The Shared Prosperity Initiative engages the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to mitigate displacement of very low-income residents and allow these residents to continue to contribute to Arlington’s economic viability and diverse community fabric. We do this through a combination of policy analysis, advocacy, demonstration pilots, and striving to attract major resource investments in deeply affordable housing, deeply affordable childcare, and living wage and workforce pathways.
About 24,300 individuals in Arlington are trying to make ends meet on $42,690 or less. That’s 30% of our area median income for a family of four. These lower wage earners and their families are at high risk of displacement.
Three primary factors drive our lowest-income residents from the community:
All of these issues, separately and when taken together, represent the crushing pressures and impossible trade-offs that our very low-income neighbors face every day as they try to keep a foothold in Arlington. Read “Why It Matters” for a deeper dive into these issues.
Arlington County is one of the fastest growing communities in the Washington Metropolitan region and is an exemplar of a broader pattern of economic growth enjoyed by our region. Yet, not everyone in Arlington shares in the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from economic growth.
Very low-income residents in particular are facing mounting pressures, such as the steady decline in affordable housing and overall increases in living expenses. There is a significant gap between living wages and actual wages for residents working essential functions in our community. These include our childcare and health care workers, office cleaners, and restaurant, retail and construction workers.
Arlington’s high national rankings for its schools and livability grab headlines while the stories of the tens of thousands of people living in or near poverty often go untold. Our safety-net nonprofits and the County work relentlessly with these residents and remind us they are just one emergency away from eviction or job loss.
Arlington is known for its thoughtful and holistic approach to planning and community engagement, as well as a commitment to preserving the diversity and rich social and cultural fabric of the community.
Arlington Community Foundation’s Shared Prosperity Initiative builds on this prior community work and brings together public and private leaders to continue pursuing bold solutions that encourage inclusive economic growth and stop the displacement of our lowest-income residents.
Since the spring 2019 Shared Prosperity kick-off roundtable, Arlington Community Foundation has worked with urgency to refine the strategies discussed and take bold near-term steps in three key areas to reduce this displacement: more deeply affordable housing, deeply affordable childcare, and increased workforce and wage opportunities.
While we are working on longer term solutions, we have called on local government and businesses to go beyond business as usual in two ways: an infusion of resources, and changing local practices over the next five years to stem the displacement.
Want to be a part of the solution? A donation to the Shared Prosperity Fund helps us and our partners advocate for more deeply affordable housing, as well as private rental and childcare subsidies that help individuals work on self-sufficiency and ensure they are not priced out of our community.
By 2024, using government and private investments, create affordability for an additional 1500 Arlington households with incomes of 30% of AMI or less using demonstrations of financing for “bricks and mortar” units affordable at 30% AMI and new rent subsidy strategies. Evaluate and adjust the approach to emergency rent assistance to ensure that housing for very low-income persons can be stabilized through a variety of financial crises.
Actions and policy work 2019 – 2022
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Arlington Community Foundation deployed a $3M donation from Amazon to test buying down bricks and mortar units from 60% to 30% affordability. The funds were passed on via contracts to APAH, AHC, and Wesley Housing to buy down a total of 28 units for this demonstration pilot.
Arlington County secured 26 new units affordable to 30% AMI households with affordability stretched from 60-75 years.
Through these demonstration projects, we’ve learned that it costs an additional $170,000 per unit to buy affordability down from 60% AMI to 30% AMI.
There are two moments in the life of a project that lend themselves easily to 30% AMI investment. The first is during the initial County Board site plan approval; the second is during refinancing, typically 15 years after construction.
The Arlington County Board should strive to dedicate at least 10% of all units in committed affordable developments for 30% AMI households.
Additional sources of funding to bridge the gap between 60% and 30% committed units should include:
– New local funding options, including increased AHIF on-going contributions and dedication of a proportion of AHIF for 30% AM, units as identified in our 2020 Arlington housing ordinance research.
– Commonwealth of Virginia should create earmarked funding dedicated to 30% AMI units using the Housing Trust Fund.
Arlington Community Foundation deployed $.55M in private funding to provide a guaranteed 2-year rent subsidy to 34 households at APAH and AHC who have incomes below 30% AMI, yet are living in 60% units. Participants’ monthly rents are capped at 30% of their income.
Arlington County expanded the Housing Grant program to 96 additional households in FY22. Housing Grant eligible households are: persons with disabilities, older Arlingtonians with severely limited incomes, and working families. The average County Housing Grant in FY22 is $9,000.
There are administrative burdens to landlords who are participating in multiple rent subsidy programs that need to be addressed.
Care must be taken to assure that those assisted do not lose eligibility for other forms of public assistance.
Re-examine Arlington’s Housing Grant program rules and efficacy. This is underway as part of the County’s FY23 budget development. Expanded eligibility and serving more special populations (e.g. those exiting foster care) should be analyzed.
Arlington Community Foundation successfully advocated for a $.5M increase in FY21 emergency assistance funding with changed parameters to allow longer recovery ramps for stressed households. This increase helped the County respond more nimbly to the challenges of the pandemic.
Between March 2020 and August 2021 during the pandemic, Arlington County provided emergency assistance to roughly 5000 households using more than $8M in funding from various governmental programs. Long-time program limits and working requirements for rent and utility bill assistance were lifted.
Pre-pandemic emergency assistance caps are too limited to allow stressed households to stabilize their situations.
Build on enhanced flexibility during the pandemic to recalibrate emergency assistance program parameters moving forward.
In December 2021, Jair Lynch partnered with Arlington County and Amazon to acquire the site, committing to permanent affordability for 1,334 units at 60% of area median income (AMI) and promising that no existing tenants at any income level will be involuntarily displaced. This 60% AMI commitment is a considerable accomplishment for the County and its partners, and is a critical and necessary first step for preserving Barcroft’s affordability.
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 that could help achieve the longer-term, “bricks-and-mortar” goals of
A Call to Action for Long-Term Affordable 30% AMI Units at Barcroft Apartments (September 2022)
Executive Summary: Approaches to Successfully Preserve Affordability for Extremely Low-Income Renters through the Barcroft Apartments Redevelopment (September 2022)
Approaches to Successfully Preserve Affordability for Extremely Low-Income Renters through the Barcroft Apartments Redevelopment (Published September 2022, updated November 2022)
Housing for 30% AMI Households in Arlington (March 2021)
Why Arlington’s Low-Income Residents are Being Displaced
and Why it Matters (Published 2019, updated August 2022)
Moving From Homelessness to Stability:
Committed Affordable Housing for people making 30% of Area Median Income is crucial (December 2021)
Shared Prosperity: Status Report on Affordable Housing Ordinance Review (Nov 2020)
Funding for Housing Dedicated to Households at 30% AMI (July 2021)
By 2024, through government and private investments and policy changes, an additional 1,000 children from very low-income Arlington families will have access to a quality child care program.
Actions and policy work 2019 – 2022
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Following the 2019 Shared Prosperity Roundtable, a number of strategies were endorsed that had the potential to lower the cost of childcare by addressing the high cost of rent. Many of them are drawn from a 2009 Arlington Economic Development report Childcare in the Commercial Corridors and the 2017 Child Care Initiative.
While there was generalized agreement in both 2009 and 2017 that addressing the high cost of rent was an important piece of lowering the cost of care, systemic changes that address affordability have not been made. Rather, County Board actions have happened episodically as development projects have come forward and may or may not be applied similarly from project to project.
Create a list of County Board-approved projects and the land use tools or other incentives that were used to provide dedicated child care spaces since 2017. Include data on whether slot affordability was a consideration in the approved site plan conditions.
Detail on the County website – and in conversations with developers – the tools the County is willing to deploy to achieve greater affordability for childcare slots.
Develop a package for tenants in the commercial corridors that describes the ways that companies can support affordable childcare in their leased building.
Review all zoning adjustments made over the past decade to ensure that childcare is broadly allowed as a ground floor use in every Arlington commercial area.
In preparation for the 2022 General Assembly session, Arlington Community Foundation organized direct advocacy with a number of other foundations to NOVA’s General Assembly Delegation asking them to address a series of barriers to Northern Virginia provider participation in the state subsidy program. Training, health, and retirement benefits for childcare workers were also requested.
While the General Assembly did take some actions during the 2022 session, none of the actions are likely to result in significant uptake in the number of Arlington providers willing to accept state subsidy payments. The General Assembly used budget language to require the VA Department of Education to set childcare subsidy rates based on the cost to prove quality childcare. The state subsidy amount for Arlington has not been the primary driver of center acceptance in our community and the adjustment made for Arlington can only be described as minimal.
The General Assembly also made some adjustments to family co-payment requirements which potentially could effect Arlington provider program participation:
Finally, the General Assembly enacted HB 884 which will permit the creation of benefits consortiums for small businesses. This is a tool that could potentially be used by home day care and childcare centers to offer affordable health care.
Even though current state subsidies provide funding that is close to the market rate cost for childcare in Arlington, local providers largely do not participate in the program.
Current salaries and benefits for providers are not competitive with public schools who themselves are facing a significant hiring challenge.
Although incremental progress was made in the state childcare subsidy program in 2022, additional actions are needed to directly address the administrative burden and upfront costs that participating providers face.
Remove the required 7%-of-income family co-pay for households at 150% of the federal poverty guidelines (the equivalent of Arlington’s 30% AMI), make long-term changes (post-pandemic) to the family eligibility criteria (income up to 85% of state median income, job search as a qualifying activity) and allow for an increased number of pre-approved absences.
Monitor impacts of the 2022 state subsidy changes on Arlington families and centers with a focus on determining whether these changes were significant enough to increase the number of Arlington centers that accept the state subsidy.
Provide assistance to childcare providers to ease access to the Affordable Care Act and support the formation of a benefits consortium for all Arlington childcare providers.
In late 2021, as a follow-on to the Arlington Childcare Initiative, Arlington Community Foundation identified a number of activities that Arlington County could undertake that would advance our Shared Prosperity goal, including providing the first month’s tuition as a grant to the providers taking the State subsidies, underwriting co-pays with local dollars, and exploring use of the state’s Mixed Delivery program for 3 and 4 year- olds.
In November 2021, Arlington County set aside $5M in ARPA funding to support a bricks and mortar investment that will provide significant childcare slots affordable to very low-income earners for significant periods of time. The method of achieving those slots has not yet been determined.
Arlington County is repurposing an existing half-day co-operative pre-K program into a full-day program for 20 children in fall 2022 at Gunston Community Center.
In summer of 2022, Arlington Thrive received a Community Development Fund grant to cover a child care locater/navigator position to help low income families find providers who will take the State subsidy and to advocate to additional childcare centers or family daycare homes to accept the subsidy. The program offers financial assistance to cover fees not covered by the subsidy and assistance with paperwork or other barriers to accepting the subsidy. As part of this project, Thrive also brokered an agreement with Little Beginnings Child Development Center to participate in the subsidy program allowing 10 low income children to attend the Center. Thrive will pay the family co-pays.
Both supply and affordability to Arlington parents are significant barriers, especially to the lowest income families. Childcare costs in Arlington are among the highest in the nation.
High zoning, permitting, and other administrative costs faced by childcare providers make the business minimally profitable.
Affordable quality childcare is both an educational equity issue (school readiness) and an employment equity issue (reliable affordable childcare is a prerequisite for low wage earners to work and childcare workers deserve decent pay and benefits).
The disproportionately high cost of childcare in Arlington requires significant work to lower provider costs through zoning, permitting, build-out grants, etc. as laid out in the Arlington Childcare Initiative Implementation Plan.
Eliminate local barriers to full utilization of state childcare funding that Arlington is eligible for through the Virginia Preschool Initiative and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation’s Mixed Delivery program.
In 2020-2021, Arlington Community Foundation deployed $200,000 from Nestle in a small pilot test of privately funded scholarships to children whose families earn below 30% AMI families and who are not eligible for State subsidies. The scholarships support childcare for five children ages 2-5 for 2 years at an average cost of $1,622 per month per child.
In the course of implementing the private scholarship pilot, we learned that, although State subsidies cover close to the market rate, local providers largely do not participate in these programs due to heavy administrative burdens. As a result, public dollars available for Arlington are left unused.
Rather than continuing to raise funds for private scholarships, problems with the State subsidy program must be addressed so Arlington can efficiently and effectively deploy all government resources.
Arlington Community Foundation joined 21 Safety Net Arlington nonprofits in Calls to Action directed jointly to the County and APS collaborate to offer school-aged childcare to essential low-wage workers who could not work from home during the 2020-21 virtual learning school years. Despite citing this as both an educational equity and an employment equity issue, these were unsuccessful.
Arlington Community Foundation recommended the establishment of a $500,000 school-aged childcare contingency during development of the FY21 budget. The County Board did not include that item in its adopted budget.
Many barriers to nimble solutions to facility uses during emergencies exist in Arlington’s zoning code and child care regulations.
The County and APS do not have existing relationships and structures to support efficient decision-making on cross-cutting issues during emergencies.
An honest debrief of why Arlington County and APS were not able to address this need – at the same time that most others in the DMV did – is needed along with recommendations to create the conditions for more nimble, collaborative responses in the future.
Shared Prosperity: Childcare Recommendations for Arlington County (Nov 2021)
A childcare request from Northern Virginia’s community foundations to NOVA Delegates (Jan 2022)
Safety Net Calls to Action on Childcare to APS and County (Oct and Dec 2020)
By 2024, through collaboration between government, business, and philanthropy, at least two sustained job-specific skill training programs that lead to full time jobs with living wages and benefits will be operating in Arlington County. A dependable pool of funds that covers ancillary needs such as transportation and child care will be established for Arlingtonians who are actively engaged in training.
One of our key goals is plausible career pathways with hiring commitments and living wages and benefits for very low income folks with a high school diploma/GED or less. To break that down further:
By plausible we mean realistic careers (ex: hospitality, transportation, and building trades, not necessarily tech jobs) given people’s educational backgrounds and existing skills.
By pathways we mean ones involving training or apprenticeships that lead to forward mobility and take childcare and transportation onto account.
By hiring commitments we mean that there are employers who have positions committed to this effort,
Living wages and benefits are key. We are very focused on the benefits cliff and what a bind that puts people in as they strive to increase their incomes.
We are looking for something that is scalable. In other words, not just a few slots here and there, but projects with the right partners and investments that could provide opportunities to a significant number of low income Arlington residents.
For more context on these needs, read these articles about the challenges workers face in finding full time employment, and how reduced work hours negatively impact almost every aspect of a person’s life.
Actions and policy work 2019 – 2022
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Arlington Community Foundation joined forces with several organizations including Arlington Employment Center and REEP (APS’s adult ESL program) over the last few years to plan demonstration pilots of plausible career pathways that included skills training with hiring commitments, decent pay and benefits. None of these came to fruition for a variety of reasons. These included:
– Virginia Hospital Center piloted a more accessible, culturally sensitive recruiting pipeline for specific jobs in the hospital. Despite major efforts on everyone’s part, the staffing and administrative burdens to sustain and grow this process were not realistic given other demands on hospital staff. Very few of the pilot participants made it through the process.
– JBG Smith and Clark Construction planned a large recruitment project that addressed hiring barriers and apprenticeships for the construction trades for Amazon’s National Landing project site in Crystal City. Unfortunately, as the labor market evolved during the pandemic, sufficient workers were found via prior subcontractor union commitments without deploying the planned program.
Arlington County launched a successful Child Development Associate training program. Between January 2020 through December 2021, 18 people have completed the CDA classes at the Arlington Employment Center. Seven of the 18 have earned their CDA credentials from the Council for Professional Recognition, with the remaining 11 expected to receive them by March 2022. All 18 have gained employment, a better job, or a raise.
In December 2021, Arlington County allocated $565,000 in ARPA funding for a new Back2Work initiative designed to serve 200-400 low-income Arlingtonians who lost work due to COVID.
Arlington Community Foundation met with the Northern Virginia Labor Federation to better understand their apprentice and pre-apprentice programs and the barriers (e.g. transportation, childcare, and the like) that participants encounter that may interfere with successful program completion. Arlington Community Foundation also had conversations with WMATA concerning bus drivers, and is in conversation with the Carpenters’ Union about ways to support their existing pilot for adults at the Arlington Career Center.
We’ve had difficulty gaining traction in the Shared Prosperity workforce goal area. Investments in soft-skills training, industry-specific skills training, and funding to address barriers like transportation costs and childcare has not been a focus of County funding or local philanthropy. Arlington still needs a great deal of capacity-building to get to and sustain success.
Living wages and health benefits are critical for people to be able to move out of poverty and dependency on public assistance. The 2021 cost of living in Arlington is four times the 2021 State minimum wage.
In early 2022, the 32BJ Union estimated that approximately 3,000+ Union members live in Arlington and work in commercial office cleaning, commercial building security, or airline services at DCA (Reagan National Airport). 32BJ has continued to advocate through the pandemic for improved wages, paid time off, and access to health care across all of these areas of work. The Union also reported that in January 2022 most security employees are back at work and jobs have generally returned to DCA. However, commercial cleaning jobs have not returned to prepandemic numbers and are not expected to grow significantly anytime soon. The Union has begun to explore training opportunities beyond their typical ESL and GED focused classes, including reaching out to the Arlington Employment Center, to potentially help these worker develop new skills that will provide access to good-paying jobs in other sectors.
Active, on-going collaboration with unions and businesses should be prioritized to create dependable pathways to good jobs that allow households to move out of poverty. Arlington has several strong opportunities to do this as the re-development plan for Barcroft Apartments is created and talks move forward about the Career Center parcel and school needs, as well as on-going construction to accommodate Amazon’s plans for development of their headquarters.
Project Labor Agreements that include living wages should be sought in major APS and County-funded construction projects and other procurements, and encouraged between major employers and unions.
Labor Peace Agreements (an LPA is an agreement entered into between an employer and a union pursuant to which the employer agrees not to oppose unionization, and the union agrees to not strike or otherwise stop work) should be explored as Arlington’s hotel industry builds back. Unfortunately, in the District of Columbia, room attendants and housekeeping cleaners have median wages 26% higher and desk clerks have median wages 41% higher than the Arlington-Alexandria-DC average. Many Arlington residents commute to hospitality jobs in D.C. and Maryland that pay significantly better than hospitality jobs in Arlington. While LPAs cannot be compelled under Virginia law, the County Board should encourage such cooperation between hoteliers and unions because development of new hotels, and the accompanying increased number of new, low-wage hotel jobs, is likely to further exacerbate the County’s affordable housing crisis.
What is the Shared Prosperity Partnership?
In January 2019, Arlington Community Foundation was named as the lead local partner by the national Shared Prosperity Partnership. The Partnership — a collaboration of Urban Institute, The Kresge Foundation, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, and Living Cities — convenes local leaders in select communities across the United States to support inclusive growth by providing data, research, and access to national experts, networks, and financial resources.
Any questions, suggestions or comments about the Shared Prosperity Initiative can be emailed to Anne Vor der Bruegge, Director of Grants and Initiatives by clicking here.