Your Views: Civic engagement needed on housing policy

Your Views: Civic engagement needed on housing policy
Eisenhower East constructed and pledged affordable rentals units. (Image/City of Alexandria)

To the editor:

City hall expects development projects to get through the process expeditiously, even if it means cutting corners, such as with the Eisenhower East project last May, where our City Council put the developer’s interest ahead of city taxpayers because staff took too long finding the extra million dollars the developer should pay. The threat that a developer might not be able to do a project is sufficient to wrest concessions from elected officials no matter what small area plans say. Besides, city hall will insist that it will miss out on a contribution to BikeShare and the housing trust fund.

City hall relies upon the Council of Governments’ allocation to each jurisdiction of a number of new housing units to meet forecast population growth. But the COG doesn’t vote or pay taxes in Alexandria, so critics are within our rights to criticize city hall when it puts outside interests before those of city taxpayers and voters. The COG allocation has the appearance of a smokescreen to mask concessions to special interests.

Instead of ignoring or attacking critics, city hall has failed to engage civic leaders in respectful debate in which it could point out that as long as the local population continues increasing, the people have to live somewhere reasonably proximate to their jobs and daily life activities. Folks cannot welcome Amazon to Northern Virginia without affording a place to live for the workers Amazon will bring.

You cannot be for population-increasing policies, e.g., child tax credits both parties support, abortion restrictions Republicans favor, or immigration increases Democrats demand, and object to making way for enough housing for these additional people to live.

The dais could press civic leaders opposing some particular development as to exactly where they’d build housing for this additional population. And civic leaders would well answer carefully, because a generic “somewhere else” is insufficient. If every project belongs “somewhere else,” they will all end up nowhere, and a specific somewhere else is open to the rejoinder, “Have you obtained the somewhere else’s support?”

-Dino Drudi, Alexandria