Arlington’s most acute affordable housing challenge has been and will continue to be very low income renters—those making below 30% of our Area Median Income (AMI).

The vast majority of them are essential workers who form the backbone of our economy: childcare providers, office cleaners, health aides, food service workers and more. Also included in this group are seniors and disabled individuals on fixed incomes. They are all an important part of our community fabric and economic viability.

In 2020, Arlington Community Foundation initiated two small pilot projects to explore strategies to reduce the cost of housing for 30% AMI renter households:

  • A rent subsidy program focused on households not eligible for an Arlington County Housing Grant or Housing Choice Voucher that lowered the cost of a unit’s rent to the HUD 30% AMI rent appropriate to the number of persons in the household, and
  • Construction funding designed to lock-in 30% AMI units for 20 or 30 years.

Key Insight

In today’s dollars, 30 years of rent subsidies to affordably house a 30% AMI household ($255,000 or $8500 annually) costs 50% more than a one-time up front bricks and mortar investment ($170,000) locked in for 30 years.

We have applied this insight to develop an Illustrative Pathway for locking in 255 units at 30% AMI affordability at the massive Barcroft Apartment redevelopment. Spreading the already-allocated investment there to achieve a range of affordability (30% – 70% AMI) better aligns with current tenant needs, is a smart use of funding today, and reduces the need for long term deep rent subsidies.

Arlington Community Foundation continues to recommend that County Board and staff ensure that every committed affordable development it approves—whether new construction or renovated/refinanced—dedicates 10% of its units to 30% AMI households.

Read the full reports and the summary of findings at the buttons below to learn more about how these strategies can be an integral part of closing the affordability gap for our lowest income neighbors.