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GMU study says new Potomac Yard arena development could bolster workforce housing supply

Map of Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

The Center for Regional Analysis (CRA) at George Mason University released a study over the weekend that said the Potomac Yard arena development could be a boon for local workforce housing.

The study notes that the arena development is slated to include 5,400 residential units across three development phases.

The study said the proposed housing will help the city and the region meet regional housing goals by increasing the number of units and “placing downward pressure on local and regional housing costs.”

This year marked the first time multi-family residential property assessments have declined since 2010. While that may not bode well for the commercial property market or the city’s annual budget, Director of Finance Kendal Taylor noted that it does help push down rents.

Last year, regional housing experts said Alexandria would need to build significant amounts of housing for the supply to even out with the demand.

More specifically, though, the study said consultants hired for the project estimated the average rental rates to be around $3.70 per square foot and that most units will be relatively small one or two-bedroom units.

The study estimated monthly rents of:

  • Studio apartments: $1,591
  • One-bedroom apartments: $2,220
  • Two-bedroom: $2,775
  • Three-bedroom: $3,700

According to the study:

Through design and construction characteristics, the average rental cost will be held to levels that will be workforce affordable, including for many of the jobs to be held by people working in the proposed entertainment district… At that rate, we can estimate the implied household income needed to comfortably afford to live in the new development.

Comparing potential rent levels and occupational wages suggests that a majority of PYED units will accommodate working family households who hold jobs in Alexandria earning 80% to 90% of area median income, on average.

As for any analysis of housing costs in Northern Virginia, someone who does not live here could be shocked at the level of housing prices. However, Alexandria is a high wage area.

The study noted that plans for the nearby Virginia Tech campus do not include housing for graduate students, postgraduate researchers, young faculty members, staff, or visiting researchers and scholars.

“While hardly qualifying as traditional dormitories, the studio units may well serve student housing, and the largest 3-bedroom units could become shared student living space,” the study said. “Just as importantly, young faculty who will teach at the new Virginia Tech campus will potentially look to these rental units as highly attractive in the early stages of their career due to job proximity and the presence of hospitality and entertainment options.”

Plans for the Potomac Yard arena are precarious, with the neighborhood’s future at stake in state government discussions this week. The transportation plan for the project had also come under fire, with even supporters of the plan saying the in-jeopardy Metro funding is a basic prerequisite for the arena.

“The majority of units will be affordable for public safety workers, teachers, mechanics, health services technicians, supervisors for maintenance workers, other mid-level professions, and many employees of the sports and entertainment venues—without the financial stress that has become too common for households in this region,” said Terry Clower, director of the CRA.

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