How does density lower affordable housing costs?

How does density lower affordable housing costs?

To the editor: 

Affordable housing is again at the forefront of public discussion because of a proposal that proponents say will provide more of it through more density. Linda Couture’s recent letter presents an in-depth discussion of the infrastructure problems with this proposal. I want to give another perspective through a discussion of our recent history. I moved to Alexandria from Washington, D.C., in 1981. I came here because I expected to commute into my Federal government job in the District by bus and Metrorail and so I did. 

I was raised to consider voting as equivalent to a religious duty, so I quickly registered and began to follow Alexandria’s issues. A major issue, often discussed, was affordable housing. James Moran, later our Congressman for about 30 years, became mayor of Alexandria in 1985. I voted for him that year. 

Not long after, I attended a well attended public non-partisan meeting with Moran. I don’t remember exactly who sponsored that meeting. I am certain it was non-partisan because as an active federal civil servant in 1985, I was banned from attending any partisan meetings. 

What I do remember as clearly as if it was yesterday is Moran’s talk and how it was received. He pointed out that recent infrastructure improvements designed to prevent flooding in Eisenhower Valley plus the newly opened Metrorail station there meant it was ready for development. 

He also clearly stated that development could be both dense and affordable. The audience received his assessment with enthusiasm. Everyone at that meeting knew there was vacant land in Eisenhower Valley. 

My most recent visit to Eisenhower Avenue last year was to renew my handicapped parking sticker at the Department of Motor Vehicles office there. I noted all the new residential buildings all built after 1985. I traveled from Holland Lane to the DMV a couple of miles west. I passed towering apartment buildings and new town houses. 

These are very large townhouses. Just a few years ago they were advertised as each priced over one million dollars. I’m sure they would go for more if resold. I never inquired about the rental rates for the apartments when I became a renter. I knew they were too expensive for a retired civil servant. 

Since I first came to Alexandria, mayors and council members have introduced plans for ever increased density. We certainly gained population, but not one searching for affordable housing. The question Mayor Justin Wilson and members of Council need to answer in addition to the missing infrastructure one is just how does this latest increased density plan truly result in more affordable housing? 

-Katy Cannady, Alexandria