Local Commentary

Editorial: Add Housing to The Budget

It is hard to overstate how well the leaders in the City of Falls Church have done managing the process to permit the construction of a brand new, state of the art $120 million high school that, beginning with the coming fiscal year, will add no new costs for City taxpayers to bear. On the contrary, the projections are that within a few years, the impact of the policy will actually begin to bring the real estate tax rate down.

Of course, this success is predicated on the continued health of the global, national and regional economies. But the regional economy is strong, and in that context, the Amazon HQ2 decision is an important contributor to the prospects for longer term stability. It is the combination of technological innovation and higher education that is the solid platform for this stability.

There is nothing which suggests that the combination of high tech and higher education should in any way limit the parameters of social demographics, in terms of the racial, ethnic and identity orientations, of any living or moving here. The kind of boom that we look forward to here needs all hands on deck at all levels of talent and employment.

This said, the one glaring absence in City Manager Wyatt Shields’ proposed coming fiscal year budget for the City of Falls Church is in the area of diversity in the City’s housing stock. Council members Letty Hardi and Phil Duncan spoke to this at Monday’s Council meeting where Shields unveiled his recommendations. There is no need to interrupt the maintenance of no tax rate hikes in this budget to re-prioritize and begin setting resources aside to insure there is the diverse variety of housing stock to meet all of our citizens’ needs.

It also goes to the issue of the 10.3 acre “Falls Church Gateway” project that the team of EYA, PN Hoffman and Regency are designing for site plan approval over the summer. There are as many as 1,000 new residential units that are being planned for the project, including senior restricted housing, standard rental apartments, pricey condominiums, and maybe up to 100 so-called “micro units.” A share of each of these will be dedicated to subsidized affordable rates.

To the developers, the mix of these matters only in terms of what they think will sell best, and surely the region is overflowing with all types of prospective customers. However, the City needs to weigh in with its priorities at this point, and it must prevail upon the developers to provide a higher percentage of the more affordable “micro units” in the mix.

They will be wildly popular and will serve a pressing need for affordable and workforce housing that the City needs to fulfil its commitment to diversity, although we predict they will attract a disproportionate number of well-paid Amazon employees, too. Build 1,000 of those alone, we say.

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