Barcroft Apartments Redevelopment: Opportunities, Challenges, Takeaways

Development and Financing Considerations Relevant to Ongoing Housing Stability for Current Barcroft Apartment Tenants 

Updated poverty information for Arlington indicates that nearly 24,300 individuals–just over 10% of our population–are trying to make ends meet at or below 30% of our Area Median Income, or $42,690 for a family of four.

Current data shows that living costs for such a household in Arlington average three times that.

We are working with urgency to ensure that the Barcroft Apartments redevelopment plan produces a sufficient number of units affordable at 30% AMI. This includes exploring capital sources, subsidies, land use tools, and/or other resources that do not create barriers that lead to involuntary displacement among existing tenants or prevent occupancy by similar tenants in the future.

The preservation and pending redevelopment of the Barcroft Apartments is one opportunity that can help ensure that Arlington County remains an inclusive and economically vibrant community. However, market dynamics and the scale of the site create considerable challenges for achieving the promised continuation of residency for all current tenants moving forward. Among those various challenges, Arlington Community Foundation is investigating strategies to achieve the longer-term, “bricks-and-mortar” goals of ensuring that: 

  1. The redevelopment plan produces a sufficient number of units affordable at 30% AMI to serve existing households or 10-15% of all affordable units, whichever number is greater (hereafter, the extremely-low income or ELI unit target); and 
  1. The financing strategy uses capital sources, subsidies, land use tools, and/or other resources that do not create barriers that lead to involuntary displacement among existing tenants or prevent occupancy by similar tenants in the future.  

This briefing memo is a working document summarizing our initial findings, intended to outline for local stakeholders (County leadership, the development and finance sector, housing advocates, etc.) a broad menu of options for reaching the ELI unit target, which would range from 134 units (10%) to more than 200 units depending on the existing income of Barcroft Apartment residents. Though some initial analysis was conducted based on high-level property details, land use provisions, and financing options, additional study is required to ascertain whether these options are feasible in practice.1 

Based on this initial analysis, we offer the following key takeaways:  

– At a high level, the ELI unit target is an achievable but challenging target, and success will require flexibility and the utilization of a wide range of public and private resources.  

– Many traditional tools and resources for facilitating deeply targeted units are limited compared to the scale of need at the Barcroft Apartments, do not meet the specific needs of current tenants, and/or are limited by the regulatory policies that are currently in place. Examples of such constrained tools include HUD Housing Choice Vouchers and project-based rental assistance; Arlington County Housing Grants and AHIF capital subsidies; Virginia Housing LIHTC equity and gap financing; and the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. While all of these resources will likely play critical roles in Barcroft’s redevelopment process, achieving the ELI unit target will require additional resources. 

– Specialized sources of funding exist to provide deeply affordable units to those who need permanent supportive housing (PSH). PSH units include wrap-around services and case management and are targeted toward the most vulnerable households – such as those experiencing chronic homelessness. Individual projects within the overall redevelopment plan would need to provide at least 8% of units as PSH to be eligible for these funds. Furthermore, the context of the current tenant population demonstrates a need for deeply affordable units outside of the target PSH population. While current residents may benefit from the enhanced resident services envisioned as part of the redevelopment plan, not all may need the more intensive services associated with PSH. Pending the results of the census, there is more than likely to be a need for the ELI unit target to be achieved not just with PSH, but also non-PSH deeply affordable units. 

– As such, achieving the ELI unit target will require combining the limited traditional tools that are available with other creative approaches, including engagement with a wide range of potential donors including corporate philanthropic institutions, and national and local foundations (hereafter, philanthropic institutions), local/regional businesses, and community-oriented investors and lenders such as CDFIs. Some of these approaches may require careful and proactive collaboration between the development team, Arlington County, and other financing partners to identify a path forward and remove financing and regulatory hurdles. 

– Traditional tools that must be employed to achieve the ELI unit target include:  

  1. “Bricks and mortar” buydowns via public subsidy (including the Virginia Housing Trust Fund), philanthropy, and/or a capital campaign 
  2. Property-level rental assistance accounts/contracts 
  3. Financing incentives (such as loan guarantees/interest rate buydowns and County loan repayment adjustments) to reduce debt service obligations 

– In addition, the following approaches could create opportunities for creating additional deeply-targeted units and/or defray the per-unit cost of achieving the ELI unit target. Some of these approaches will require relatively modest regulatory changes2

  1. Using income averaging/targeting flexibility allowed under the Virginia Housing LIHTC Qualified Allocation Plan and under the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan Form Based Code (FBC). 
  2. Leveraging redevelopment of the commercial nodes to produce committed affordable units (CAFs) and/or cross-subsidize units on the Barcroft Apartment site.  
  3. Within the context/spirit of the form-based code (FBC), rebalancing the proportion of units included in the site redevelopment plan vs. the Neighborhood Conservation Areas.  

Though the financing and redevelopment challenges will be difficult to overcome, there is a potentially viable path for achieving the ELI unit target and assuring Arlington’s ongoing diversity and vibrancy to exist.  It is important to remember that each phase of Barcroft’s redevelopment will require its own combination of funding sources and that these phases will occur over at least 10 years.  Vigilance regarding affordable housing funding sources and methods as well as creativity will be needed throughout the process.  

Arlington Community Foundation looks forward to working with all relevant stakeholders to achieve the ELI unit target and help ensure that Arlington County remains an inclusive and economically vibrant community. For additional information and further discussion, please contact Mary Hynes at: mhynes@arlcf.org


1 To illustrate, the analysis included Columbia Pike Form Based Code provision for replacing affordable units that were demolished as part of a redevelopment, but did not include an assessment of feasibility of additional density on a given site.

2 Certain sections of the Affordable Housing Plan Covenants and the Deed of Declaration of Restrictive Covenants governing the acquisition may need to be revisited to provide maximum flexibility to achieve the range of affordability that the current tenants represent.

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