ARHA aims to convert Old Town public housing properties to resemble the mixed-use ‘Lineage’ development

The CEO of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority says that significant changes in federal funding will lay the foundation to redevelop all of its public housing sites in the style of the recently unveiled Lineage development.

ARHA recently announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will convert the 213 units at three sites — Ladrey High-Rise, Park Place, and Saxony Square — from public housing funding to Housing Choice Voucher funding.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that characterizing the financing of ARHA’s properties has been years in the making.

“This gives us more flexibility in the future and makes it easier to refresh, redevelop and expand our public housing stock,” Wilson said.

Rents will not go up at the properties, although plans for each site include a mix of incomes, and “ultimately upgrade and sustain its entire 754 units of public housing, plus build new workforce and market rate housing,” ARHA said in a release.

ARHA expects to convert 504 affordable units at higher funding rates using HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration funds, as well as HUD’s Section 18 authorization, which okays the demolition of public housing properties for redevelopment. After that happens, the remaining 250 units will then “automatically be approved for Housing Choice vouchers, clearing the way for the entire public housing portfolio in Alexandria to be funded under this higher formula,” ARHA said. “Importantly, ARHA will retain ownership of these properties through its own nonprofit subsidiary.”

ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew told ALXnow that the Lineage development was a springboard for the organization, in terms of what its other properties will look like in the future.

The Lineage met with controversy over concerns of increased density, as 52 affordable units (with 37 units for workforce housing) replaced the 15 public housing units that previously stood for decades at the Ramsey Homes site in Old Town. The project was made possible by tax credit financing and a $2 million loan from the city.

“Sustainability and affordability, go together hand-in-hand now in these days and times,” Pettigrew said. “I think it’s a win-win for everybody. The reality is I’m quite sure that somebody would love to see a brand new building next to them as opposed to what they’re looking at now, right?”

Pettigrew said he is conscious of concerns over gentrification in the city, and that rent will not increase and residents will not be displaced in the event of redevelopment or construction..

“With Alexandria growing the way it’s growing, you got Amazon coming and you’ve got Virginia Tech coming, that’s going to be bringing a lot of people,” he said. “The reality is, we want to make sure that we take advantage of all that, by still maintaining our public housing numbers. That’s the goal.”