A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

November 21, 2013 12:04 PM2 comments

prenny-fcnpWhen the Board of Supervisors considered language last spring for advertising a Residential Studio Unit (RSU) amendment, there was very pointed discussion about whether to include RSUs in lower density residential districts. The draft ordinance language would provide for small, efficiency-style, rental apartments, predominantly for low-income persons, and the use would be allowed by Special Exception in most districts. Ultimately, the Board decided to include all zoning categories in the public hearing advertisement, so we could hear from the community.

And hear, we did! While there is sizeable support for the RSU concept overall, there is deep-seated opposition to allowing them as a use in lower-density residential districts, or single family detached neighborhoods. Some residents are very concerned, even angry, that the draft RSU ordinance, as currently drafted, would exacerbate overcrowding in some areas, and dramatically change the character of their neighborhoods.

The Planning Commission’s formal consideration of the RSU amendment was postponed from this fall until next spring, so that its specially-designated RSU committee could conduct additional outreach in the community. A number of community meetings, both county-sponsored and privately sponsored, have been held to gather additional input for the draft proposal. While the “uniformity requirement” in Virginia Code and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution that relate to housing ordinances must be adhered to, the proposed amendment can be modified to eliminate its use in the lower residential districts, including single family detached neighborhoods.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board adopted my motion, co-sponsored by Chairman Sharon Bulova, to concur with the RSU committee’s recommendation to eliminate the lower residential districts for consideration of RSU development. County staff will provide the Planning Commission with language that revises provisions for RSUs, and will continue to work on related issues, such as code enforcement, parking, street access, occupancy, and other standards.

In 2012, Fairfax County had just over 400,000 housing units: 194,500 detached (single family), 99,500 attached (townhouses), and 114,500 multifamily (condos and apartments). Only 1391 efficiency apartments were in the mix overall. The RSU amendment is consistent with the Board’s effort to end homelessness, facilitate the 50+ Plan that focuses on the needs of an aging single population, and increase affordable housing for a workforce earning less than 60 percent of the average median income.

While the rapid pace of growth in Fairfax County has slowed from what we experienced 30 or 40 years ago, the desire of people to live, work, play, learn, and worship here has not. Ensuring that everyone has opportunities for success should be an important priority for neighbors, newcomers and long established alike. Housing choice is part of that dream.


Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.




  • The real work in making sure neighborhood voices were heard was done by the Mason District Council and the Fairfax Federation.

  • I am surprised and astonished that the Gist of this Opinion Editorial manifested itself essentially in the tabled H792 which Delegate Kaye Kory co-sponsored with Delegate James M. Lemunyon (Republican) from Chantilly. I had wondered why the proposed stipulation of only 100 per 100,000 residents until I saw the the total number of Efficiencies in the county was only 1391 out of 410,000 Housing units. A 100 % expansion gets close with 1120 units “allowed”. But fails miserably when Article 1,Section 1 of the Va. Constitution is considered fully.

    There is an EXTREME shortage of Affordable housing options for about 30% of the County Residents. Low Income is now $60,000. per year for a Family of 2.8 average occupants per. The occupied number is about 400,000 with about 8-10,000 vacant in flux units at anyone time. So right here helps explain why 2700 Houses is the identified need for the Preventing and Ending Homelessness and People can point out all the vacant Houses amid all the confusion of what and how such a thing could occur in the “Greatest Country on Earth”. Or how People could squeeze the Working Poor into makeshift “Rooming Houses”.

    Median Income figures are misleading the Public into a false sense of security.
    Average of the Family medians is about $107,000 but the County is going to see growth in both the Asian and Hispanic Communities while Whites decline and Blacks remain about the same Percentage now and around 2032. And if George Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis is correct the Percentage of HomeOwnership will fall below 66.6 % to about 57 %. The American Dream is changing and the County Human Rights Report addressing the the Extreme Crisis supports the same conclusions.

    The Median Incomes as mentioned in our Human Right Office’s Report will awaken many to reality. White Families come in at a Median of $120,000 while Asians Families come in around $90,000 . Black Families are around $80,000 and our Hispanic Community misses $70,000 median incomes by about 2 grand. So what this translates into is a DISPARATE IMPACT on the Ethnic Communities . The LOW INCOME factor of 60% of Median (1/2 above 1/2 below) comes in around $63,000 something. To Afford Fairfax a Family needs $20. per Hour. $53,500 per Year and Below is the Bottom 25%. $5,000 per month ain’t what it used to be.

    Someone making MINIMUM WAGE is not able to rent without 2 others working full time to pay the $1250 to $1500 Rental average here for a 40 year old Apartment.
    If the Politicians read Article 1 Section 1 of their marching orders they would realize the reason we need to End Homelessness is because Preventing Homelessness has been blatantly ignored as a Priority this Art.1 Sect.1 directs be done first and foremost. Instead 75% of our Existing Residential Land is Coveted ,below R12 designation.

    Planning District 8 requires a New Vision that welcomes the Backbone of our community. This RSU thing will help relieve some built up pressure with 1100 units but 15,000 to 30,000 Downsized Living Quarters in the 325 to 700 sq. ft. size is needed along the major transportation corridors so Cars are not part of what a Housing unit needs . Harvards Rental Housing Report tops off the list for a quick education on what the future is bringing in the next 17 years. Children Born this Year deserve better now.

    It’s has taken 10 years to get an RSU option taken seriously . We dont have anymore time to waste holding onto the past. Complaining about the symptoms of our maladjusted Housing supply only prolongs the delay. Ending Homelessness starts with PREVENTING Homelessness. Lift the Housing Cost Burden for the bottom 33% of the County Residents and you lift the Homeless at the same time.
    Affordable Housing First Prevents Homelessness and guarantees the future quality of life we have.

    Long term Bond Financing just like either the School Board or Park Authority does should .be considered since this is essential to a stable community no less important than Schools and Parks.

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