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Alexandria Wants to Make Affordable Housing Contributions Mandatory for Developers

Alexandria planning staff are crafting a proposal to make affordable housing contributions mandatory for developers, and they are reportedly not happy about it.

City staff are recommending that council adopt a commercial-to-residential conversion contribution policy (proposed at $1.53 per square foot) and senior housing contribution requirements.

Staff are also asking for an option allowing a developer to not contribute by having an independent third party analyze whether “extraordinary circumstances” would prevent the developer from meeting the requirement.

“One of the points that we heard through the Housing Contributions Work Group process is that staff needed to be aware that an increase in an affordable housing contribution could impact other community benefits,” Alexandria Housing Planner Tamara Jovovic told City Council on Tuesday night. They didn’t name which ones but they said that, in general, there is a community benefits bucket and that if we put pressure on the affordable housing side, that something else would have to decline.”

The affordable housing contributions are currently voluntary.

City Councilman Mo Seifeldein said that staff should not be led in their recommendations by developers within the work group.

“I don’t like the discussion when it begins with (what) the developers want, the developers need,” Seifeldein said.

Councilman Canek Aguirre said city staff had a “defeatist tone” regarding developers.

“The developers are going to do what’s best for their bottom line,” Aguirre said. “People aren’t going to want to stop living here. That’s just not going to be the case. So, we need to be able to play that asset as much as possible to be able to push the envelope on what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to achieve here.”

Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and the city has pledged to produce or develop 2,000 affordable housing units by 2025. The city has also agreed to produce an additional 1,950 units by 2030 in order to meet its regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which aims for the region to produce 320,000 affordable housing units.

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