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Arlington Establishes Tenant Assistance Fund for Low-Income Renters

County expects to spend $6.7 million over the next 10 years subsidizing certain rent increases.

Buchanan Gardens, an affordable housing complex, reopened in September 2012 following $32 million in renovations. Patch file photo by Jason Spencer
Buchanan Gardens, an affordable housing complex, reopened in September 2012 following $32 million in renovations. Patch file photo by Jason Spencer

The Arlington County Board this weekend established a Tenant Assistance Fund to help low- to moderate-income renters in affordable housing units that are being renovated or redeveloped stay there.

The policy, which formalizes a practice that's been used on a case-by-case basis since 1995, could cost the county $6.7 million over the next decade.

Essentially, whenever existing tenants in affordable housing units — families making 60 percent of the area median income or less — would be priced out of their homes due to a change in ownership, renovation, redevelopment or construction project, Arlington County would pay the difference in any increase in rent.

"As property values continue to rise across our County, Arlington is committed to finding ways to help prevent low-to-moderate-income residents from being displaced," Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada said in a statement. "This important policy will apply to every affordable housing development where the County is providing financing to buy, renovate or redevelop property. We believe this policy, which is consistent with our values of a diverse and inclusive community in which is person is important, will help keep neighborhoods intact."

Sixty percent of area median income for a family of four is $64,500 in Arlington. Rent considered affordable for that family would be $1,452 a month for a two-bedroom apartment or $1,870 a month for a four-bedroom.

The Tenant Assistance Fund would kick in whenever an increase would cause the renter to pay more than 35 percent of their income toward rent, according to a county news release.

The assistance would only be available to vested households — that is, tenants who are in place when a new plan, project or acquisition is approved. It would last for at least three years or the duration of renovation or construction, plus 12 months, with the possibility of renewal for another 12 months under extenuating circumstances.

Over the years, county officials have established similar assistance for tenants in apartments at Arna Valley, the Gates of Ballston and Buchanan Gardens, among others. 

The county will review the newly formalized policy in three years.

More on the Arlington County Board in December:

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