The Tale of Two Arlingtons continues.
The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan put several human faces on Arlington County's affordable housing crisis in a weekend story that indicates more than 3,600 people have applied for a chance to live at the 122-unit Arlington Mill Residences.
The Arlington Mill Residences began accepting waiting list applications last week and will soon hold a lottery among eligible applicants to determine who gets top billing on that waiting list.
Construction of the affordable housing units adjacent to the new Arlington Mill Community Center is underway and expected to wrap up by the end of the year. The Arlington Mill campus is located at the intersection of Dinwiddie Street and Columbia Pike in the Columbia Heights West neighborhood.
Among those who lined last week up for a chance at an affordable place to live were households where both spouses work two jobs, taxi drivers, disabled elderly residents and a pregnant woman with dreams of furthering her education, the Post reported. On the first day, the line formed before dawn.
Those lines are just the latest indication that Arlington is home to a growing population of people who can barely afford to live here — something that may be hard to imagine in neighborhoods full of multi-million dollar condos with views of Washington.
It's a problem that's become more evident in recent years.
Nearly one-third of students in Arlington Public Schools are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, for instance.
And in 2012, Arlington County opened its waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance for the first time in seven years. In one day, nearly 5,300 pre-applications for such assistance were submitted.
Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada has made affordable housing a top priority this year, and he has said preserving what affordable housing is left on Columbia Pike was instrumental in his support of a planned streetcar system along that corridor.
Arlington's current strategy to maintain and grow affordable housing is to work with area nonprofits and negotiate with private developers to set aside certain residential units as affordable for a number of years.
In November, Arlington County voters will be faced with a ballot question asking whether the county needs a central housing authority to operate low-income units directly.
The idea has met with resistance from voters in the past and doesn't sit well with several current elected officials.
Audrey Clement, a Green Party candidate challenging Democrat Jay Fisette for his Arlington County Board seat, helped collect the thousands of signatures needed to get the housing authority question on the ballot, according to WAMU.