Goodbye eyesore, goodbye affordable housing

Goodbye eyesore, goodbye affordable housing

The Alexandria City Council signed off on a plan Saturday to redevelop The Calvert, a 16-story relic from the 1960s on the edge of Del Ray near Arlandria-Chirilagua. 

About 190 affordable housing units are likely on the outs along with the Mt. Vernon Avenue buildings out-dated modernist look.

Back then we were a suburb, said Vice Mayor Kerry Donley at Saturdays city council public hearing. Were not a suburb anymore. Were part of the urban fabric of Washington, D.C.

The revamp, which includes adding 145 apartment units and rehashing 16,000 square feet of retail space at the base of the building, will stimulate the area economically as well as visually, city officials hope.

But with redevelopment likely comes a higher cost of living. Calvert tenants currently pay $1,267 a month for the cheapest one-bedroom apartment available there, a Calvert leasing agent said. That figure is a rare bargain for renters in Alexandria, falling below the threshold of what the city deems affordable housing according to a 2009 report by Alexandrias Office of Housing.

The Calverts facelift is not expected to be complete until 2012, so leasing costs for the market-rate units are up in the air. The cheapest one-bedroom apartment at Del Ray Central, a brand new market-rate apartment community directly across the street, costs $1,775 a month a leasing agent said.

A household would need to make about $70,000 a year to afford living there, according to the housing report.

Lower priced homes are in short supply in increasingly affluent Alexandria and have been for several years. City Hall has secured about 100 new units of affordable and workforce housing (homes the average city employee can afford) recently via developer partnerships, but its overall stock is still low.

UDRs plans align with city criteria, and officials want economic development in an area Councilman Paul Smedberg called in transition. 

While City Hall likes to keep tabs on low-priced housing in an expensive natural market, it cannot stymie property owner and developer UDR in the name of it. The government has distinguished affordable-housing locales but the Calvert is not one of them. Its low rent is market-rate for the aged property. 

Though regrettable, the loss in affordable housing is a casualty of being inside the Beltway, a desirable area with high quality of living, and the project should be a boon for the area, Councilman Rob Krupicka said.  

Theres nothing we can do, he said. The loss of affordable housing is unfortunate but [UDR] owns it and its a good project for the area.

The developer voluntarily donated $421,000 to the citys affordable housing trust fund, according to UDR attorney Duncan Blair. 

City staffers are working on a comprehensive affordable housing plan to achieve a desirable stable of housing for Alexandrias less affluent residents. 

“We’ve certainly lost a lot that will be very difficult to get back or to fully replace, there’s no question about that,” Midlrilyn Davis, director of the housing department, said in April when discussing the master plan. “But if we don’t do it now, we could end up losing even more.”