Shared Prosperity

Image Shared Prosperity

The Shared Prosperity Initiative engages leaders from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to identify opportunities 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. Our starting point is demonstration pilots and policy changes in deeply affordable housing, deeply affordable childcare, and workforce development.

The Need

About 24,700 individuals in Arlington are trying to make ends meet on $38,700 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.

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. 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.

Our Target Areas

affordable housing and childcare and workforce development

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.

As we design a way forward together, we hope we can count on you to be a part of the solution. Check back often for updates and developments in this work as we forge ahead.

Affordable Housing

The Goal

By 2024, using government and private investments, create affordability for an additional 1500 Arlington households with incomes of 30% of AMI or less using both bricks and mortar demonstrations 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 taken 2019 – 2021

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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.

Key insights:

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:

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 and lowered the tenants’ contribution to 30% of income 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.

Key insights:

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 through 2021.

Key insights:

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.

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 2021)

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)

Affordable Childcare

The Goal

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 taken 2019 – 2021

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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.

Legislation may be introduced in the 2022 General Assembly Session.

Key insights:

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.

Recommendations (view detailed recommendations under “Policy examples” below):

Change the state subsidy program to reduce the administrative burden and upfront costs for providers.

For households making under 30% AMI, remove the requirement for a 7%-of-income family co-pay.

Keep the more flexible eligibility criteria adopted during the pandemic.

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.

Key insights:

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.

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.

Key insights:

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.


Incentivize providers to take subsidies through recommended General Assembly and County actions.

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 and 2021 virtual learning school years. Despite citing this as both an educational equity and an employment equity issue, these were unsuccessful.

Arlington Community Foundation requested 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.

Key insights:

Many barriers to nimble solutions to facility uses 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: Child Care Recommendations (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)

Shared Prosperity Partnership

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.

Contact Us

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.

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