Our Man in Arlington – Falls Church News-Press Online


Whether the district board is pursuing “missing middle” apartments to enable duplex and quadruplex apartments in expensive neighborhoods seems to be of central importance in the November elections.

Incumbent Takis Karantonis and libertarian Adam Theo say change is needed to counter skyrocketing house prices; Independents Mike Cantwell and Audrey Clement tarnish “upzoning” as an impractical concern.

If zoning regulations are relaxed, the impact on social justice and home ownership for the middle class may depend on one group of actors: home builders.

Professionals I interviewed spoke more about business feasibility than about the national debate on values ​​and politics. The urge for more “soft density” has arisen in numerous low-housing regions (Californian proponents coined the slogan “YIMBYs, for“ Yes in my backyard ”).

Opponents, led by Peter Rousselot of Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, continue to attack the unfolding plan as a tool to enrich developers. The group favors housing cooperatives and non-market solutions such as joint land trusts and rental vouchers for existing residents, but says: “Builders are and will never be able to produce enough non-market units.”

But could some regulatory adjustments help? Jenny Lawson, chairman of the board of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, recommends different forms of “modest height, increased density to meet the needs of those currently excluded from the housing market. The tools and resources were not always obvious and used, ”she said, describing her group’s role as“ educators and advocates ”who work not for developers but with“ anyone who advocates affordability ”.
The price ranges for new forms of housing that are being negotiated on the fringes of long-established neighborhoods are still unclear.

A seasoned home builder from Arlington, who asked for anonymity, sees a difference between “the reality of what people want and what district planners want.” Yes, there is a market for smaller houses, but “everyone wants the biggest house they can get”. Over the past 15 years, 90 to 95 percent wanted basements finished, two-meter-high ceilings, a bedroom (even a bathroom) for each child, he said. “I know the middle has to be missing, but the density in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor is the way to go. Semi-detached houses that look like single-family houses would be expensive and land prices would rise. “
Larry Smith of Arlington Green Homes LLC is more receptive to easing decade-old restrictions on duplexes. The county’s new interest “is a good thing, but if they are to succeed it has to be in areas where there are already many multi-family structures.” He cites Wilson Blvd., for example. near George Mason Dr. “If you go into a single family residential area, the neighbors get mad. There is very little parking and a quadruplex with four families could add eight cars and it changes the character. “

Citing a bad experience of county approval delays that cost him bank loans, Smith says apartment buildings “could be profitable and builders would” through economies of scale, provided the county “streamlines the approval process.”

Noemi Riveira, director of real estate development for nonprofit multiplex construction company HabitatNOVA, says her team is “exploiting” the eased zone restrictions to help the missing center. “However, profit-oriented property developers and house builders will also benefit from this and possibly further increase property prices,” she predicted. “When it comes to creating more opportunities for first-time home buyers, the allowed increase in density should be coupled with the affordability of the units.”

It was fun to see musicians and food trucks at the opening of the Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center last Saturday.

I inspected the seating in the three-part Boeing 50-meter pool, the fitness and leisure pool. A wall display gives a history of the Potomac side area from “Nacotchtank to Gambling Dens”, which also describes the planning and construction of the complex in detail. A plaque honors the visionary environmentalist Carrie Johnson.

The modern “all-gender bathrooms” save a walk. But the cavernous facility is quite a hike from the Crystal City Metro, on a route that badly needs signposts.

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