The tension between Alexandria’s leaders and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is not exactly a secret, but there have been a few surprising examples of overlapping policy goals.
Most recently, Mayor Justin Wilson shared vocal support for Youngkin’s new Make Virginia Home plan.
The plan includes a multi-pronged approach to affordable housing, with a focus on:
- Increasing the supply of land for housing: the plan promotes discretionary state grant funding for localities to use for affordable housing. The plan establishes “guard rails” for zoning and land use review processes for localities seeking state assistance, along with requiring transparency in reporting on affordable housing and a comprehensive review of the state’s land use and zoning laws.
- Remove regulatory barriers to housing development: the plan makes it easier for affordable housing to meet certain environmental regulations and streamline the permitting process, along with translating the building regulations into Spanish.
- Align housing development with economic growth: the plan includes housing in economic development planning and site development processes. It also includes goals for establishing public/private partnerships that include workforce housing in site development.
The plan has gotten some support, including praise online across the aisle from Wilson. In particular, Wilson said city staff and affordable housing leadership attended a conference last month where Youngkin outlined potential coordination on affordable housing goals.
“As you noted in your speech, this is a multi-faceted challenge that requires policy coordination across local, state and Federal governments,” Wilson wrote in a letter to Youngkin. “We believe there is considerable opportunity for bipartisan agreement to advance good policy and we want to be partners with your Administration to make this happen.”
Wilson outlined some of the progress Alexandria has made in affordable housing, particularly in the use of private development to fuel public affordable housing.
“Given that success, we strongly support your proposals to strengthen the linkage between housing and economic development,” Wilson said. “As you have noted, employers will not locate jobs in the Commonwealth without the ability to house the workforce required, including new jobs at a range of income levels.”
Wilson also praised the proposals to direct future state funding to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and encouraged investment in the State Housing Opportunity Tax Credit Program and the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.
There was one area of concern about potential punishments for local jurisdictions that fail to meet certain state requirements. According to Wilson:
While we strongly support the provisions of your Plan that will incentivize new housing creation, link economic attraction to housing production, and use state funding as a “carrot” for the adoption of pro-growth land-use policies, we are concerned by proposals that purport to punish local jurisdictions for the diligent exercise of ministerial acts, or proposals that remove local control as a method to accelerate housing creation.
Wilson said piecemeal acts by Richmond to erode local control over land-use processes have had a negative impact on housing creation, and that aspect of the Make Virginia Home plan would only reinforce that problem.
“We would instead suggest more comprehensive reform to expand local capabilities to manage the externalities of development, while providing robust incentives for the adoption of pro-growth land-use policies,” Wilson wrote. “This will not only accelerate housing creation, including enhanced housing affordability and accessibility, but also maintain the critical public support required to sustain these policies over time.”
The @GovernorVA has presented a housing plan that has some good ideas.
If the Commonwealth can work WITH local governments to create the housing supply necessary to support a growing Virginia, there is a real opportunity for bipartisan progress. pic.twitter.com/mS8rRISlrx
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) December 16, 2022
Despite the political divide between the Republican Youngkin and the largely-Democratic Alexandria, there have been areas of overlap between local goals and state leadership. Early in Youngkin’s campaign, Wilson expressed enthusiasm for Youngkin’s goals of holding Dominion Energy more accountable and state officials appointed by Youngkin have worked with Alexandria’s local and federal representatives on infrastructure funding.
(Updated 8 p.m.) Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is scheduled to visit an Alexandria Safeway (3526 King Street) today to discuss efforts the Governor’s office said aims to reduce the cost of living.
“Governor Glenn Youngkin will visit a grocery store in Alexandria, Virginia today,” Youngkin’s office said in a press release. “The governor will discuss the elimination of the grocery tax, the rising costs of groceries, and the impacts of inflation on Virginia families and the high cost of living.”
Virginia collects $500 million in grocery taxes, but the tax has been unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans, with both Youngkin and last year’s Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe expressing support for eliminating the tax.
Youngkin will participate in a roundtable discussion with parents and tour the store at noon.
Photo via Google Maps
Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office announced a new batch of flood prevention grants, and this time around Alexandria’s getting more than the pocket change it did the last time around.
Two Alexandria projects were featured in the new round of funding, with one project design, in particular, getting a major boost.
The state is allocating $3.2 million to Waterfront Improvement Project design. The city has been working through various potential designs for flood mitigation along the waterfront, but leadership balked at the cost and sent plans back to the drawing board. Even the least expensive option came in at an estimated $90 million for flood mitigation alone.
The state’s $3 million is allocated toward design, which the Waterfront Commission said will have to incorporate more elements of the waterfront plan beyond just flooding mitigation. Earlier plans for waterfront flood mitigation were also noted as doing little to prevent tidal flooding, such as the one in October that shut down several blocks of Old Town.
The city is also getting some funding for flood mitigation in Arlandria. The state allocated $516,500 for the Edison Street and Dale Street capacity project, which aims to help with flood mitigation near the Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology.
Mayoral candidates engage in public forum — “Alexandria’s mayoral candidates gathered in a virtual forum on Saturday, kicking into high gear to get their message out ahead of the Nov. 2 general election.” [Alexandria Times]
Amazon backs grant program to spur affordable development near D.C.-area transit — “Amazon will fund a new grant program to help local governments and nonprofit developers pursue affordable projects near transit stations, directing $500,000 of its recently announced $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to this effort.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local group plans Four Mile Run clean-up — “Join us Sat., Oct. 23 for cleanup at Four Mile Run Park from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to celebrate the Clean Virginia Waterways and Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.” [Twitter]
Alexandria kid goes viral for love of fire department — “Alotta yuck these days… Please enjoy the delight of my three year old spotting a fire truck. @AlexandriaVAFD, meet your biggest fan!” [Twitter]
D.C. didn’t ask Northam and Hogan to help crack down on ticket scofflaws, despite initial claims it did — “D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser never reached out to the governors of Virginia and Maryland to negotiate reciprocity for automated traffic camera tickets, despite a District government report — signed by the mayor and submitted to the D.C. Council last week — saying that said she did.” [DCist]
The city’s DASH bus network recently went fare-free, and the city is looking for more funding from the state to help it stay that way.
An item at the upcoming Tuesday, Sept. 14, City Council meeting includes an application to the Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP) to help finance the city’s free bus ridership program.
The application has already been supported by the DASH Board of Directors. According to the docket item, the city is planning to submit an application of funds up to $8 million over the next four years. In the report, city staff said they expect to be awarded a maximum of $7.2 million through TRIP with the city committing $9.83 million in local funding between FY 2023 and FY 2025 to operate DASH fare-free, in addition to $1.47 committed in FY 2022.
The city isn’t alone in this. The application notes that $12.5 million in TRIP funding goes to subsidized fare or zero fare programs.
Photo via DASH/Facebook
Alexandria will likely be getting an influx of funding from a statewide opioids settlement, but how much and where exactly that funding will be going remains to be determined.
The City Council met last night for a special session — interrupting the brief summer break due to the need to have a decision the city should join the Virginia Opioid Abatement Fund and Settlement Allocation Memorandum.
City attorney Joanna Anderson said the city previously filed litigation opioid companies and the decision is likely coming to a settlement at a statewide level.
Anderson also said the precautions are being taken at a state and local level to handle distribution of funding from settlements better than in the past.
“We’re having discussions with Attorney General’s office,” Anderson said. “We think this is a fair way for funds to come down. [This will be] handled better than previous settlements, like tobacco settlement. This agreement represents localities better. We think this is a fair process to do this.”
City Manager Mark Jinks said that currently it is unknown how much money the city will get and where that funding is going once it gets here.
“At this point, there’s been no decision on how to allocate funds,” Jinks said. “That will probably be part of annual budget process. It doesn’t have to be allocated to any one organization. We have an opioid work group and coordinator… and we will be looking for what’s the best application of money — at what’s the highest need.”
Photo courtesy Michael Longmire/Unsplash