Displacement is essential to Beauregard redevelopment plan

Following an exhaustive tug-of-war over waterfront redevelopment, city planners, residents and developers have begun a new battle for the future of Alexandria, this time in the city’s northwest corner: the Beauregard and Mark Center neighborhoods.

In Old Town, opponents of the waterfront plan feared new hotels and office buildings would disrupt their quality of life. On the West End, opponents of the proposed Beauregard plan worry they’ll be shooed away from their homes forever.

Five developers want to demolish and rebuild some of the last market-rate affordable housing in the city — homes with naturally low values and cheap rent that serve low-income residents. The plan calls for razing 2,500 multifamily apartments and 15 single-family homes. When all is said and done 30 years from now, about 4,000 homes will be added to the landscape for a total of 9,450.

Most will be too expensive for current residents.

“You can clearly see that the Beauregard area has a sizable percentage of households with lower incomes … so we know that we need to do a better job of focusing on people at those income levels,” said Mildrilyn Davis, director of the city’s housing department.

Affordable housing is a fast-fading resource in Alexandria. In 2000, the city had more than 18,000 units. About 6,000 exist now.

City officials know development will mean displacement, which is why the plan calls for cutting a deal with developers to preserve affordable housing. Zoning laws don’t allow the density developers want, so the plan calls for up-zoning the area in exchange for 700 designated “affordable” units, paid for by developer contributions and city reserves.

(Cat VanVliet)

In a region with a high median income, that means a family of four will have to make $59,000, at the low end, to qualify for the affordable homes. Residents will have to apply to stay put, according to the plan.

What’s considered affordable depends whom you ask. An annual household income of $59,000 — 55 percent of the median regional income — is not the norm in Oscar Medina’s neighborhood, according to the West End resident who spoke against the plan.

“The affordable housing that you are suggesting … will only be accessible for people that make more than $60,000,” Medina said through an interpreter. “I have a question: What is the percentage of the millionaires versus the rich versus the people that need to live in affordable housing?”

About 44 percent of households in the Beauregard area make $56,000 or less, according to the plan document.

If the plan passes the public process and becomes reality, displacement is inevitable, but Davis says 700 affordable units are better than the amount of dedicated affordable homes currently in the area: zero.

Davis said the city is looking at strategies to increase designated affordable housing beyond 703 units, “but it’s about how much the city can afford [to supplement].”

“This is still definitely a work in progress,” Davis said.

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Alexandria Times Staff

(6) Readers Comments

  1. It’s not minimum of 55% of area median income, it’s 55% maximum. To qualify, you can make no MORE than 55% AMI. Each AMI level is the same. Your household must make a MAXIMUM of the AMI %.

    This is at least the second article where the writer does not understand how affordable housing criteria work, with an article by Michael Lee Pope in the Gazette a few weeks back being the other I recall. Please, if you’re going to write an article about how this is impacting low income residents, get the essential tenets of affordable housing correct. Doing otherwise is flat out misinformation. I’d call it worse than that if I thought the mistake was intentional.

    • Nick,

      The city’s housing department actually considers 60% of AMI and below the target for affordable housing. But the 703 homes that will be available as affordable housing (once the project is complete) will be priced at a level in which households with an AMI of $59,000 (55%) and higher can afford them. So 55% AMI is the minimum in this particular case, for this particular project. Essentially, the affordable housing that will be available caters to the top segment of the residents requiring it, and right now doesn’t dip below 55% AMI.

      • That is incorrect. The resident or family must make less than 55% of AMI to qualify for that tier. You stated in the article that they must make at least that much to qualify. They must make no more than that AND qualify, which requires standard credit checks and verification of income.

        To find out the minimum income allowed, you’d have to find out what is the maximum % of your income you are allowed to pay as rent and still qualify. The rental price is set at, I believe, 30% of 55% of AMI. Just because it might cost me 40% of my income in rent doesn’t mean I’m not eligible, as long as my income is less than 55% of AMI and I have decent credit, etc.

        People with incomes typically too low to qualify may also have access to housing vouchers, allowing them to qualify with much lower income. The City specifically mentioned vouchers, leading me to believe that at least the affordable units will be required to accept them, and perhaps other units will as well. With market rate units the decision to accept vouchers or not is generally up to the landlord/management company.

        • Nick,

          According to the city’s housing office director, who I interviewed, market-rate affordable housing is considered to be appropriate for households making 60% of AMI or less. As for the income tiers that will be served by the preserved affordable and workforce units, they would apply to those making 55% to 80% of AMI. See page 10 of the city’s staff presentation: http://alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/planning/info/Beauregard/20120223HousingPresentation.pdf

          • That is indeed what the cited presentation says, but something is very wrong here. The page also says that these units are “Available to qualified households with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers”. But the HUD information on section 8 vouchers (see http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/housing_choice_voucher_program_section_8 ) says, regarding eligibility, that “In general, the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live.”

            So I’m inclined to believe that the 55% to 80% AMI range, as stated, is a mistake by City staff, since families having that level of income wouldn’t qualify for the section 8 housing vouchers that they need to get into those units.

  2. David, I undertand Nick’s questions. You wrote, “…a family of four will have to make at least $59,000 to qualify for the affordable homes.” That implies that I would qualify for an affordable home if I make $250K per year. Is that your claim? If not, perhaps this is more clearly expressed with a range that contains an upper limit. Thank you in advance for clarifying. It’s important for people to understand the true impacts of these development plans on those who currently live in the corridor.

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