Our View: Hunting the couch cushions and coming up big


    Most municipalities look constantly for new revenue sources to achieve their goals. Whats new? If you want something, you have to pay for it. Metro stations and schools arent financed with what you find between couch cushions, usually. 
    When youre doling out the public trust for the public good as Alexandrias government does, its the taxpayers who foot the bill. And the taxpayers who endure the hikes when the powers that be deem it necessary, whether it be parking meter fees or property tax hikes.
    So in these pages where we have often insisted alternatives to higher taxes, its refreshing to see city council working on a potential fire sale of taxpayer-owned properties to replenish Alexandrias coffers to the tune of $22 million.
    While their sale isnt definite, some of the 13 properties on their way to market have been in limbo for several years; one has been basically vacant since 1980 and is now worth nearly $4 million. So in a sense, City Hall dug under its pew cushions and found some potentially large chunks of change. This is commendable, and should not go unnoticed as a positive solution to raising revenue.
    But it leaves our governing body with tough problems, even if they are problems wed rather have than not: what will these parcels become? Affordable housing? An Apple store? A private residence? A parking lot? A park? A Taco Bell?
    The city has a plethora of voids this money could fill, most of which council members discussed Tuesday night: affordable housing units, open space, money for major transportation projects and economic development centers. City Hall has committed to creating 100 acres of open space, but officials have also outlined the critical need for affordable housing in a city rapidly becoming too expensive to live in for more and more people.
    Each of these city-owned properties is unique so its impractical to say they should all become parks or commercial developments or restaurants. But it is very possible to push for affordable housing when possible, and this should be the strategy of council. 
    If a potential developer is unwilling to contribute reasonably priced units to, say, a new apartment building in Old Town, then the government should look for somebody who will. Or, just as effectively, the city could sell property to the highest bidder in whats expected to be the best housing market since 2007 this year. That money could then be put toward creating more affordable housing so city workers could actually afford to live here, as well as young college graduates and the middle class in general.
    This property belongs to taxpayers. City Hall should use the housing market to leverage our money, but not lose sight of its priorities.