To the editor:
Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) is thrilled to see that so many members of city leadership are supportive of growing affordable housing in the city, as seen from the statements made by Mayor Silberberg and City Council Members Del Pepper, John Chapman, and Willie Bailey in the article “City council weights in on fall session” in the Sept. 7 Alexandria Times.
The ecosystem of affordable housing can be complicated, but the problem is simple: Housing costs have outpaced income growth by 2-5 times since the year 2000, and the number of market-rate affordable units in Alexandria has declined by 90% in the same period. Many who have been in our city for decades face an impossible question – give up other essentials (such as health care and nutrition) for rent, or move.
Alexandria is an attractive city, and it is natural that people want to settle here. As a non-profit provider of affordable units, AHDC sets out to make sure that it stays that way for all income levels. This is economically imperative, as a city needs a diversity of professions – and thus a diversity of incomes – to survive.
Consider this: In Alexandria, a police dispatcher would struggle to find housing for their family of four that would not severely burden their budget, prompting them to look farther and farther outside the city instead. Yet we need police dispatchers to function as a top-tier city, just as we need teachers, legal clerks, social workers, clergy, construction teams, cooks, and home health care aides. Private, non-profit, and public solutions are required to make sure that Alexandria has housing for the labor it needs to continue to thrive.
The benefits are not just economic. By allowing more to live local in affordable housing, we reduce the need for long commutes and the accompanying pollution and traffic. We allow seniors with fixed incomes to continue to age in place, so they can stay near their families and communities. We further educational outcomes by keeping children in one home, and one school, when their families don’t have to move to escape high rents. Alexandria benefits from happy grandparents, smart kids, quick commutes and clean air.
80% of Alexandria residents surveyed say that housing affordability is either essential or very important to the city’s future, and city leadership is on board. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s completely achievable. Let’s get to work.
Jonathan Frederick, Executive Director
Alexandria Housing Development Corporation
(This letter appeared in the Sept. 21st issue of the Alexandria Times.)