Affordable Housing Program Improves Quality of Life for All Fairfax County Residents
June 28, 2011 – Fairfax County’s affordable housing program provides housing opportunities to our neediest citizens: the disabled, the elderly and the poor. It also provides housing opportunities for lower income middle class working families. By partnering with the private sector and area non-profits, we have been able to leverage County resources to provide people who live and work in Fairfax County an affordable home.
A critical strategy for providing affordable housing alternatives to residents is that these homes are integrated into the community and dispersed across Fairfax County. Doing so prevents the creation of pockets of poverty. The concentration of poverty can perpetuate the causes of poverty, lead to higher crime rates and create unattractive, blighted and unsafe areas in Fairfax County.
Being the most desirable place to live in the region means the high cost of housing can prevent people who work here from also living here. Our affordable housing program helps us meet our goal of having homes available in Fairfax County for our working families, which helps us meet our economic development goals without adding to our transportation problems.
In several of the private communities where Fairfax County owns affordable units, we pay a monthly fee just as other tenants in those communities do. These fees go toward basic services such as maintenance, snow removal, and utilities. They also go to shared amenities. For example, 15 of the 41 condominium developments in which Fairfax County owns affordable units have swimming pools for their tenants.
Fairfax County cannot and will not ask private companies to treat tenants differently based on income. If a child in an affordable unit wants to use the swimming pool with his neighbors, he should be allowed to. We also will not ask private companies to waive such fees and interfere with their ability to be successful. Fairfax County will also not tell these private companies which amenities they can provide in an open, competitive market. These companies are very valuable partners in our housing program and we respect their right to choose which services and amenities they provide their customers and to charge appropriately for those services.
Recent criticism of these fees raises several questions. Should we concentrate our affordable housing with low income individuals and families all together, or integrate them seamlessly into the community as we have done successfully for years? Should we interfere with the free market and tell Fairfax County companies how they should run their businesses, or offer incentives to developers to help us meet our (and their) community’s housing goals?
Or should we completely do away with our affordable housing program and drive lower income and entry level workers out of Fairfax County?
Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors