On July 14, 2020, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors authorized consideration of a Comprehensive Plan Amendment to provide updates to the county's Workforce Dwelling Unit (WDU) Policy. The Countywide WDU Policy was adopted in 2007 as a proffer-based incentive to encourage housing development at a variety of affordability levels in mixed-use activity centers. In 2010, the Tysons WDU Policy was adopted specifically for the redevelopment of Tysons.
How Does the WDU Policy Work?
The WDU Policy allows developers to receive a "density bonus" on their development project of up to 20 percent in exchange for a commitment of WDUs across a variety of income levels. The density bonus means that in exchange for providing a certain number of rental WDUs at below-market rental rates, the developer can build more market-rate units. The developer is required to maintain the rental WDUs as affordable for 50 years. The specific number of WDUs and the density bonus percentage are negotiated and implemented through the land use process and with proffers.
Why Are Changes Being Recommended?
Originally, the Countywide and Tysons WDU Polices were designed to meet the housing need projected at that time for households earning between 60 and 120 percent of the area median income (AMI). However, the WDU Policy Task Force was convened in March 2019 to consider adjustments to the affordability requirements. The County and development community determined units at the 100, and 120 percent of the AMI were in effect above market- rate unit rents in many cases. As a result, the recommended policy amendments reflect the current need and would better meet the growing need to serve county residents with low- and moderate-income.
"The WDU Policy has been a useful tool in introducing about 1,600 units into the county,” said Tom Fleetwood, Director of Fairfax County’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “In looking at how the market has evolved over the last decade, we see that market rate rents have not increased at the projected rate, and we are seeing that workers earning 100 and 120 percent of the median income are accommodated naturally through market rate units. It’s time that the policy be updated to more effectively provide units with affordability at a variety of income bands below market rate rents.”