NVAR has long supported efforts to maintain and increase housing affordability and address the housing shortages across Northern Virginia. With the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 to National Landing, a spotlight has been shone on this need for additional and affordable housing.
Affordable housing can have many meanings or definitions depending on the income of the homebuyer or renter. Typically, housing is classified as being affordable based on a certain percentage of the area median income (AMI) assuming the cost of the monthly mortgage payment or rent cannot exceed 25-30 percent of the median monthly income for the family.
As a rough example, using the AMI for Fairfax County as $110,000, a rental unit affordable to households earning 60 percent of AMI ($66,000) would need rents at or below $1,650 per month.
Local governments throughout the region have been studying the need for affordable housing. Fairfax County has identified the need for approximately 15,000 additional homes, affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of AMI, over the next 15 years. The City of Alexandria has seen dramatic declines in market rate affordable rental units and in opportunities for affordable homeownership for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. The city estimates that more than 15,000 units were lost between the years 2000 to 2018 due to rising property values outpacing AMI. The Arlington County Housing Master Plan projects that by 2040, nearly 18 percent of the County’s rental housing stock should be affordable (to incomes at or below 60 percent AMI) and 28 percent of new ownership stock should be affordable (to households between 80 percent and 120 percent AMI). Based on this forecast, 2,700 units of ownership housing stock and 22,800 units of affordable rental housing will need to be added for these income ranges.
Some communities have exacerbated this problem through zoning and land use regulations that increase housing costs – parking and amenity requirements, community impact fees and limits on density are just a few examples of the regulations that add to the overall cost of development that is passed on to buyers and renters.