To the editor: It’s time to sustain affordable housing in Alexandria

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To the editor:

For almost two decades, Alexandria has lost a considerable amount of its affordable housing stock, making it increasingly difficult for average Alexandrians like our seniors, veterans, teachers and others in the public sector workforce to live comfortably. The declining housing stock should not be a surprise to anyone in Alexandria. The time for talk and no action is over and as a city government, we need to put our money where our mouth is and create a dedicated funding stream to sustain affordable housing in our city.

It has become the norm around town that Alexandria is too expensive, but to me that’s just plain unacceptable. Our police and firefighters should be able to call the place they protect and serve home too. Our senior citizens should be able to age in place, comfortably and with respect. And our veterans deserve the right to come back to a home where they were born and raised. Our sense of community is eroding and more must be done to reverse any further damage.

With development in Alexandria continuing to grow, the need for subsidies to serve lower and moderate income households increases and we will be at a shortfall. Citizens and advocacy organizations alike have asked once again for a reliable, dedicated source of funding. That’s what I intend to do.

As a city and as a broader regional community, I believe that Alexandria can lead the way in thinking outside of the box when it comes to housing affordability. It is true that Alexandria is not the only locality dealing with this issue. Just last week we saw in the Washington Post that officials in Miami-Dade County, with the fourth-largest school district in the mainland, are pushing a plan to build housing for teachers on land right on or next to the schools where they work. The plan is serious and money has already been committed to the project. As a city, we have to take a serious look at how we advocate for and acquire affordable housing because we are heading down a dangerous path.

Lack of available affordable housing is rearing its head all across our country. But in Alexandria, the time for actionable solutions is now and I know that we can lead the way. Some have argued against dedicated funding streams, but Alexandria already uses multiple dedicated funding streams to address some of our most serious challenges — and securing additional funds for affordable housing through a small tax is no different.

Michelle Krocker from the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance said it best: “As the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment approaches $1,700 a month, working residents with modest incomes, new families with young children and seniors on fixed incomes are being priced out of the city’s housing market. Our workforce in the restaurant and hospitality industry, healthcare workers, small business employees and many others struggle to find housing that they can afford.”

I’m open to hearing solutions and options from anyone willing to tackle this challenge with me. I strongly believe that no solution is perfect, but something needs to be done and it needs to be done now.

-Willie F. Bailey, Sr., member, Alexandria City Council

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