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Opinion

Examiner Local Editorial: Affordable housing hypocrisy

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Opinion,Local Editorial

Political leaders in Arlington County and the city of Alexandria routinely cite their unwavering support for "affordable housing" to convince voters that they are protecting low-income residents from greedy developers.

In his January inaugural address, Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada said that increasing the supply of affordable housing was his top priority. And earlier this month, Alexandria Mayor William Euille reiterated his "commitment to preserving and protecting affordable housing."

In reality, Tejada, Euille and the all-Democrat Arlington Board and Alexandria City Council are presiding over the imminent destruction of thousands of scarce low-income rental units in Northern Virginia.

With the exception of Libby Garvey, Tejada and his fellow board members have downplayed the devastating effect on rents that the $250 million Columbia Pike streetcar they voted for will have on one of the region's most affordable housing corridors. Spending $1 million on a single bus stop -- one of 24 planned for the pike -- was the tip-off that the trolley is an amenity intended for the well-to-do, since the cost is equivalent to one-eighth of the $8 million that the county budgets annually for all affordable housing.

Arlington's own economic consultant, Partners for Economic Solutions, admitted in a July 2012 report that the majority of the 10,000 new high-density units will be provided "at prevailing market rates" -- because charging high rents is the only way the massive redevelopment project can be commercially feasible. Rents will only be "affordable" for those earning $60,000 or more a year, which excludes most of the current residents. That same figure is also what PES calculates county taxpayers will pay -- per unit -- to retain apartments they can afford.

Last Friday, Arlington officials announced they would not be receiving $75 million in Federal Transit Administration Small Starts funding, which is nearly a third of the streetcar's $250 million estimated cost. So the FTA may inadvertently have done more to preserve real affordable housing than the Arlington County Board.

It's the same story in Alexandria. Thousands of low-income tenants will be forced out of their garden-style apartments in the city's Beauregard section because city council members voted 6-0 last May to allow wealthy landowners to demolish thousands of older rental units and replace them with luxury condos and apartments, with taxpayers forced to subsidize "affordable" units at the higher rate.

Democrats claim they are devoted to keeping housing affordable, but their actions clearly say otherwise.

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