the proposal with a public hearing next Tuesday (March 19).

Photo via The Hanover Company

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It’s not as high profile as Clemente Development Company’s The View development planned for the Spring Hill Metro area, but the nearby Evolution development could be exciting for affordable housing advocates.

According to the application overview, the building would include 1,400 multi-family units in a high-rise building. All of the housing in the building would be workforce dwelling units — defined by Fairfax County as housing affordable to people making from 70 to 100 percent of the area median income.

The contact phone number listed for the project is inactive, but the housing is likely part of a requirement from Fairfax County that residential developments set aside 14 percent of units in a residential development as affordable, or 16 percent if the units are being constructed off-site.

According to Fairfax County Public School documents, the new building could add as many as 157 students to Spring Hill Elementary School.

Details on the project are still scarce. The application was submitted in late 2017, but staff at Fairfax County Planning and Zoning say little progress has been made since then, as the developer remains mostly focused on The View.

Photo via Fairfax County Planning and Zoning

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Morning Notes

Tysons Seminary Gets Board’s OK — “Reformed Theological Seminary on Jan. 22 received a special exception from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to operate a college out of an existing office building in Tysons. The three-story, approximately 32,400-square-foot edifice is located on 1.54 acres at 8227 Old Courthouse Road.” [InsideNova]

Applications Open for Rent Subsidies — “Low-income residents in Fairfax County, Va., have an opportunity to apply for a Housing Choice Voucher for the first time in more than a decade.” [Washington Post]

Praise for Local Student Newspaper — “The McLean High School newsmagazine – the Highlander – is quite good. So are some other student publications across the region, but the Highlander really stands out.” [Sun Gazette]

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