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City Views presents commentary from staff on the latest projects, initiatives, and successes.

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Nov 22

Housing in the City of Falls Church is Becoming Out-of-Reach

Posted on November 22, 2016 at 3:50 PM by Susan Finarelli

By Paul Stanford, Department of Housing and Human Services

Housing affordability for low and moderate income families in the City of Falls Church continues to be a challenge as rental and homeownership opportunities are becoming out of reach. A survey released by the City’s Housing and Human Services Unit in August 2016 supported this assertion as more than 86 percent of respondents answered that they felt the City is not affordable to live in (see graph). Moreover, 53 percent of survey respondents answered that they pay more than 30% of their gross monthly income on rent or mortgage payments.

Market rate apartment rents are becoming out of reach for low and moderate income households. The City’s Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) program attempts to address this by serving households between 50% - 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Many survey respondents felt the ADU program is a great solution to increase affordable rental housing. Other suggestions included the City should require developers to provide more than 6 percent of new units, which is outlined in the Affordable Housing Policy, as ADUs in new multifamily housing developments, and for ADU rents to be affordable to households with lower incomes (under 50 percent of the AMI).

More than 62 percent of survey respondents answered that they are currently homeowners. In a City where the median home sale price for a detached house is over $700,000, even homeowners with total household incomes over $150,000 (40 percent of survey respondents), are feeling an affordability pinch.

40 percent of survey respondents answered the City should allocate more resources towards affordable housing. In addition, 65 percent of respondents answered the City should do more to increase both supply of affordable housing units and the amount of people receiving financial help to live in the City.

What’s next? As the City’s updates its Comprehensive Plan, it will be important for results from the housing survey to be used for the creation of ideas and policies to meet some of the aforementioned concerns. The City’s vision statement aims for a community that “offers diversity in housing.” 63 percent of survey respondents feel the City is not an inclusive community. Therefore, affordable housing is one of the main issues that needs to be addressed. Some ways to do this include: requiring developers to provide more than 6% of new units as ADUs in new multifamily developments; partnering with other jurisdictions and non-profit organizations on joint-projects; increasing funding in the City’s Affordable Housing Fund, which provides funding to maintain existing affordable housing and to develop new affordable housing; and updating zoning regulations to relax the restrictions on secondary suites sometime known as granny flats, accessory apartments, or in-law suites or allowing for quadraplexes and duplexes in single family neighborhoods.

If you have suggestions on affordable housing solutions please write to us at HHSinfo@fallschurchva.gov.

Click here to read the Housing Survey Results (PDF).