Alexandria, VA

Among the benefits of the new Aspire Alexandria project headed to the City Council this Saturday (Feb. 22) are a handful of new homes that could meet a critical need in the city.

Aspire Alexandria is a new housing development at 1112 First Street, where Tony’s Auto Service is today, aimed at offering independent senior living. The anticipated move-in age is between 77-82, but the facility will not offer direct assistance with daily living activities or memory care needs.

The project is going to be predominately market-rate housing, but plans sent to the city council include a handful of affordable housing units in exchange for additional density.

The city’s 2019 affordable housing guidelines say that developments can achieve up to 30% additional density in exchange for affordable housing, either by way of a contribution to the city’s affordable housing fund or by providing units, in the case of residential development.

In exchange for bonus density, Aspire will offer eight units set aside as affordable for up to 40 years. The residents of these units would have access to the same elderly care and amenities as the rest of the residents.

According to a staff report:

These include, but are not limited to, 30 meals per month, all utilities (excluding telephone), basic cable, wireless internet, weekly housekeeping and linen service, trash removal, on-site entertainment and social and educational programs and events, group wellness activities, 24-hour concierge service, and scheduled transportation services

The affordable housing will still take most of a resident’s paycheck. To qualify, the applicant can make no more than $4,250 monthly ($51,000 annually) for a one-person unit or $4,855 monthly ($58,260 annually) for a two-person unit. The affordable units’ total monthly costs will be $3,552 for a one-bedroom or $3,791 for a two-bedroom.

Helen McIlvaine, Director of the Office of Housing, told ALXnow that the affordable units fit a need for housing between the lowest end of the spectrum and the luxury senior housing that is more frequently being built.

“We have some stuff for people at the lowest end, but this is for people who can’t afford the luxury housing,” McIlvaine said. “The city doesn’t have a lot of alternatives. This expands options for seniors.”

Market-rate one-bedroom apartments at the facility are expected to be priced around $4,900 monthly.

Despite the fairly low number of units being offered, Commission on Aging members said in an earlier meeting that units specifically for seniors are needed in the city.

“The representatives noted that the City is not currently building these types of units elsewhere and that a monetary contribution of equivalent value to the Housing Trust Fund would not be reserved exclusively for future senior housing development,” the staff report said. “It is noted that the representatives discussed the potential need to explore securing more deeply subsidized rents (for example, affordable at 30% or 40% AMI) in exchange for a fewer number of units (of equivalent value) while retaining the 60% AMI income eligibility cap.”

Image via City of Alexandria

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