cut costs by more than $50,000 per unit and were critical to the feasibility of the project.
Infill development like the Arlington Mill project — the
community center and apartments replace a closed Safe-way store the county acquired in 1996 — is one of many
smart growth principles Arlington County has applied
over the years to prevent sprawl and promote sustainable development.
But smart growth can have an unintended consequence.
One of smart growth’s tenets is to provide housing for a
wide range of incomes, yet the popularity of smart growth
neighborhoods — compact and walkable with easy access
to jobs, shopping and transit — can push prices out of
reach of low- and moderate-income households.
“Unless you are very intentional about (maintaining
affordability), smart growth will, in fact, raise the prices,”
Arlington County’s need to continue providing affordable
housing for young workers, seniors and others makes the
sweet deal it gave APAH a good investment, Fisette said.
“You don’t want to have a community that prices people
out at the early stages of their life or at the end of their
life,” he said.
The success of the Arlington Mill project inspired the
county to launch Public Land for Public Good. The initiative identified eight other publicly owned properties
suitable for affordable housing and set the stage to perform planning studies for each site.
“Using public land for affordable housing is much harder
to do if each project is sort of a separate idea,” Fisette said.
“It’s easier if planning documents incorporate housing
affordability into the planning.”
Montgomery County, Md., is an affordable housing pioneer. In 1974, it passed the country’s first inclusionary
zoning law requiring most new housing developments
to include a minimum percentage of units at affordable
prices. In the late 1980s, it began taking inventory of public land and spearheading development of mixed-income
housing — affordable, combined with market rate — on
various county properties.
Now the county is making a concerted effort to colocate
affordable housing with public facilities after participating
in its first such project — a library and a senior apartment
building called the Bonifant at Silver Spring.
Owned and operated by the nonprofit Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP), the Bonifant at Silver Spring is
11 stories and contains 149 housing units. All but 10 units
are priced for households with incomes between 30 and 60
percent of the area median, which works out to between $458
and $1,028 a month for a one-bedroom unit.
The 10 units that aren’t priced for limited-income households
go for the market rate of $1,231, which adds a small but
You don’t want a community that prices people out at
the early stages of their life or at the end of their life.
Planning needs to incorporate
housing affordability into the equation.
The Bonifant at Silver Spring in
Montgomery County, Md.
Photos courtesy of Montgomery