Saturday, May 12, 2018

Kingstonian Column: Affordable Housing Must Be Part of U.S. 1’s Remake

The following will appear in the May, 2018 Kingstonian Magazine and Beulah Corridor monthly magazine.

Affordable Housing Must Be Part of U.S. 1’s Remake 

This past month, as part of the “Embark Richmond Highway” process the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors made significant progress building on the U.S. 1 Multimodal Study authorized by Senator Puller and myself in 2011 which envisioned a six-lane U.S. 1 bordered by sidewalks, multiuse paths, a median-dedicated bus rapid transit and two-stop Yellow Line extension.  The zoning changes envisioned by Embark will be truly transformational.  However, U.S. 1’s revitalization is generating legitimate questions about the future of affordable housing for current and future members of our community.  

From the beginning, I have been concerned the impact of revitalization on affordable housing.  The South County Task Force led by Mary Paden recently convened a panel discussion on affordable housing after it was largely omitted from the Embark recommendations.

In order to secure about $1.1 billion of federal funding to construct bus rapid transit and a Yellow Line extension, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) requires applicants to show significant population densities, pedestrian and cycling accessibility and "legally binding affordable housing" within the one-half mile area around each station. The FTA has been clear that plans that wipe out existing lower-and-moderate-income populations will not be funded. 

While all of our area leaders are dedicated to facilitating affordable housing, Fairfax County's existing affordable housing ordinance and program are not adequate to address this issue and must be strengthened.  The Board of Supervisors has set up a committee to study the affordable housing issue and recommend solutions so that we can meet these objectives with Embark Route 1, obtain federal funding and maintain affordable housing for everyone. 

As someone who has lived in this community for 46 years and whose family moved to the "rural countryside" south of Alexandria in 1941, I strongly believe that the U.S. 1 Corridor's economic and cultural diversity is what makes our community special.  As a 1989 graduate of West Potomac High School, I had friends from many neighborhoods and we did not care where you grew up or whether you lived on the river, in a rambler, in a split level or in a manufactured home. 

As we prepare for increased density, walkability, and improved access to natural assets, we must ensure that we revitalize the U.S. 1 Corridor without losing its character.  If you have any feedback, please email me at scott@scottsurovell.org.  

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