By Paul Smedberg
and Justin Wilson, Alexandria city councilors
To the editor:
Over the past year, a majority of our colleagues on city council have — through public conversation and legislative action — given the distinct impression that contributions to affordable housing preservation and creation are Alexandria’s highest priority. The city council effectively has placed affordable housing above schools, public safety, human services, transportation, sewer infrastructure and other essential services.
Our entire region has suffered the loss of a vast amount of market-rate affordable housing chiefly because of rapidly escalating property valuations. We all want to ensure that Alexandria remains a place where a variety of housing is available for a diverse and vital community. This remains an important priority of government — but certainly not the only one.
We believe that the politics surrounding affordable housing are unfortunately trumping sound fiscal policy and allowing local representatives to make commitments that may ultimately prove counterproductive. This overzealous desire may result in extensive cuts to schools, public safety and human services at a time when our residents are relying on these services more than ever.
Alternatively, these commitments may force the city to levy taxes higher than residents — battered by an unpredictable economy and austerity at the state and federal level — can afford.
With our support, the council recently approved the largest commitment of taxpayer dollars to affordable housing in Alexandria’s history and the largest developer contribution of affordable housing ever. Furthermore, we strongly support the robust collection of new land-use tools contained in our draft housing master plan that will place us ahead of our neighbors in aggressively using our zoning authority to create and preserve affordable housing.
Good stewardship of taxpayer dollars requires that we carefully weigh the priorities of our community and focus our resources on our most critical needs. Spending dollars that we have not even received before we know the demands of the future is no way to provide that stewardship — and is not a prudent way to govern.