Fairfax County Five-Year Consolidated Plan FY 2011 – 2015 Public Input Forum


Notes From
Fairfax County Five-Year Consolidated Plan
FY 2011 – 2015 Public Input Forum
Affordable Housing and Community and Economic Development

OCTOBER 28, 2009, 1 p.m.
RESTON
COMMUNITY CENTER, HUNTERS WOODS VILLAGE

Affordable Housing

 

What are Fairfax County’s Current Affordable Housing Needs?

  • Units for singles
  • Units for seniors
  • Units for single seniors, particularly those whose monthly social security payment is $1,000 or less on average; nursing homes garnish social security monthly payments and little is left over
  • The Endependence Center helps people live independently in the community, helps those with disabilities; SSDI is also eaten up each month by housing alone; need for universally-designed units
  • Limited stock; limited affordability
  • So few units for people with disabilities of all kinds
  • For people with emotional disturbances there is nothing for short-term or long-term housing especially for singles
  • October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month. Victims of domestic violence, some emotionally disturbed, are experiencing great difficulty finding available housing on an emergency basis; the victims tend to be married, often with kids, but it is also difficult for women who do not have kids/singles to find affordable housing; need long-term/permanent housing solutions for these women as well
  • Permanent Supportive Housing to help special needs residents remain in their affordable housing (disabled, mentally ill, seniors, domestic violence victims)
  • There is a need to expand the ways to educate the public about the homeless need and how the public can help.
  • Churches are more involved in helping persons who are homeless (such as hypothermia program) but there is a need for training for members of faith community: counseling and assimilating immigrant populations; how to refer immigrant households to appropriate services; service coordinators who know how to access the appropriate service providers; Stephen Ministry model
  • Needs to be more exposure on how to capitalize on the interactions with different agencies and nonprofit and church groups
  • Need for a coordinated list of organizations that provide services to be distributed countywide so that referrals are made from the same reference guide
  • Wiki community bulletin board online, updated by users within the services field, showing nonprofit, church, and County services available; current online resources are fragmented (Human Services Resources Guide is already online, but apparently needs better distribution); 211 number is an underused resource.
  • Housing for troubled teens, e.g., emancipated youth, teens who are homeless, teens who do not have the option to return home for whatever reason; Priority should be on stabilizing a child’s life; will lead to a more stable and safer community
  • Family-sized affordable housing, e.g., 3-4 bedroom units for larger families/households; need to increase the number of these types of units that are affordable to low-income households; occasional need for units for even larger households with more than 5 members; many immigrant and refugee households have this need, even as high as 7 and 8 member households; important to consider where this type of housing is located, e.g., within walking distance to certain amenities and services for households who are otherwise dependent on public transportation
  • Rehabilitating/Modernizing the current housing stock, ensuring that low-income households have access to the same quality of housing stock and access to amenities as any other households, e.g., inclusion of modern appliances such as dishwashers and laundry machines, access to the Internet; Make it easier to rehab units since individuals don’t know
  • Is there a way to create incentive to renovate housing and modernize it?  Tax credits go to developers, but some nonprofit developers can also get them.
  • Incentivize the market to create affordable units that meet these criteria, not just large real estate developers, but also “mom and pop” property owners with limited, small holdings that are in need of modernization.

What will Likely Be the County’s Future Affordable Housing Needs Over the Coming Five- to Ten-Year Period?

  • Senior housing will continue to be a growing need.
  • Number of seniors who fall through the cracks: not yet receiving social security, too old to begin a different job with greater income, too much income to receive public assistance of any kind
  • Retrofitting units to enable residents to age in place, stay in their homes as long as possible
  • Understanding how many households work in the county, but do not live here for affordability reasons; or, households who need services/assistance, but do not apply because they are not eligible for annual income eligibility reasons
  • Improvements in public transportation services tied to the development of affordable housing options
  • Addressing the current foreclosure crisis as its impact will be felt well into the coming years
  • Better understanding of future needs requires better understanding of current needs such as what percentage of residents is paying 30% of income for rent, consequences of foreclosure crisis.
  • The use of Universal Design for the development of any new units, including rehabilitation and even acquisition

Prioritization Criteria for Which Needs to Address with Limited Resources

  • Identifying and meeting the needs of extremely low-income households
  • Single-Room Occupancy units (SRO’s) to ensure that singles who are homeless have housing, ideally with supportive services
  • Chronic homelessness; need to look at root causes of homelessness through data and information
  • Persons who are disabled
  • People who are currently homeless vs. those who reside in a shelter, those with no viable housing options, households who have an immediate crisis first, in the most dire need; creating a hierarchy of basic needs and a tiering system of who is served first
  • To get persons out of situation
  • Children who don’t have stable housing (have future additional needs; additional costs)
  • Prevention: meeting needs before they actually are manifest

Affordable Housing Solutions and What is Working Well Under the County’s Current Affordable Housing Development and Preservation Programs?

  • Housing First does work well and rapid re-housing does work well
  • County did pass 10-Year Plan for ending homelessness; implement goals
  • Wealth of housing advocates in the county
  • County has collaboration; County did buy large apartments; County needs to do more advocacy

-     Some initiative toward acquiring and preserving housing

  • Easy to get Low-Income Tax Credits (LITC) for buying housing; not as many tax credit deals as in the past due to the economy; need additional local resources; with a 30% decrease in value of tax credits in past year, results are a bigger finance gap now for developers
  • Where will additional resources come from?

-     Maintain tax at current level; diversify taxes

-     Allow different zoning to allow owner to have housing (like university or hospital) on site.

-     Zoning and incentives for developing housing

-     Incentives for developers to upgrade and rehabilitate housing, like incentives for SRO’s to be developed in other places

  • Get citizens involved more in transitional housing; use more nonprofits to solve problem
  • Make public more aware of how they can help, like hypothermia; why can’t we step up as individuals and nonprofits and churches to do more; more buy-in from the community to address the problems
  • Mixed-income, mixed-use development; mix of household incomes, housing types and commercial development
  • Improved working relationship between Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ)
  • Affordable housing units in the county can help check the rate of increase in the cost of market rate housing.
  • Education of general issues needed, and examples and opportunities to help; public must be informed
  • Like Arlington, bonus density program could be used in Fairfax County; also mixed-income, mixed-use applied in more places in Fairfax County; Wiehe Avenue train station is an example coming along.
  • In Arlington, they asked, regarding the density of one side of a street that was being built on, to get an additional 3-4 units of housing.
  • Fairfax County has 7 Revitalization Areas, and affordable housing needs to be part of all of them; example is Cameron Crescent at Lake Anne
  • A lot of market rate housing could be made to go lower (lower rents), like through competition; some upgrade of units to encourage competition
  • Landlords could encourage code enforcement; many units are in poor state of disrepair; if County put more time into health and safety inspections, it would help the existing housing improve (not enough inspectors)
  • To prioritize resources, determine need; if there are numerous violations over the years, then that unit should have priority; don’t put money into the housing that needs the least to save money
  • Do a cost benefit analysis to help us understand the offset and how it might benefit Fairfax County.
  • What is the balance between numbers of housing needing lots of money and people who need housing; Per an Arlington County study: given the amount of resources, this is what we can do with people who are at 50% or 60% of Area Median Income (AMI); the cost went up dramatically; they had an inter-agency buy down to make units affordable
  • Consider subsidizing the building and providing affordable housing so that there is a mix of building subsidies and rental subsidies.
  • Never enough vouchers, and chronically homeless are not eligible for vouchers (no singles waiting list)
  • Have local money and Penny Fund fund some of the gap in housing and subsidizing; hard to get a loan so best option is direct subsidy to residents
  • Rehabilitation is much faster and cost effective than building new construction; permits are easier for rehabilitation

 

Community and Economic Development

What are Fairfax County’s Current Community and Economic Development Needs?

  • Increased need for access to capital; banks not making loans;  more people coming to  Enterprise Development Group (EDG) and other groups like them around the county and at a higher income level than have seen in past
  • Concerns by people how to take on debt
  • Through IDA program, used to have a lot of people saving to buy a house; now people are not doing that but saving for education and vocational training
  • Jobs are an issue; people are having hard time finding work
  • Some people have jobs, but work has slowed down, so they are applying for a loan for a second job, like buying a taxi or truck.
  • Financial literacy training in dealing with refugees;  for refugees, it is different here in the United States; financial literacy training is also needed for native-born persons

 

What will Likely Be the County’s Community and Economic Development Needs Over the Coming Five-Year Period?

  • Some of those people who would have come to EDG for loans, could go to banks and get them
  • Regarding the IDA program, people would go back to saving for houses
  • Assumption that economy gets better

 

Prioritization Criteria for Which Needs to Address with Limited Resources

  • People with most dire needs
  • Expand people’s knowledge and experience level; target those with greatest need
  • Target those who have least access.

 

What is Working Well Under the County’s Current Community and Economic Development Services and Resources?

  • Not a lot of capital opportunities for businesses besides EDG; The nonprofit group, Boat People, works with Vietnamese and Thai populations and Our Daily Bread does some, too.
  • There is more need than what the existing groups can provide.
  • EDG would like to serve more people but due to resources and income level constraints they can’t (clients’ income too high to fit into government programs - but Northern Virginia is in a high cost area).
  • Need is greater than capacity due to resource level.
  • IDA program underutilized due to artificially low income levels set by State
  • IDA program for saving for a house is underutilized, due to persons’ fear and not understanding the opportunity; to improve this would be having people understanding better the opportunity, reducing fear and having the market becoming better
  • Housing workshops on this could help people understand this better; have County staff partner with nonprofits

 

Over the Next Five Years, What Do You See as Opportunities for Change and Improvement?

  • Facilitation of partnerships and groups working together; so many different groups out there; have the County take a role in facilitating that
  • The County continue having events that are useful to the community at large; maybe once a quarter have nonprofits come together - or twice a year
  • Topics could be on economic strata of those being served; would help with referrals
  • Incorporating suggestions for Five-Year Plan in County legislative priorities that they present to the State (could be for changing how/what income levels are used for IDA program)
  • Priorities for strategies – making priorities those that meet Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) legislation
  • Prioritize things that are needed the most; the County is nowhere near having the need being met because of lack of resources; prioritize making sure that the most needy people get what is needed

Group Summary

  • Microloan, IDA, financial literacy counseling are all working; need more financial resources
  • Marketing needs increased support to connect with more geographic areas or population groups, such as language minority groups
  • When economy turns back to normal, more people will be interested in buying homes – so County should lay groundwork letting public know there are groups out there to help, such as help with IDA program and saving for a house, and remind people about this.
  • If there is increased demand for capital, banks may be a little leery to address it.  Could the  County encourage banks in some way – show them peers who are doing it or inform them of some programs out there; commend banks for doing that
  • Regarding criteria for prioritizing options, the options could all be done at the same priority level.
  • Regarding the legislative recommendation, its priority may be dependent on the timing of when the package is done each year; same with the other priorities.

 

Additional Testimony Provided

Oral testimony was received from an individual who, as a result of an automobile accident in 1995, suffered a spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic.  He stated that the only service offered him now by the County is placement in a homeless shelter.  The individual indicated that he and others with physical disabilities often “fall through the cracks” of County housing and other services.  He stated that approximately 375 persons with disabilities are currently vying for affordable housing and other assistance in the county and that there is no effective coordination or team approach among County agencies that could help him and others obtain housing, assisted living, transportation, and other supports.  The individual recommended that the Community Services Board and/or the Disability Services Board get their own vouchers to help persons with disabilities obtain stable and affordable housing.

 


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