New Report: Northern Virginia's Preservation Challenge

By Michael A. Spotts

On June 20, the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance (NVAHA) released research produced by Neighborhood Fundamentals on Northern Virginia’s Preservation Challenge: Trends, Threats, and OpportunitiesThis report is a follow up to NVAHA’s 2011 report, Charting a Way Forward: Preserving Market Rate and Affordable Housing in Northern Virginia’s Inner Suburbs, authored by Angie Rodgers.

Like many high-cost regions throughout the country, Northern Virginia’s inner jurisdictions of the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, and Fairfax County are experiencing cost increases and the loss of rental units affordable to low- and moderate-income households. Investors are actively seeking out lower-cost market-rate and expiring subsidized properties in order to benefit from increasing rents and potentially capitalize on redevelopment potential. Northern Virginia’s Preservation Challenge provides a detailed overview of both regional and national trends, analyzes the barriers to preserving affordable housing, and identifies opportunities for overcoming those barriers. Specifically, NVAHA and Neighborhood Fundamentals collaborated to develop 22 recommendations for the region’s governments, funders, and developers. These recommendations fall into three broad categories:

  • Interventions to help mission-driven developers acquire properties;
  • Interventions to encourage existing owners to maintain affordability; and
  • Incentives to encourage affordability through rehabilitation and/or redevelopment.

The four highest-level policy priorities include:

  • More effectively using public subsidies to leverage/attract private capital for preservation;
  • Building capacity to preserve smaller-scale buildings in high-opportunity neighborhoods;
  • Adopting or improving property tax abatement programs to increase utilization by private, market-rate owners; and
  • Encouraging equitable redevelopment through zoning and land use flexibility.

We hope that this report will serve as a call-to-action. As resources remain constrained, it is imperative now more than ever to coordinate policy, programmatic, and funding activities that will save the affordable homes that already exist.

For more information on this research, please contact Michelle Krocker, Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance and Michael A. Spotts, President of Neighborhood Fundamentals, LLC