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Columbia Pike: New Development Must Help Pay to Preserve, Increase Affordable Housing

Arlington County Board approved several financing tools this weekend.

A planned streetcar along Columbia Pike is expected to spur development. Patch file photo
A planned streetcar along Columbia Pike is expected to spur development. Patch file photo

The Arlington County Board adopted a series of measures this weekend designed to make new development help pay to preserve and increase affordable housing along Columbia Pike.

The county has a stated goal of preserving 6,200 existing market-rate affordable housing units on Columbia Pike as the corridor transforms into a more transit-oriented neighborhood. Much of the anticipated growth is expected to stem from a planned streetcar system.

The board voted 4-1 to establish tax increment financing in the Columbia Pike area. That means 25 percent of revenue from existing taxes on new commercial and multi-family residential development will be set aside for affordable housing along the Pike.

“It is only right that a portion of the additional property taxes the County will realize from new development along the Pike will be used to preserve the Pike's affordability," Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada said in a statement.

A county staff report projects that under a "moderate redevelopment scenario," Arlington will capture about $16.5 million for affordable housing this way over the next decade. 

Those dollars will be the primary revenue source for a new Transit Oriented Affordable Housing Fund, which also was approved this weekend. That fund will be used to subsidize the creation of new affordable housing or renovation of existing units.

One of the main ways developers can build or renovate affordable housing in Arlington is by way of the state Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. Those tax credits, described by county staff as "highly competitive," are only open to projects that fall under a certain cost threshold.

Essentially, Arlington will use dollars in the Transit Oriented Affordable Housing Fund to cover county fees and infrastructure costs with new projects in order to keep their overall price tags below the state threshold, according to a staff report.

The county expects to spend $37 million over the next 30 years on such subsidies.

Board members this weekend also approved amendments that allow the transfer density from one site within the Pike area to another. The county bills the transfer of development rights as a tool to create or preserve open space, affordable housing, community or recreation facilities.

“Arlington County is absolutely committed to ensuring that even as Columbia Pike transforms into a 'Main Street' for south Arlington, it will remain diverse and affordable," Tejada stated. "Adopting these innovative new tools will help us meet our goal of preserving existing affordable homes and creating more."

More on the Arlington County Board in December:

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