Encampment set up by people experiencing homelessness (via MWCOG)

Thanks to federal relief funding, Fairfax County is getting an infusion of emergency housing voucher money to help people who are at risk of homelessness or fleeing from domestic violence and others in need.

The American Rescue Plan Act signed into law in March is providing $10 billion to address homelessness, including 70,000 vouchers to local housing authorities, including Fairfax County.

The county will partner with community groups to provide the housing assistance, which could last 10 years — the length of the program — for each recipient.

“We are very grateful to receive these Emergency Housing Vouchers to serve many of our most vulnerable residents and neighbors and help them achieve safe and stable housing,” Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority Chair C. Melissa McKenna, who serves as the Dranesville District commissioner, said in a statement.

The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority approved a county framework last Thursday (July 15) to receive the money, which involves 169 vouchers that will be made available in coming weeks.

Recipients will need to be referred to the program by county case managers or other service points, such as homeless services, Coordinated Services Planning (703-222-0880), or the Domestic and Sexual Violence 24-Hour Hotline (703-360-7273).

Money will go to landlords, and recipients will be required to pay 30% of their income toward rent and utilities.

The emergency housing vouchers can cover a variety of costs, including security deposits, moving expenses, and essential household items such as bedding and tableware.

Even outside the vouchers, ARPA has dedicated billions of dollars to addressing housing issues, as people have struggled to pay rent amid statewide shutdowns last year and uncertain employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The need to provide housing assistance is expected to become especially urgent in the coming months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium expires on July 31.

“The [assistance is] designed to prevent and respond to [the] coronavirus by facilitation the leasing of the [emergency housing vouchers], which will provide vulnerable individuals and families a much safer housing environment to minimize the risk of coronavirus exposure or spread,” Dominique Blom, a general deputy assistant secretary with the Housing and Urban Development Department, said in a May memo describing the funding.

Vaccinations have helped bring the virus under control, but cases have been rising in Virginia and the U.S. amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, which is now the source of 83% of all new COVID-19 cases, according to CDC estimates.

“Individuals and families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness are often living in conditions that significantly increase the risk of exposure to coronavirus in addition to other health risks,” Blom said in the memo.

Eligibility for the vouchers is limited to individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness, or were recently homeless and “for whom providing rental assistance will prevent the family’s homelessness or having high risk of housing instability.”

People fleeing — or attempting to flee — domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking are also eligible for the vouchers.

“These vouchers — in addition to the existing programs and services offered through a robust partnership — offer yet another valuable resource to help position individuals and families on a reliable foundation from which they can achieve their fullest potential,” McKenna said in her statement.

During the first year of the pandemic, homelessness decreased throughout the D.C. region except in Fairfax County, which saw a 17% increase from 1,041 people in 2020 to 1,222 in 2021, and Prince George’s County, which had a 19% increase, according to a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments report.

Fairfax County has attributed the increase to expanded services supported by COVID-19 relief funding.

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Morning Notes

Tropical Storm Elsa Heads to Virginia — After leaving Florida behind, Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds along the East Coast from Georgia to New England through Friday. Forecasts show the storm passing to the east, but the D.C. area on I-95 could get some rain and breezy conditions tonight. [Capital Weather Gang]

Falls Church Developer Proposes More Senior Housing — “The Falls Church Gateway developer partnership getting underway with work on the 9-acre site of the former George Mason High School came to the F.C. City Council Monday with a request, granted a preliminary vote by a 7-0 margin, to expand the senior living building set for the site from 225,000 square feet to 260,000, including a height increase to 15 stories to accommodate up to 215 units.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Cause of Bird Deaths Still Unknown — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources received more than 1,400 reports of sick or dying birds in Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, between May 23 and June 30. No cause has been identified yet, but symptoms of the illness include eye swelling and neurological issues. [Vienna Police/Twitter]

Travel Ban Puts Falls Church Couple’s Wedding Plans at Risk — “The pandemic has prevented a couple from Falls Church, Virginia, from walking down the aisle, and now they say they’ll lose $30,000 if the U.S. travel ban on citizens from Britain and other European nations isn’t lifted soon.” [WTOP]

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Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services Division Director Keisha Dotson addresses the Board of Supervisors health and human services committee on June 29, 2021 (via Fairfax County)

With a federal moratorium on evictions set to expire at the end of July, Fairfax County officials are preparing for a surge in evictions and accompanying demand for rental assistance and other social services.

Even with various federal and state protections in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, 599 writs of eviction and 1,411 unlawful detainers were issued to Fairfax County residents between June 2020 and 2021, according to an Eviction Data Dashboard created by county staff.

Presented to the Board of Supervisors during its health and human services committee meeting on Tuesday (June 29), the dashboard map indicates that the residents at risk of being evicted tend to be concentrated in neighborhoods of color and ones that have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus, Fairfax County Housing and Community Development Deputy Director Tom Barnett told the board.

As of June 14, residents of the 22306 zip code in Alexandria have been issued 54 writs of eviction — court notices directing the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office to remove a tenant’s belongings from the property — the most of any zip code in the county.

That zip code has also recorded 3,641 COVID-19 cases, which translates to 11,263 cases per 100,000 people, the highest rate in the county. Within that zip code, eviction notices have been clustered south of Groveton and around Woodley Hills, census tracts with relatively high Black and Hispanic/Latino populations.

The Alexandria area in general has been particularly affected by housing instability during the pandemic with 159 writs of eviction issued, more than twice as many as any other part of the county. Falls Church comes in second with 73 writs issued.

Alexandria and Falls Church have also seen the most unlawful detainers, which are issued when a landlord seeks court assistance in removing a tenant from their property.

The number of unlawful detainers issued in Fairfax County by location from June 2020 to June 2021 (via Fairfax County)
The number of writs of eviction issued in Fairfax County by location from June 2020 to June 2021 (via Fairfax County)

There are some exceptions to the overall correlation of eviction notices and COVID-19 cases. The 22102 zip code, which includes Tysons, saw writs of eviction issued — the second most in the county — but it has also reported a relatively low rate of 5,481 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.

Fairfax County Health and Human Services staff put together the dashboard using real-time information obtained from the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office and General District Court, thanks to a partnership that the agencies formed last summer in response to the pandemic.

“We’re using this data and other data that is available to the county to target our outreach and our rental assistance,” Barnett said. Read More

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Homeowners seeking to rent out their basements or other parts of their residence as well as renters and neighborhoods concerned about parking will soon have new rules aimed at helping them.

A revised zoning code for Fairfax County, the first overhaul in around 40 years, becomes effective Thursday (July 1).

In addition to updating the county’s regulated uses with new options like live-work developments and solar farms, the new ordinance loosens some restrictions around accessory dwelling units — independent residential units that share a property with a main dwelling. But zoning officials say they expect a modest increase in homeowners converting parts of their property for other people.

Adopted in March, the new rules replace existing standards for ADUs — now dubbed accessory living units or ALUs — from 1978 and 1983, drop requirements that the occupant of the revamped space have a disability or be 55 years or older, and add parking requirements.

While the changes inspired some strong opinions from community groups, their impact is expected to be relatively small: Fairfax County approved 12 accessory unit applications in 2019, seven in 2020, and two so far this year as of Friday.

County staff previously noted there have been community concerns over whether the code is being enforced. A burdensome special permit approval process also may have been creating problems, the county said.

“Others may be installing ALUs anyway, but then perhaps they’re more likely to be unpermitted construction without the benefit of the permits and inspections,” Carmen Bishop, assistant zoning administrator, said in January before the Fairfax County Planning Commission. “So a less burdensome process may result in better compliance.”

People who have wanted such changes have had to go through a hearing, a process where neighbors could weigh in. Under the new rules, a property owner can add an interior ALU with just an administrative permit instead if they meet certain requirements.

That includes a new measure that adds an extra parking spot in off-street parking. Whether or not there’s an accessory living unit, a detached single-family house on a public street must have two off-street parking spaces or — if it’s on a private street — three off-street spots, according to the county.

“When a house has an ALU, one additional parking space will be required, which means, homes on public streets will need three off-street spaces and homes on private streets will need four off-street spaces to meet the zoning ordinance standard,” Leslie Johnson, the zoning administrator for the county’s Department of Planning and Development, said in an email Friday.

The new standards come as the county’s population exceeds 1.1 million people after rising by over 100,000 people every decade from 1980 to 2010, according to census data.

With housing prices expected to continue rising, proponents of the ALU rule changes argue that they will provide more flexibility for residents who want to stay in the county but can’t afford to live on their own.

Earlier in June, the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority approved a change that made it easier for certain people in a first-time homebuyers program to rent a portion of their owner-occupied homes after a resident made a request.

The switch applies to 38 units and makes the authority’s policy consistent with all other units in county homebuyer programs, county spokesman Benjamin Boxer said in an email.

“Those owners may rent a portion of their home as long as they continue to occupy the property as their primary residence,” Boxer said in an email. “It is worth noting that, historically, we have rarely received any requests from our participating homeowners to rent portions of their homes.”

Courtesy Jeremy Levine/Flickr

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A former state legislator has convinced the Town of Vienna to save some trees by an iconic preschool that’s slated to become a new housing development.

A developer is turning Parkwood School into a housing subdivision called Parkwood Oaks that could have up to nine homes, according to engineering notes for the developer in a plan on file with the town.

The son of Parkwood School founder Clarene Vickery, Raymond “Ray” Vickery Jr. sent a letter to the town council on June 11 asking them to save several trees, including a large oak, on the edge of the property at 601 Marshall Road SW near the Ware Street SW intersection.

“We want to particularly save the big oak my dad planted about 60 years ago at the corner of Ware and Marshall,” Vickery told Tysons Reporter.

Clarene Vickery, 101, died in 2019 after founding Parkwood School in 1956 and spending most of her life as director of the preschool, which has served over 10,000 kids. She lived in the upstairs part of the home, which also served as part of the school with its lower half.

Vickery’s father, Raymond Ezekiel Vickery, was a lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army and died in 1987 at age 77. The couple is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton said in an email that trees located next to an existing sidewalk needed to be removed because the town requires sidewalks to be upgraded to a new code when there’s a new home or development building.

But Vickery argued in his letter to the town that “slight deviations could be made to save the large oak and other trees that mean so much to the citizens of Vienna who live in the 601 Marshall Road vicinity.”

It worked: Vickery connected with the town, which agreed to save a few key trees there next to a sidewalk, including the oak his dad planted.

However, some trees will still have to be removed, said Scott Diffenderfer, an urban arborist for the town.

“On the other hand, the developer is saving a lot of trees, and there’s going to be trees planted as the development progresses,” Diffenderfer said.

A property sale closed last Monday (June 21), and buyer John Sekas of Sekas Homes Ltd. has agreed to erect a historical marker there, Vickery said.

Vickery has also offered to donate Japanese cherry trees to be planted along Ware Street in honor of his parents.

The preschool had multiple single-family dwellings for its campus, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it used virtual programming instead of in-person activities.

According to Vickery, Malisa Eaton, the school’s executive director, has taken over Parkwood School and is looking for new premises. She didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Vickery, who served in the Virginia General Assembly from 1974 to 1980, says he plans to go the town council’s July 12 meeting to address the town’s tree ordinance, highlighting how trees help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and protect the ozone. The latter benefit is particularly important to him as someone who has been affected by skin cancer.

“The ordinance, though, is written so that trees, even though they’ve been marked and identified, can — can be taken down and replaced with saplings that’ll have 20% cover in 20 years,” he said. “And my perspective is if you have coverage there of existing trees…you ought to save existing trees.”

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The existing office building at 1953 Gallows Road (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 3 p.m. on 6/29/2021) A developer is looking to transform a site with an eight-story, 88-foot-tall concrete office building into a three-building residential development called Flats at Tysons Corner.

The existing building at 1953 Gallows Road in Tysons would be replaced with a multifamily residential building with 225 to 260 units. The new structure would be 50 to 75 feet high and include a courtyard in its center, according to a development plan filed Tuesday (June 22) with Fairfax County.

Other proposed changes include converting parking lots into space for two 60-foot high multifamily buildings — one with 36 units and the other for 50 units, including 14 workforce dwelling units total — and also creating two publicly accessible parks with amenities such as lawn furniture, ping pong tables, and more.

The existing office building, built in 1983, would remain during the first phase of the project, which would focus on the parking lot area, and then be demolished in the second phase, per the development plan from Pulte Homes.

Approximately 2,628 square feet of space in the property’s northeastern corner will be set aside during the project’s first phase to accommodate a planned extension of Boone Boulevard in accordance with the county’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan, according to a statement of justification submitted by the law firm DLA Piper, which is representing Pulte.

The development will also contain a new service road that will be constructed as a future public street to connect Gallows Road to Boone Boulevard, with the potential to eventually be extended to Leesburg Pike.

In the statement of justification, DLA Piper says the proposed redevelopment will help “rejuvenate” the site by introducing residential uses to an area dominated by commercial and office buildings:

The redevelopment of this site as proposed presents a timely opportunity to rejuvenate the under-utilized, asphalt-covered site and transform it in the vision contemplated by the Comprehensive Plan for Tysons Urban Center with additional meaningful open space, the introduction of residential units to the quadrant, enhanced environmental features, critical multimodal transportation infrastructure, and a stepdown transition in density from the core of Tysons near Route 7 to the outer edges across Gallows Road. If this opportunity is missed because adjacent sites are not ready to redevelop, the Property will likely remain a sea of parking…for another 15-20 years, rather than serving as a catalyst and setting the stage for an exciting transformation of this quadrant.

PulteGroup, which is based in Atlanta, did not immediately return Tysons Reporter’s questions about the project, including its timeline. It’s the third largest homebuilder nationwide.

The Meridian Group, which owns the existing office building, says it has a contract with Pulte to sell part of the surface parking lot for the proposed development, but there are no immediate plans to get rid of the building.

“The developer plans are just designed to give them flexibility for the distant future,” a Meridian spokesperson told Tysons Reporter. “Perhaps in 20 years, they might want to demolish the building. But they have no plans to do so. The building will remain untouched and is not part of the rezoning.”

It isn’t yet clear when the project could go before the county planning commission. Upcoming meetings through July 28 didn’t list the application on board agendas, and the county’s online Land Development System showed no hearing information.

Nearby at Fairfax Square, the mall is seeking to upgrade signs. If PulteGroup’s proposal moves forward, the more than 5-acre residential complex would wrap around that shopping and dining center.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

County Demobilizes Community COVID-19 Testing Sites — The Fairfax County Health Department closed its COVID-19 community testing sites at the end of the day on Friday (June 4). Testing is still available through health care providers, urgent cares centers, and pharmacies, and starting today (Monday), residents who exhibit COVID symptoms can schedule appointments at an FCHD clinic by calling 703-324-7404. [FCHD]

Carjacking Attempt Reported in Falls Church — Two men, one of them armed with a handgun, approached a man in the 3000 block of Graham Road on May 29 and demanded his car keys and property, police say. They attempted to leave in the victim’s car but took another vehicle instead when they were unable to drive it. No injuries were reported. [FCPD]

D.C. Area Slow to Distribute Rent Relief — “At least $300 million in emergency funds intended to help struggling renters in the Washington area remain unspent even as a federal ban on evictions is set to expire at the end of this month, according to a Washington Post analysis…Fairfax County, the largest county in Virginia, opened its portal to applications the last week of May. The county quickly received more than 700 applications.” [The Washington Post]

Falls Church Real Estate Taxes Due Today — Real estate taxes are due today for property owners in the City of Falls Church. Payments can be made at City Hall, online, or by text, and questions can be directed to the Treasurer’s Office at [email protected] or 703-248-5046. Late payments incur a 10% penalty. [City of Falls Church/Twitter]

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A long-standing chapter of the Aylor family’s history concluded this week with the groundbreaking of a new housing development in Falls Church.

With members of the family present, the homebuilding company Madison Homes broke ground yesterday (Monday) at 2530 Remington Street on a new private housing community, The Enclave at Aylors Overlook. The site will be developed into 16 new single-family homes over the next year and a half.

“We were delighted to be given the opportunity to purchase the property,” Madison Homes President Russell Rosenberger Jr. said. “Certainly, the ability to honor the Aylor family legacy, we knew that was important to Marvin and his family. Therefore it became important to us also, as we were planning the development of the property.”

Madison Homes purchased the property from the Aylor family, which had owned the five acres since 1957, when Lewis and Virginia Aylor bought it. The couple had moved to the property in 1951, and three generations of the family ultimately lived on it.

“For me, it is kind of sad to be here. I’ve realized life is all about change. For me, it’s my whole life here,” Marvin Aylor, the son of Lewis and Virginia and executor of Lewis’s estate, said. “For my parents — my father — to come down here to live, for me to grow up here and my son to grow up here, it’s a lot to lose, but it did well for us. It put us where we are today.”

Marvin shared that it was his father’s desire for family homes to eventually be built on the site. After deliberating over possible companies to sell the property to, the family chose Madison Homes because of the company’s history and work.

Founded in 1992 in McLean, Madison Homes focuses on in-fill development in the D.C. area. Its existing developments include Chesterbrook Manor in McLean, The Reserve at Tysons Corner apartments, and The Palladium at McLean, according to the company’s website.

“We wanted somebody that had some clout and had a good product,” Marvin said. “We were picky too in the sense that we could be. From what I saw of their work, I wanted my dad’s name to stand for something, and to be here and mean something. That’s part of why we chose [Madison Homes].”

The property is currently in the land development process, which should finish in October.

Rosenberger expects construction on the first houses to begin in September, with models being completed in early 2022. He anticipates the entire development will be completed within 12 to 18 months.

The homes will carry a price tag starting in the $1.7 million range, with sales beginning off site this fall, according to a Madison Homes spokesperson.

“The family quite truthfully did a lot of the hard work on the property,” Rosenberger said. “The family took it through the engineering process with the county. They did a great job. They had the right consultants, engineers and advisors involved in the process. So, we really didn’t have to make any significant changes as we got involved in the property.”

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Morning Notes

Police Face Pressure from Understaffing, Reform Advocates — The McLean Citizens Association’s recent public safety forum highlighted a number of issues facing the Fairfax County Police Department, from struggles to recruit and retain officers to calls for additional reforms to address civil rights concerns and improve transparency. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

All Terrain Vehicle Caused Building Fire in Tysons — “Building fire on 4/24 at 1:49 PM in 1500 block Spring Hill Rd, Tysons. Crews located ATV on fire in repair shop. Fire extinguished by fire sprinkler system. No injuries reported. Cause: an electrical malfunction involving the wiring circuit of ATV. Damages: $6K.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]

Citizens Group Unimpressed by Proposed Falls Church School Names — A group of citizens led by a former Falls Church City mayor and two former vice mayors says that none of the names proposed as replacements for George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School “resonated” with them. The school board is scheduled to choose new names tonight (Tuesday). [Falls Church News-Press]

Vienna to Put Cottage Housing on Display — “Cottage housing…increasingly is in demand as home prices skyrocket and people’s desires for simpler living increase. To give the public a sense of how such a collection of diminutive dwellings might be arranged, the Vienna Planning and Zoning Department from May 8 through 23 will display a scale-model development using dog houses at the Vienna Town Green.” [Sun Gazette]

Meat-Centered Restaurant Reopens in Mosaic DistrictThe B Side, a restaurant supported by Red Apron Butcher, started offering indoor dining again for the first time in more than a year earlier this month. Chef and butcher Nathan Anda marked the occasion with a brand-new menu that features everything from schnitzel to a wagyu pastrami bowl. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

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Morning Notes

Vienna Police Understaffed, Officers Say — The Vienna Police Department has eight vacancies out of its 41-officer staff and has only gotten a 28% retention rate over the past five years, the Vienna Police Association said during town budget hearings last week. The nonprofit attributed the “personnel crisis” to low morale and “a lack of competitive pay and benefits.” [Sun Gazette]

Public Hearings on Dilapidated Houses Scheduled — A $1.1 million property in McLean is among six dilapidated houses that will go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a public hearing on June 8. The house at 1045 Bellview Road has evidently been abandoned since 2016 and has been recommended for demolition. [Sun Gazette]

Fox Family Scatters Shoes Around Vienna Yard — “A couple of foxes are up to no good in a small Vienna, Virginia, community where talks of missing shoes had local residents perplexed.” [WTOP]

Falls Church and Pimmit Hills Among Top U.S. Suburbs — “Falls Church and Pimmit Hills were ranked the second and third most livable suburbs in the U.S. in Realtor Magazine’s April edition. The rankings…looked at more than 600 suburban areas in 50 major cities across the country based on eight livability metrics — median household income; household income growth; home prices; home price growth; property tax rate; crime rate; unemployment and clinician to patient ratios.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Wolf Trap Marks National Volunteer Week — “Much like other national parks, Wolf Trap offers plenty of opportunities for volunteering. Yesterday, a group of volunteers gathered around the Filene Center to help with weeding the flower beds and patches of native plants.” [Friends of Wolf Trap National Park/Twitter]

Photo by Bill Johnson

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