DIVERSITY AND LIVABILITY
Housing dislocation risk - the risk that rising rents and property costs will drive residents out of the County - is a top concern for many Arlingtonians (nearly one in four Arlingtonians surveyed last year said they are "very likely" to be forced out of the community by housing costs in the next five years). And it's a top concern for Arlington's continued health. Our economic vibrancy, and our capacity to attract business and employers, also depends on the continued economic and generational diversity of our residents.
Renters, young people and older residents seeking to “age in place” share common cause in preventing displacement and ensuring that we continue to proactively and innovatively address the affordability issue.
Affordability for Arlington's shrinking middle class is also greater than simply the cost of housing. While child care in Arlington sets the quality standard for Virginia, it also costs a quarter to a third more here than in other parts of the Commonwealth. We need to take action to address the child care supply gap in our community to address the burden its uniquely high costs place on our young families.
PRIORITY #1: Design and target policy solutions to meet the diversity of causes for housing dislocation risk for homeowners as well as renters. Examples include the potential expansion of the Property Tax Relief Program to enable more senior homeowners to age in place and the County Manager's proposal to reestablish the "Live Where You Work" program to assist Arlington's teachers, firefighters and County employees in establishing long-term residence.
PRIORITY #2: Pursue increased rental and ownership housing supply through flexibilities in our requirements for square footage and use, allowing pilot "micro-apartment" projects (like the experimental plan to retrofit vacant Crystal City office space into shared dwellings) and modest additions and renovations that enable multi-generational or multi-family households to share space without dramatically altering neighborhood landscapes.
PRIORITY #5: Continue to leverage public-private partnerships, supported by the Affordable Housing Investment Fund, to create more committed affordable units as market-rate units are lost - while minimizing taxpayer costs.
VIBRANCY THROUGH COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
The era of marquee amenities in Arlington has passed. In a time of stagnation in the commercial tax base and residents' incomes, expensive recreation projects have begun to attract residents' ire, not their interest. We need to shift from these large-scale projects to more targeted and strategic investments in Arlington's livability.
In order to preserve the features that make Arlington special, such as the arts, recreation and family programs, we need to work more closely with the nonprofits, service providers and neighborhood groups that are already pursuing this mission. As a member of Arlington’s arts community, through The Arlington Players, I’ve seen both this community’s need for modest grants and low-cost performance spaces and their capacity to leverage them into major attractions. In my conversations with neighbors, I’ve heard from education and enrichment groups across Arlington that they are eager to match County resources with their own staff and programming, but sometimes struggle to get Arlington's attention or engagement. We must be more responsive to their proposals.
PRIORITY #1:Work with the County Manager to create a culture and processes for “getting to yes” on community partnerships with different County divisions, particularly on small-dollar or one-time investments.
PRIORITY #2: Investigate, with the County Manager, a Community Partnership Ombudsman function - analogous to the new and well-received Business Ombudsman function - to help would-be community partners navigate and expedite the process of engaging with and proposing projects to the County.