Tysons, VA

Updated March 2 to clarify that the funding is Amazon-related, not Amazon-funded.

The City of Falls Church is getting $3.75 milli0n in grants for affordable housing initiatives to prepare for Amazon’s arrival in Arlington County.

In response to concerns about the anticipated impact of its second headquarters in Arlington on the region’s housing prices, Virginia Housing is investing $75 million dollars spread out over five years in affordable housing.

“Ensuring affordable access to housing for all is a key priority for the City Council and our community as a whole,” City of Falls Church Mayor P. David Tarter said in a statement. “We are delighted that Virginia Housing has awarded this grant and appreciative to Senator Dick Saslaw (VA-35) for his efforts to bring this important program to the City.”

Falls Church will get $3.4 million for a new affordable housing homeownership program and $350,000 to extend the availability of nine committed affordable apartments at the Read Building (402 W. Broad Street).

“Homeownership has been increasingly out of reach for many, and this is an innovative first step to reverse the trend,” Councilmember Letty Hardi said, calling the grant “a major step forward for the city.”

The NHP Foundation will manage the homeownership program with support from the city’s Housing and Human Services Department. Once the program is established, the city says it will take about one year for NHPF to purchase, rehabilitate, and resell the homes.

With the $3.4 million, the city estimates that 18 qualified first-time home-buyers will be able to purchase rehabilitated homes between $425,000 and $525,000. The program will make use of Virginia Housing special lending programs and mortgage credit certificates, as well as local down payment assistance, according to the city.

“We’ve already received several calls from interested homebuyers, so we’re excited to get the program established,” Falls Church Housing and Human Services Deputy Director Dana Lewis said in a statement.

The city says it expects most qualifying homes to be condominiums, but single-family homes and townhouses could also be eligible.

NHPF currently manages the Winter Hill Apartments in the City of Falls Church.

The remaining $350,000 in grant funds will subsidize rent prices for nine workforce units at the Read Building until Dec. 31, 2032. These units are reserved for qualified renters, including Falls Church City Public School teachers and staff and City of Falls Church government employees.

“In the City, there is a gap between what many households can afford and available rental and ownership homes,” Nancy Vincent, director of the City’s Housing and Human Services Department, said. “These grant funds help address the diverse housing needs of the City’s current and future populations.”

City officials suggested these solutions during a city council meeting on Nov. 9, building on a consultant’s report that outlined ways for the city to expand its affordable housing supply.

Virginia Housing is managing these grants through its REACH (Resources Enabling Affordable Community Housing in Virginia) program, which supports affordable and accessible housing as well as revitalization and preservation efforts.

Gov. Ralph Northam first announced the investment by Virginia Housing in 2018.

Image via Google Maps

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The City of Falls Church is currently looking at possible projects to submit for a slice of the funds that Virginia has pledged to support affordable housing around Amazon’s planned second headquarters.

Building off a consultant’s report on ways for the city to expand its affordable housing supply, Falls Church City Human Services Director Dana Lewis and City Manager Wyatt Shields laid out some of the options being considered during a city council meeting on Nov. 9.

Proposals include purchasing both owned and rental units that would be sold to city residents and workers at a lower price and buying units at a new development in the city to make them more affordable.

Lewis says Virginia Housing, the state agency that allocates the funds, has shown a particular interest in projects that involve homeownership, as opposed to rental units, because that is a major need throughout Northern Virginia.

“When we’ve talked with Virginia Housing, it seems like they’re really leaning toward innovation and creativity and something that can be duplicated in other jurisdictions,” Lewis said. “They seem to be pretty favorable on the ideas that we’ve shared with them.”

Previously known as the Virginia Housing Development Authority, Virginia Housing committed to investing $75 million in Northern Virginia over five years in response to Amazon’s November 2018 announcement that it will build a second headquarters in a section of Arlington County rebranded as National Landing.

The online retail and tech giant’s anticipated arrival has fueled rising housing prices in Arlington and surrounding jurisdictions, raising concerns that the region’s housing affordability challenges will only worsen in coming years.

The Amazon-related funds come through Virginia Housing’s REACH Virginia (Resources Enabling Affordable Community Housing in Virginia) program, which supports affordable and accessible housing as well as revitalization and preservation efforts.

While the first year of the fund focused on Arlington and Fairfax counties as well as the City of Alexandria, smaller localities like Falls Church City are now eligible to apply for the $15 million that Virginia Housing will allocate in Fiscal Year 2021.

Localities can receive a maximum of $3.75 million, and all of the funds they are awarded must be utilized within a year.

According to Falls Church City staff, proposals will be evaluated based on their proximity to National Landing, affordability, the project timeline, land use incentives, access to public transportation, energy efficiency, and other factors.

If Falls Church decides to look at buying homes that would be owned, Lewis says the city has identified six condominiums and one townhome that can be purchased for less than $700,000. They would be sold to buyers whose income is 60 to 80% of the area’s median income.

If the city decides to purchase a rental property, the units would be rented at a rate below 60% AMI, according to Lewis.

“We’d hold onto the units and then, at some point at a later time, maybe possibly combine them into a larger development plan,” Lewis said.

City Councilmembers Ross Litkenhous and Letty Hardi expressed interest in the idea of Falls Church exploring a homeownership program, noting that the importance of homeownership to people’s ability to accumulate wealth in the U.S. has contributed to racial inequities.

Councilmember Phil Duncan, however, questioned whether a homeownership program would allow Falls Church to produce enough affordable housing.

“Just because property here is so blooming expensive, [homeownership] is going to move the supply needle by handfuls of units, not dozens or hundreds,” Duncan said. “I think we need to find some way to try to move in the dozens or hundreds direction.”

With only four more council meetings scheduled for the rest of the year, Shields says city staff will keep the council updated on their work on the REACH application. He anticipates having another in-depth discussion on the topic at a work session on Dec. 7.

The deadline for localities to submit applications for Amazon REACH funds is Dec. 31.

“This is kind of at the testing-out ideas phase of this grant application, but we are moving quickly,” Shields said.

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More than 30 companies in the D.C. metro area are looking to hire women for open positions in STEM-based fields at a Women in Technology Virtual Career Fair tomorrow (Thursday). Some of the companies include Amazon, Capital One, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. 

The career fair is sponsored by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and Capital One as part of an ongoing series of virtual career fairs that the FCEDA has supported in response to the COVID-19 crisis, according to a press release from the FCEDA.

The first three virtual fairs in the series attracted more than 2,100 attendees, the release says.

“More girls and women need to be exposed to the high-paying jobs in the technology sectors that are a major part of the economy of Fairfax County,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said.

Gross, who serves as vice chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, added that “efforts such as this career fair open up a wider talent pipeline for the companies that have so many job openings even during the pandemic.” 

According to the release, only 26% of the jobs held by women in the workforce are computing-related jobs. The career fair on Nov. 5 will help connect technology professionals with top organizations in the D.C. metro area, seeking to help increase access to opportunity “in a field where women have been historically underrepresented.” 

Participants will be able to browse companies through a virtual lobby, enter their booths, view open positions, engage in video conferencing, and talk with human resources representatives at the virtual fair.

“In Northern Virginia, we have more than 15,000 tech firms constantly hiring. In fact, tech job postings are growing more in Virginia than in California and New York,” FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins said. “We are a region that not just embraces, but pioneers diversity: women are twice as likely to work in tech in Northern Virginia than in Silicon Valley.” 

Participation in the career fair is free of charge. Employers interested in promoting their job openings can contact Mike Batt, the FCEDA Director of Talent Initiative Programs at [email protected] or visit the Employer Resources page. 

Photo via the FCEDA/Instagram

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The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) announced today (Monday) that it has poached another one of Arlington’s economic development officials.

Back in July, Fairfax County hired Victor Hoskins, the then-head of the Arlington Economic Development (AED) who helped bring Amazon’s HQ2 to Arlington, to become FCEDA’s president and CEO.

Now, FCEDA is hiring Alex Iams as executive vice president, according to a press release.

Iams served as AED’s interim director after Hoskins left for the Fairfax County position.

“Iams has spent 13 years at AED, including five years as [an] assistant director before being named interim director,” the press release said. “The position is a new one at the FCEDA.”

AED’s bio for Iams says:

Alex Iams has spent the last 16 years working in economic development experience, including the past 12 with Arlington County. He has been the Assistant Director at Arlington Economic Development (AED) since 2014, focusing on efforts to lower the office vacancy rate and diversify the local economy. Before joining the director’s office, Iams worked on the land use and infrastructure finance plans for the redevelopment of Crystal City and the Columbia Pike area.

In addition, he has served in various leadership roles in Arlington County government, including a four-year term on the Arlington County Employee Retirement System Board of Trustees and as Acting Assistant Director of the Department of Environmental Services.

Iams has a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from the Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington.

Iams is set to begin his new job on Jan. 21.

“The EDA’s talent initiative is unprecedented in this region, and I am excited to have the chance to make a difference in such a large community and one that is emphasizing transit-oriented development,” Iams said in the press release.

Photo via Arlington Economic Development

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Tysons company Urgent.ly has sparked national attention after its recent partnerships with Uber, Volvo and Amazon.

Its partnerships with Uber, Volvo and Amazon were all formed within the last year, but the company is still focused on outward expansion Chris Spanos, the co-founder and CEO, told Tysons Reporter.

“I think it’s important for people to know we have the largest digitally connected network in the U.S.,” Spanos said.

Urgent.ly is a roadside assistance app that works on-demand with standardized pricing — no subscription needed.

Uber’s and Volvo’s partnerships allow their companies to receive rewards for roadside assistance including discounts, while growing Urgent.ly’s userbase and aligning them with well-known brands, according to the company’s website.

With Amazon, users can order Urgent.ly roadside assistance through Alexa.

The company was co-founded in 2013 by Spanos and five other colleagues. They used to gather at the McLean coffee shop Star Nut Gourmet for brainstorming sessions until they moved onto a permanent office, Spanos said.

Since Urgent.ly’s founding, the company has hired 250 employees, opened several offices throughout the U.S. and also began offering roadside service internationally. The company’s recent growth nabbed it the #12 spot on the 2019 Inc. 5000 national rankings as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.

“Our international strategy so far is to license our technology to players in those markets who operate a service directly,” Spanos said.

Though no subscription is needed to use the app, the company is offering a discounted $50 yearly membership that gives users access to discounts and free services like jumpstarts or lockout services.

Looking to the future, Spanos said he will watch for upcoming technology and may eventually offer roadside service for technology beyond traditional vehicles. “It’s fascinating to have a look into the future and how we may be receiving our packages.”

He said that he thinks drones and robots delivering packages may be a reality in the near future and that a company — like Urgent.ly — will need to fix them when they break on the job.

Though he couldn’t give specifics about future partnerships, he said that the company is looking to build alliances with early-stage companies exploring new technologies, like drone and robot deliveries.

“That’s where we see the next five years,” said Spanos.

Image courtesy Urgent.ly 

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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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Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Reach the office at 703-790-9090.

In case you don’t know, today and tomorrow are the big Amazon Prime sale days with daily deals on various items.

If you don’t have a Prime account, you can sign up today for a free 30-day trial and use the deals without commitment. If you download the app or spend $10 at Whole Foods, they’ll give you a free $10 account credit.

But we all know Amazon is sort of like Target, how can you spend just $10 when the sales are crazy good?

If you feel the need for some retail therapy, why not do it for a cause?

First, you can help donate money without doing a thing. Amazon Smile is a program that’ll donate a percentage of your regular purchase to a charity of your choosing on eligible purchases. All you have to do is pick one. You can search for the organizations (think your local school PTA, BRAWS, Cho Inc, SHARE of McLean, etc.)

Second, you can call and find out what your favorite organization might be in need of for supplies and search the Prime Day Deals and ship it right to the organization. You can search for Bras and Tampons and send them to BRAWS (114 Courthouse Road SW, Vienna, Virginia 22180).

SHARE of McLean is in need of baby wipes, diapers, snacks, toilet paper and more. You can fill up on some of those items and ship them right to Share at 1367 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, Virginia 22101.

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(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Earlier this week, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority announced that it had poached Arlington’s top economic development official, Victor Hoskins.

Currently the head of Arlington Economic Development, Hoskins recently wooed Amazon and its HQ2 to Arlington County. Come August, he will become FCEDA’s new president and CEO — one year after its now-retired and longtime leader, Gerry Gordon, announced his plans to leave.

Tysons Reporter talked to Hoskins about how he plans to head up one of the largest economic development agencies in the country.

“I’m done in Arlington.”

Hoskins said he entered the process for the FCEDA role back in May during the agency’s second hiring search for the position.

Back in December, he told ARLnow that he planned to work for Arlington County until the office vacancy rate dropped from its then-18 percent rate to 10 or 12 percent.

With a current rate of 16.7 percent, Hoskins said that Arlington County has “nothing to worry about” with Amazon coming in. Hoskins said that the career move is coming at the right time — “Yes, I’m done in Arlington.”

“If you look at my history, I pretty much do what I need to do and move on,” he said. In the case of both his former economic development role in D.C. and his Arlington County job, Hoskins, who describes himself as a person who likes to finish projects, said that he leaves once he’s accomplished the specific challenges of a job.

New Challenges Ahead 

“What I look for in a career change is a challenge,” he said. “This is a different kind of challenge. Just the size of the market is pretty amazing.”

Hoskins said he is looking forward to encouraging companies in Fairfax County to recruit and train more top workers with a talent-focused strategy.

“We already have a lot of talent residing [in Fairfax County],” he said. “We need to keep the people we have.” A part of that will include offering more opportunities to retrain employees with skills like cybersecurity coding, he added.

He also said he would like to see FCEDA get more closely involved with the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development, in addition to continuing work with the Planning Commission, Virginia Department of Transportation and other county agencies to set priorities.

Additionally, Hoskins said that the county could use more work on placemaking.

“The size of Fairfax County makes it difficult to create places — concentrated nodes of activity,” he said, which could include creating more urban villages around the Silver Line stations and making “a nexus between residential and commercial nodes.”

Another area Hoskins wants to work on is making Fairfax County more attractive to millennials.

Some ideas he has: creating places where people want to work and eat outside, offering more housing choices, making “interesting environments” and strengthening mass transportation.

Hoskins was quick to note that many of the challenges he mentioned are not unique to the county, which he praised for its global reputation and competition with places like London and Paris.

“Fairfax is amazing right now,” he said, lauding the county’s quality of life, including its public schools and parks. “Fairfax has it all. What we’re trying to do it to move it to the next level.”

Amazon’s Impact on Fairfax County

While Fairfax County lost its bid for Amazon, Hoskins said that the tech giant will impact Northern Virginia, from adding a plethora of new job opportunities to a “back and forth between employees and employers” with Amazon and local companies.

Hoskins also mentioned a recent report by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, which estimated that roughly 33 percent of Amazon’s workforce would live in Fairfax County, while 16.4 percent would live in Arlington.

“It’s a higher percentage than [Amazon employees who] will live and work in Arlington,” Hoskins said.

On a larger scale, Hoskins said Amazon will transform Northern Virginia into a more innovative environment that will increase the private sector.

“[Amazon will bring an] innovation focus to the region where companies begin thinking differently about how they work,” he said.

Hoskins starts his new role on Aug. 5. Until then, he said he will help with the leadership transition at his current job before having two to three days off.

“Building an economy is more like solving a very complex puzzle,” he said.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Economic Development Authority

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A resident called Vienna police after she found unwanted bags of dog poop and trash in her yard last week.

The incidents took place in the 100 block of Dogwood Street, SW between 7 a.m. on Monday, April 8, and 6:07 p.m. on Friday, April 12, according to police.

“A resident reported that there have been a couple of occasions when someone as left bags of dog excrement and trash in her yard,” according to today’s Vienna crime report.

Elsewhere in Vienna, this week’s crime report includes a case of a Windover Avenue, NW resident who “reported she has received packages from Amazon that she never ordered” between last Wednesday, April 10, and Wednesday, April 17. “The person placing the order is using some of the resident’s personal information,” the report says.

Photo via Facebook

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Monday Morning Notes

HQ2 Worries for Fairfax Companies — “Amazon.com Inc.’s move to open a second headquarters in Arlington may prove to be a mixed-bag for Fairfax County. While many HQ2 employees are expected to live in the county, there’s a real chance that Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) will take tech talent from companies based in Fairfax.” [Washington Business Journal]

Does Tysons Need New North-South Transit? — “The Silver Line is good for east-west, but Tysons needs something north-south too. [Twitter]

Silver Line Station Progress — “Work crews in yellow vests and hard hats continue to dot the stations, track, pavilions, pedestrian bridges and tracks along the Phase 2 alignment, but over the next few months, more and more of those workers will be heading to interior work stations to run utility lines, install equipment and test all of the facilities.” [VivaTysons]

Apartment Fire in Falls Church — A fire broke out in the kitchen of an apartment at 450 N. Washington Street in Falls Church on Friday afternoon. [Twitter]

Falls Church PD Seek Info in Dog Bite Case — “City of Falls Church Police and Animal Control are looking for a dog that bit a man on the leg on Wednesday, March 27, around 2:15 p.m. near the Cherry Hill Park tennis courts.” [City of Falls Church]

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