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A 14-story Arlandria apartment complex has been acquired by the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation, the latest move in an effort to preserve affordable housing in an area facing significant development pressure.

AHDC recently announced that it bought the Park Vue of Alexandria apartments from Florida-based ZRS Management with support of $51.4 million from the $2 billion Amazon Housing Equity Fund, and conditionally will reman affordable for at least 99 years.

The announcement of the sale comes as developments progress on Amazon’s HQ2, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and the Potomac Yard Metro station — all projects that have raised concerns of gentrification.

“AHDC’s goal is to ensure that those who are currently living in this community have the chance to stay, and that households of all incomes will be able to enjoy the benefits of this vibrant neighborhood well into the future,” AHDC CEO Jon Frederick said in a statement. “As a non-profit that is dedicated to community development in Alexandria, the acquisition of Park Vue of Alexandria helps us achieve our mission of creating and preserving housing affordability here in our own backyard and allows us to create meaningful connections in the Arlandria-Chirilagua neighborhood.”

Earlier this month, City Council also approved a $10.5 million loan to the nonprofit to begin development on more than 500 affordable housing units in Arlandria at the intersection of Glebe Road and Mount Vernon Avenue.

“The culture and diversity of neighborhoods like Arlandria-Chirilagua are what makes Northern Virginia such a wonderful place to live, work, and thrive,” said Catherine Buell, director of the Amazon Housing
Equity Fund. “But unique communities like this, with all its valuable contributions, could be otherwise lost to commercial development that does not factor in the affordability needs of the community. By teaming up with organizations such as Alexandria Housing Development Corporation, we are able to help preserve and grow the housing stock for moderate- to low-income households to help build more diverse and inclusive communities.”

No residents at the Park Vue building will be displaced by the sale, and the conversion to affordable units will take place over the next several years, according to AHDC. The purchase maintains “accessible” rents for households making up to 60% of the area median income.

“As a partner with the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, Park Vue of Alexandria will maintain a 99-year affordability covenant,” AHDC said in the release. “AHDC will work with Amazon and other lending partners to refinance the property in the coming months to help support the long-term affordability of Park Vue of Alexandria.”

Alexandria lost 90% of its affordable housing stock between 2000 and 2017, and the city has pledged to produce or develop thousands of units to meet 2030 regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

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Students return to George Washington Middle School (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

(Updated on April 29) Headsets with microphones, recycling bins and Play Doh were among the items that a George Washington Middle School teacher recently put on her school-wide Amazon wish list.

The teacher went around and asked her colleagues what they needed and put their requests on the list, which was taken down after ALXnow sent questions about it to Alexandria City Public Schools.

Turns out that the George Washington Middle School PTA asked the teacher to remove the links, “because we were able to fund her requests,” Joy Pochatila, GWMS PTA president, told ALXnow.

In a note shared on social media, the teacher says she is worried about retiring colleagues, and took a proactive step of asking them what they needed, if anything. The list also ended up including batteries, 3 printers and microscopes.

“As a teacher that is smack in the middle of my career, I’m worried,” the teacher wrote. “I’m worried about the new teachers that are drowning and looking for (and finding) other jobs. I’m worried about my most experienced colleagues retiring early because they just can’t anymore. I’m worried about administrators that aren’t able to do their actual jobs because all they do is contact trace and try to keep up with the constantly moving goalposts that are COVID protocols and policies. I want them to stay in education and I’m worried they won’t.”

ACPS saw 42 staff members retire at the end of last school year, but data on their replacement was not available. There are 27 staffers expected to retire at the end of this school year.

Terri Mozingo, the ACPS chief of teaching, learning and leadership, said that every school in the system receives funding for materials and supplies, which are designated to meet the needs of the school and are overseen by the school’s leaders.

“Teachers work with their department heads to ensure they have the supplies they need for their classrooms,” Mozingo said. “All staff members are encouraged to reach out to their principals for any supplies they need to deliver instruction.”

Donations to ACPS are still welcomed, including from individuals, PTAs, boosters, organizations, corporations, and community groups in alignment with all ACPS policies and regulations, Mozingo said.

“The GWMS PTA, for example, provides mini-grants of up to $500 to support instruction and provide GWMS teachers with funds for specific projects and experiential learning.ACPS has a strong partnership with Donor’s Choose, which provides staff at all of our schools with the opportunity to secure additional funding for specific needs or new projects,” she said.

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Residents of the Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood been besieged over the last year.

As a largely Latino community disproportionately impacted by job loss during the pandemic, local residents have pushed back against rent payments. But even as Alexandria starts to pull out of the pandemic with an eye toward job recovery, the city is working through efforts to build a plan to save Chirilagua — less than a mile from Potomac Yard and Crystal City — from the gentrifying effects of Amazon.

“Many Arlandria residents have been candid in expressing fears about displacement and gentrification, anxiety over losing their community and the culture of their neighborhood over time,” said City housing planner Tamara Jovovic in a public forum earlier this week. “Addressing this will require an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

Jovovic said Chirilagua already faces a misalignment in housing needs and rent availability, with local families spending too much on rent and utilities. She said the city’s goal is to create housing affordable to individuals and families at roughly 40% of area median income (AMI). For individuals or small households, that ranges from $36,000 to $60,000 per year.

The city has started working on facilitating public-private partnerships to push for affordable housing development in the area, with Jovovic saying the city is looking at how to turn city-owned areas like a parking lot on Mount Vernon avenue into use for affordable housing.

“The deeper the level of affordability of units, the greater number of tools needed,” Jovovic said.

One of the questions raised by residents in the forum was whether the city would expand height and density restrictions. City staff said the plan is not to increase those restrictions, and that developers wanting expanded height or density will consequently be required to offer a maximum number of affordable housing units.

“We’re moving forward with the same heights,” said Jose Ayala, a city planner. “[W]e want to make sure anything proposed in neighborhood related to an increase in heights is related to affordable housing.”

Late last year, the city codified a long-standing trade in Alexandria development: You can get more height and density than is typically allowed in an area, but only if you add affordable housing proportional to that expansion.

“Development applications could request through [Development Special Use Permit], that’s an optional zoning tool,” Jovovic said. “[They can request] up to 25 feet of additional height in exchange for one-third of density associated as affordable housing

Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities, said other feedback the city has received so far highlights the need for the city to make better use of parks as meeting spaces.

“Community feedback emphasized the need for social areas and to increase park facilities,” Browand said. “Including having picnic areas and established grilling locations. We don’t have a lot of public restrooms throughout, so [that means] being able to extend outdoor experience by having public restrooms for the public.”

Jovovic emphasized the importance of getting a plan into place before the area starts to feel the effects of Amazon.

“While affordable home ownership may not seem like a pressing need now, the plan will be recommending we expand home ownership training and counseling to make it geographically to make it more accessible and linguistically,” Jovovic said.

The plan is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission and City Council late this fall or in early winter.

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Amazon is planning to install one of its Amazon Fresh grocery stores at the former Shoppers supermarket at Potomac Yard, according to documents obtained by the Washington Business Journal.

The 50,000-square foot space is the sixth potential location for Amazon Fresh throughout the region, and Total Wine has also reportedly made moves to open next door at the former Pier 1 Imports, which closed more than a year ago.

The Amazon Fresh pick-up and delivery service will be located next to the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and about a mile-and-a-half away from Amazon’s HQ2 development in Crystal City.

Potomac Yard is managed by JBG Smith Properties and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which are both overseeing a massive mixed-use development of the area.

Amazon itself did not file the documents with the city, according to WBJ. Instead, Canadian architect NORR made the filing for “Mendel,” which is reportedly an Amazon code word.

Photo via Google Maps

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The Arlandria-Chirilagua area of Alexandria is one of the last bastions of market rate affordable housing in Alexandria. With the arrival of Amazon on the horizon threatening that, the City of Alexandria is working on a plan to try to keep the area’s gentrification at bay.

A pair of Zoom meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, March 30, to present a drafted series of affordable housing recommendations. The first, at 6 p.m., will be held in Spanish with English interpretation. The second, at 7:30 p.m., will be in English with Spanish interpretation.

The majority of the area falls below the area median income (AMI). Around 95% of households surveyed in 2019 by Tenant and Workers United earned less than 40% AMI, less than the $35,280-$58,480 per year income range for households of one to six people. Many of them, around 28.5%, live in households with five or more residents.

Arlandria is one of the few areas in Alexandria — along with portions of the West End — with an adequately affordable housing supply. The study found that the majority of rental housing in the area is affordable at 60-80% AMI, most of which are one-bedroom units.

A document outlining themes in the upcoming plan said that while housing in the area is generally affordable, increasing rents are still a challenge. Protestors in Arlandria last year pushed for a rent freeze after many in the area were left unemployed by the pandemic.

“Residents struggle with the high cost of housing as rent impacts every family decision, including the need to share housing with unrelated adults and being able to pay for food, medical care, and childcare,” the plan noted. “More deeply affordable housing will help residents remain in their community and meet basic needs.”

The concern is that the arrival of Amazon in nearby Crystal City could sent housing prices in the area skyrocketing, as it has in Seattle.

“Residents are concerned about the impact of Amazon HQ2 and fear displacement from gentrification,” city staff said in a presentation. “Many feel that their undocumented status and limited English language skills prevent them from resolving landlord issues. Building community capacity to raise concerns without fear of retribution will help residents access services they need, including tenant relocation and displacement protections.”

The city launched a community feedback campaign in 2019, though the process was somewhat waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the draft recommendations generated from the outreach efforts will be presented at the upcoming meetings.

“During the live virtual meetings, City staff will present the draft recommendations,” the city said in a press release, “followed by a question and answer portion at the end.”

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Amazon is giving an additional $1 million to Alexandria and other local families impacted by COVID-19 to help pay for urgently needed items, including food, school supplies and clothing.

The money is in Amazon’s Right Now Needs Fund, which is available for all 18 Alexandria City Public Schools, as well as all 41 Arlington Public Schools.

Back in March, Amazon donated $200,000 to ACT for Alexandria’s COVID-19 response fund as part of a separate $1 million donation across the region.

“The start of this school year has been difficult for many families across our new home of Northern Virginia, and we are determined to provide support to the students who need it most,” said Jay Carney, Amazon Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs in a statement. “At Amazon, we are always looking for innovative solutions to tough challenges, and we are confident that the flexibility and speed built into our new Right Now Needs Fund will help ensure that more students from underserved communities can focus on their studies, and not fall behind as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.”

Amazon says that social workers and site coordinators will identify students needs, and that Education Assistance Product Vouchers will be given out as a prepaid payment to help with food, school supplies and clothing.

“By using the prepaid vouchers, students and families can redeem much-needed items in a dignified and convenient way,” Amazon said in a release.

This school year alone, Amazon also gave Northern Virginia students Mi-Fi devices, and donated $1 million for local emergency response efforts.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Amazon has given $200,000 to ACT for Alexandria’s COVID-19 response fund as part of a $1 million donation that the company is making to the region.

“The funds received by ACT will be used to support the nonprofits providing services to Alexandrian’s who are hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak,” ACT CEO Heather Peeler told ALXnow.

“The human service needs, economic impact and strains on our critical services will be with us long into the future,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “We have a resilient community and this contribution will help bring our City and our resident back stronger than ever.”

On Saturday, the Alexandria City Council allocated $100,000 in matching emergency funds to the ACT Now COVD-19 Response Fund with a goal of raising $200,000 so that nonprofits in the city can apply for and receive grants.

Council also approved an allocation of $20,000 to ALIVE! to buy bulk food equivalent to 17,000 meals. ALIVE! is currently working with the city and buying food to support the city should deliveries need to be made to people under quarantine without food reserves at home.

Amazon is contributing $1M to the DMV to support our community during the COVID-19 crisis. ACT is pleased to…

Posted by ACT for Alexandria on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Thanks to Amazon.com for providing critical financial support to the ACT for Alexandria COVID-19 Response fund. Please contribute today to support the many in need in our community due to this crisis.

Posted by Justin Wilson on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The full press release is below the jump:

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There are nearly half as many homes available for sale in Alexandria as the year before, according to city officials.

A complicated mix of reasons is behind the decline, but one reason looms above others: Amazon.

“Amazon announced its arrival one year ago,” said David Howell, executive vice president for McEnearney Associates. “Since then, we’ve seen 46% fewer listings in Alexandria and 44% in Arlington… The inventory began to shrink literally the day after the announcement.”

At a City Council retreat on Saturday, marking the launch of the budget cycle, City Manager Mark Jinks highlighted the scarcity of homes for sale in Alexandria.

“Active listings a year ago were 450,” Jinks said. “There are only 208 active listings in June 2019. There’s not a lot of inventory on the market for people to purchase. There’s a lot of speculation about what that means. Are people not selling because they think they’ll be able to get more? Are people not purchasing because they can’t? There’s so much uncertainty.”

Jinks explained to the Council that many homeowners who might otherwise be selling their properties are holding out in hopes that Amazon will increase the home value.

“Do I sell my home now or wait another couple years with Amazon coming will I get ten percent more or 20 percent more?” Jinks asked, hypothetically. “It’s a lot of speculation for what may or may not happen. There is not a lot of property for sale and a lot of speculation about why.”

Both Howell and Jinks said there are other factors at play both nationally and locally.

“Interest rates are low and the region is growing,” Jinks said. “There’s a demand for residential, as we’ve seen, but we’re not seeing price appreciation. At almost any other time like this, we would have seen single-family homes and townhomes move up appreciably, and we haven’t seen it. Some of the speculation is that people with student loan debt [make it] harder for people to afford the ownership market.”

While student loan debt could keep people from buying homes, Howell said he doubted that would impact the sellers. More likely, Howell said it’s a result of some after-effects of the housing bubble burst a decade ago.

“The big lesson is people aren’t selling for speculative reasons after the bust,” Howell said. “Appreciation is more modest and sustained because people are buying where they want to live rather than using the home as an ATM. People are staying put.”

Howell also said many of those homeowners were able to lock in low mortgage rates.

“We will see a sustained low inventory over time,” Howell. “That’s true nationally, but in Arlington and Alexandria especially.”

File photo

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Alexandria is taking another look at the future of Arlandria and Del Ray and how those communities can weather the planned urbanization of the “National Landing” area.

This fall, the city is launching its community engagement for plans to update the 2005 Mount Vernon Avenue Business Plan and the 2003 Long-Term Vision and Action Plan for the Arlandria Neighborhood. The city cites the nearby arrival of Amazon, the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, and the North Potomac Yard Metro station as looming developments that could start to change the character of the residential and commercial communities to the west.

Neighbors and organizations in and around the area are invited to offer feedback to help identify the most important community issues and start to build a framework for the new plans — which will start taking shape next year.

At a joint meeting of Arlington and Alexandria, city officials recognized that there was frequent difficulty in getting responses from communities most prone to the effects of gentrification, so several of the outreach events are focused on going out into the community and interviewing residents rather than relying on those residents and business leaders to come to meetings.

The first event will be this Saturday, Nov. 9, from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Simpson Field (500 E. Monroe Avenue). City staff will be out at the field talking with local residents and will move up and down Mount Vernon Avenue to speak with people in stores and markets, according to the city’s website.

Additional outreach events are planned throughout November and December.

A community conversation for Arlandria is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 21, from 6-8 p.m. at Cora Kelly Elementary School (3600 Commonwealth Avenue). The meeting will be held in Spanish with English translation available.

A similar meeting for Del Ray is scheduled for Dec. 12 from 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. at Mount Vernon Community School (2601 Commonwealth Avenue), this one in English with Spanish translation available.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Jillian Keck Hogan of Jillian Keck Hogan Real Estate Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Jillian at 703-951-7655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: We have been reading all the headlines, but what really is the “Amazon Effect”?

Answer: The buzz of Amazon is something we have all been hearing and there is some truth to the stories being published, BUT as it relates to real estate, the effects are very situational with price point, condition and location.

We have been reading all the same publications, and we completely understand if all the news is making you a bit nervous as to when the best time will be to purchase or sell your home. Home prices have been increasing, but that is true of every year since 2010. There is a good chance you might be competing on a listing against another buyer, but that has been a possibility over the last 9 years, as well.

Here is a bit of advice from our COO, David Howell, at McEnearney Associates, Inc.: “Sell when you are ready to sell, and buy when you are ready to buy.”

The Most Competitive Markets

Now, competing as a purchaser is always a possibility in any price point. This is driven by a seller’s strategy. Some sellers can choose to market their home under the going market price in order to move a home sooner versus later. This does not mean the sellers are in distress or the property is falling apart. Sellers do this at times just to make their move easier and faster.

The Amazon Effect — in this case, the comparatively low number of homes on the market — has been the most notable in Alexandria and Arlington in price points under $900,000.

What Does That Mean?

Virginia selling tactics and competition have been progressively picking up, following the trend we see with the D.C. market having grown hotter and hotter over the last 5-7 years with increased new construction. With many agents in our area being licensed in D.C. and Virginia, the strategies to win out on a competing situation used in Virginia began to mimic what D.C. licensed agents had been doing for years: Escalating in price, waiving inspections (or completing them before the offer was submitted), and taking on more risk during the appraisal contingencies.

Sellers have a bit more control in negotiations and receiving multiple bids on their home over list price. As a buyer, this could mean that you write a few more offers, but do know that this does not mean you have to “overpay” for a home.

Overall

The Amazon Effect is nothing that our DMV has not seen before. If you are looking to purchase under the $900,000 price point, be assured that it is very possible to buy a great home at a great price when going in with a strong strategic offer. And sellers in this same price point, be sure to still give your home all the best finishing touches to show well and review your neighborhood comparable sales before selecting your final price.

No, home prices have not doubled — but you are in a very fortunate position to be getting some of the highest prices ever in your neighborhood and you can receive offers with less contingencies which otherwise could have cost you more money.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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