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Tying affordable housing funding to meals tax seemed like a safe bet in 2018, but with restaurants facing a dramatic loss in revenue due to coronavirus, affordable housing is out $1 million in the new budget.
According to the budget:
Due to the re-estimate of anticipated revenue from the Restaurant Meals Tax, the associated expenditure for the dedicated 1% for Affordable Housing will be reduced accordingly.
While the $1 million loss hurts, Helen McIlvaine, director of the city’s Office of Housing, said that there’s still some funding — notably $5.8 million (page 2.13) related to Amazon — that will allow the office to continue pursuing affordable housing goals.
“We’re not taking anything for granted, we’re pleased that the money we will start the year with is mostly intact,” McIlvaine said. “The million dollars, while we’re sorry not to have that, given the impact on local business it’s an accurate reflection.”
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.
The $1 million budget loss doesn’t give the Office of Housing any room to slow down.
“Like we saw with the recession, there will be even more people who are in precarious positions,” McIlvaine said. “On Saturday there is a public hearing and one of the items on the docket is (that) we’ve received $671,000 in additional federal money as part of the COVID stimulus and we’re going to ask the council to allow us to use that to provide rental assistance to help sustain property operations at nonprofit properties.”
McIlvaine said her office has been working with nonprofit partners and property owners to buy time for payment plans and to get access to the right resources.
“We had been making calls this week and most of the property owners are doing that,” McIlvaine said. “People understand that this is a really hard time.”
Still, as much as the Office of Housing can work to try to keep people in their homes, McIlvaine said the economic impacts of coronavirus means there’s likely to be even more people after this is over who need access to affordable housing.
“We want to make sure we are poised to act if there are opportunities,” McIlvaine said. “This will shift the landscape, and sometimes that’s our opportunity. People say ‘I don’t want to be in this business anymore’ or whatever it is. There was some of that during the recession but we weren’t really in a place where we were able to be proactive.”
The budget is docketed (Item 3) for discussion at tomorrow’s (Saturday) City Council meeting.
Photo via City of Alexandria
The ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund has raised more than $530,000 from 587 donors, and has given away $525,000 to dozens of nonprofits in Alexandria.
As of this week, more than $525,000 in grants was awarded to nearly 60 nonprofits in the city, with most of the funds going toward emergency food, supplies and financial assistance in the city.
The city donated $100,000 at the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19, and Amazon donated $200,ooo toward the effort.
ACT for Alexandria is currently pausing the grant process to replenish the fund, and the next deadline for requests is April 21. The organization is now asking for community support in the upcoming Spring2ACTion online fundraiser on April 15.
While residents at Southern Towers are preparing to strike, city leadership is caught in the middle of trying to negotiate a ceasefire before things escalate.
Residents at the West End apartment complex, many of whom have service industry jobs and were recently laid off due to the pandemic, have begun organizing for a strike wherein they refuse to pay their rent, WAMU first reported.
In a petition circulating around the buildings, organizers say rent should be cancelled during the duration of the emergency while the residents cannot work, plus one month as many of them get back on their feet and try to find new jobs. The petition demanded that property management meet with a committee of tenants and fix the safety and sanitary issues in the building. Lastly, residents said future rent at the building should be based on the income of the residents.
Councilman Canek Aguirre, who on the City Council has frequently advocated for lower-income families throughout the West End and areas like Arlandria, said he met with residents last week in a Zoom call.
Aguirre said resident concerns go beyond just problems with rent.
“Residents are concerned about the accumulation of trash,” Aguirre said. “Everybody is staying home and producing trash, but cutes either closed or compactors broken. So they’re putting trash in the hallways.”
The difficulties due to the stay at home order go both ways, Aguirre noted, with management trying to pick up trash daily, but they too are “having issues with stay at home orders.” To fix the trash compactors, for instance, Aguirre said the company is waiting on parts that are still being held up.
“You throw on top of that people’s concerns, fears and anxieties [about rent]… and there were mixed messages from email communications from management trying to clarify that,” Aguirre said. “They’re switching to a full online payment system, but we have to be cognizant of the digital divide. There are individuals who aren’t able to pay bills online. It’s one thing after another.” (more…)
The ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund has raised more than $500,000, and more than $350,000 has been given to 39 local nonprofits.
The city donated $100,000 at the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19, and Amazon donated $200,ooo toward the effort, according to ACT for Alexandria.
As of this week, $95,400 in grants was awarded to 11 nonprofits in the city, with most of the funds going toward emergency food, supplies and financial assistance in the city.
The recent grants were awarded to:
- Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center’s Food Bank: The Food Bank, which has seen requests double, provides culturally appropriate food and personal hygiene items. Funding will allow them to expand their mobile distribution sites to reach those who are home-bound and disproportionately impacted communities in the West End.
- Offender Aid and Restoration of Arlington will provide financial assistance for medical expenses, utilities, transportation and vocational training to people who have recently returned to Alexandria from incarceration and who are set back by the virus outbreak.
- St. Martin de Porres Senior Center is keeping vulnerable seniors connected with medical consultations, case management and other supports.
As of April 2, 2020, The ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund has awarded more than $350,000 in grants to the following organizations:
- AHC, Inc.
- Alexandria Housing Development Corporation
- Basilica of St. Mary St. Vincent de Paul Society
- Best Buddies
- Capital Caring Health
- Carpenter’s Shelter
- Casa Chirilagua
- Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services
- Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington
- Christ Church
- Christ Church Refugee Ministry
- Communities in Schools NOVA
- Community Lodgings
- Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
- Family to Family, Old Presbyterian Meeting House
- Friends of Guest House
- Fruitful Planet
- Mother of Light Center
- Neighborhood Health
- Northern Virginia Family Services
- Nueva Vida
- OAR of Arlington, Alexandria & Falls Church
- Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic
- Project ID & Spread the Vote
- SCAN of Northern Virginia
- Senior Services of Alexandria
- Senior Services of Alexandria
- St. Paul’s-Lazarus
- St. Rita Church
- The Campagna Center
- The Child & Family Network Centers
- Together We Bake
- United Community
- Urban Alliance
- Volunteer Alexandria
- Volunteers of America Chesapeake
- Wesley Housing Development Corporation
- YMCA Metropolitan Washington
Staff photo by James Cullum
Casa Chirilagua took to YouTube to thank Alexandria for the recent outpouring of support and to outline ways the organization is trying to help some of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
Casa Chirilagua is a Christian nonprofit in the Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood that provides help for local low-income families. Over the last few weeks, as many of these families have lost jobs, Casa Chirlagua has scrambled to help cover rent and grocery needs for the community.
“We are constantly changing in terms of our response to the community,” Executive Director Adriana Gómez Schellhaas said in a video. “It’s one of the main concerns that parents have expressed, the fact that many have lost their jobs. We asked you all to see if people wanted to give and you responded.”
Schellhaas said over the last week, the organization raised $23,000, which will go directly to Casa Chirilagua families for rent and utility needs. The organization is currently calling families and starting to make payments, according to Schellhaas. The group is also partnering with local food pantries to ensure that families have access to groceries.
“You all have responded in incredible ways,” Schellhaas said. “God has moved mightily in the soft hearts of his people. I want to thank you so much for the outpour of response, particularly the financial and food response that you all have given Casa Chirilagua.”
“We don’t know how long this will last, so we pray people will continue to support us and support the families,” Schellhaas said.
Photo via Casa Chirilagua/YouTube
For many women at Friends of Guest House, self-quarantining bears an uncomfortable familiarity to the jails and prisons they just left.
The Alexandria shelter helps women emerging from incarceration reenter their communities. But coronavirus has put a new wrench into those plans and spokesperson Marisa Tordella says there’s some extra frustrations and tensions for women who once again feel like they are in lockdown.
“There are peaks and valleys,” Tordella said. “I think one of the things that is really hard for our clients — even though their movement is restricted and locked in their home — it’s familiar to incarceration so there’s a lot of anxiety with that. We’re trying to bring as much to them as they can to make them feel better, to encourage them that it’s not just them. Everyone is feeling this.”
There are two homes for clients at Friends of Guest House, both of which are still open. While other non-profits have had to curtail their operations or close entirely, Tordella said their organization’s clients have become even more reliant on the services their nonprofit provides.
“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Tordella said. “It’s obviously stressful. It’s very difficult and challenging. It feels like our world is upside down but I don’t think we’re alone in that.”
The long term plans for the neighborhoods shape policies on things like retail, residential and public spaces in Del Ray and Arlandria. These plans were last updated in 2003 for Arlandria and 2005 for Del Ray. With Amazon moving in next door, the new plans aimed to help these neighborhoods hold onto their sense of community.
Previously, in-person meetings in both English and Spanish were held for the neighborhood plans, but the City of Alexandria announced yesterday that it was changing course.
“Meeting materials have been reformatted to an online exercise open through April 17 with an accompanying recorded presentation,” the city said in a press release, “where community members can provide feedback on draft principles developed from feedback generated during the fall community engagement and presented at the January open houses.”
While the infected toll in Alexandria continues to climb, the city said if circumstances change mobile outreach and public presentations can occur to supplement the online engagement.
“Materials and outreach will continue to be provided in Spanish and English and announced through the City’s eNews service, social media postings, and direct correspondence with stakeholders who have provided their contact information,” the city said.
The Arlandria and Del Ray Plans Update community workshop originally scheduled for March 17 has been reformatted to a digital meeting, open through April 17. Help frame a draft vision and themes based on feedback/topics from previous events. Details: https://t.co/TbKwS1FpZ4
— AlexandriaVAGov (@AlexandriaVAGov) March 25, 2020
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Address: 217 S Fairfax Street
Neighborhood: Old Town
With enduring historic details and modern refinement this stunning home is one of the finest properties in Old Town.
Perfectly situated on two lots in the middle of the Historic District, this residence boasts over 8,000 square feet of finished space including 6 bedrooms, 6 full and 1 half baths, movie theater, fitness center, lush green space and oversized 2-car garage. With supremely designed living spaces, gleaming wide-plank original pine floors, elegant millwork and top-of-the-line appliances, the unparalleled attention to detail found throughout will leave you in awe.
Located in Old Town’s prized historic district, 2 blocks from King Street and the Potomac waterfront, and just minutes to the new Amazon HQ2 & D.C.
Inova Alexandria Hospital plans to accommodate development at National Landing and Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus by expanding it services with a new HealthPlex in the city’s Oakville Triangle neighborhood.
The proposed facility will offer emergency room services, an outpatient care center and medical offices. Construction is expected begin next year, and the facility is slated to open at the corner of Fannon Street and Richmond Highway in the fall of 2023.
“All five Inova hospitals were recently awarded Five Stars by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and we are committed to providing the same five-star quality care at every Inova facility, including the HealthPlex in Oakville Triangle, to every patient we have the privilege to serve,” Inova’s CEO J. Stephen Jones said in a press release.
The project is managed by developers Stonebridge and Carras Partners, which view the HealthPlex as a “community-focused anchor.”
Oakville Triangle has long been proposed as a mixed-use development with office buildings, apartments, businesses and parks. The site was originally chosen for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, but was found to be too small.
Inova does not have a website dedicated to the project, and will conduct a community meeting in partnership with the city on March 26 at 7 p.m. The location of the meeting has not yet been determined.
Alexandria is a good place to weather a recession — potentially good news on a day in which the Dow plummeted more 2,000 points at one point.
“The Great Recession wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, with unemployment peaking at 10.1% in October 2009,” a SmartAsset spokesperson said, in introducing the rankings. “Not all cities, however, were hit equally by this economic crisis and some are better equipped to weather the next downturn.”
Federal employment and growth spurred by Amazon’s HQ2 should help cushion blows from a new recession in Alexandria, though the last major downturn — the Great Recession of the late aughts — did have negative impacts on small local businesses and nonprofits.
New Inova Facility Planned — “Inova Health System plans to open a new health care facility on part of Oakville Triangle, giving another try to the 13-acre site on Richmond Highway in Alexandria across from a planned Virginia Tech campus and a short distance from Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]
Christmas Attic Closes — “One of Alexandria’s most beloved businesses, The Christmas Attic at 125 S. Union St., has closed its doors after nearly 50 years in business near the Alexandria waterfront. The year-round winter wonderland offered a special shopping experience.” [Alexandria Living]
Food Truck Serves Fido — “A food truck for dogs? Yup, and not a truck that rolls up and hands out kibble. Woofbowl serves up treats like burgers, fries, and pho… [The truck] frequently pulls up to Del Ray’s Saturday Farmers Market.” [Zebra]
Port City IPA Release Party Tonight — “Introducing a brand new beer to our Limited Release lineup, Star Sailor White IPA! Made with 100% VA Grown Wheat, this hop forward hazy golden beer has fruity notes that will leave you refreshed and ready for star gazing.” [Port City Brewing]
St. Pat’s Parade This Weekend — “Alexandria will turn green at the 39th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Fun Dog Show on Saturday, March 7. The festivities are sponsored by the Ballyshaners, a nonprofit dedicated to Irish heritage, and are expected to include more than 2,000 participants.” [ALXnow]
Reminder: Daylight Saving Time Returns — “Love it or hate it, our annual ritual of early March – daylight saving time – is coming this weekend. At 2 a.m. Sunday, the few analog clocks still around must ‘spring forward’ an hour, turning 1:59:59 a.m. into 3 a.m.” [USA Today]
(Updated 11:30 a.m.) Whether you’re a child reading through the Harry Potter books for the first time or a reporter in your late 20s still waiting on a letter from Hogwarts, you’re invited to the Hooray for Books Harry Potter night.
The event is scheduled for 6:30-8 p.m. at Hooray for Books (1555 King Street) tomorrow (Thursday).
“The theme this year is the Triwizard Tournament, to celebrate the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the store said on its Facebook page. “This event will include a costume contest (Durmstrang and Beauxbatons characters welcome), trivia, crafting owl origami bookmarks in honor of Hedwig, and more fun activities.”
The event page said it will also feature host knitter Tanis Gray, author of official knitting-companion book Harry Potter: Knitting Magic.
“The event is open to all Potterheads, young and old,” the page said.