Northern Virginia officials

From left, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, Prince William County Supervisor Margaret Franklin, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay and Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol participate in the 7th Annual Northern Virginia Regional Elected Leaders Summit in Arlington on Thursday.

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Northern Virginia leaders want to make strides in affordable housing across the region.

Housing was among the many topics touched on by top elected officials Thursday at the seventh annual Northern Virginia Regional Elected Leaders Summit at George Mason University in Arlington.

The event was hosted by several Northern Virginia chambers of commerce, and the panel included Prince William County Supervisor Margaret Franklin, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol and Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson.

The panelists said affordable housing should be a huge priority for all localities in Northern Virginia as prices continue to spike.

“People think of affordable housing as a young professional problem, and I think it’s really important to know that this generation of families cannot afford to keep their roots in Northern Virginia,” Cristol said. “A pathway that was very attainable to someone 25 years ago does not exist today ... This is not just a problem of our very low-income neighbors. This is a problem of our middleclass, even our upper middle class.”

Franklin said each locality must decide the importance of affordable housing. She said Prince William County is “at a crossroads” and highlighted recent proposals to expand land-use decisions countywide.

“Those discussions have become very controversial because we’re looking at expanding housing all across the county, not just in certain areas,” she said. “In Prince William County, you have a board that is willing to go as far as we need to go to ensure that housing is spread out and not just concentrated in certain parts of the county.”

McKay, of Fairfax County, said housing should be seen “as an investment and not an expense.”

“We have to build affordable housing everywhere in this region,” he said. “One of our problems is it was politically acceptable to build it in small areas and small pockets in counties and cities that were deemed politically OK with that.”

The officials also discussed one of the positive impacts on government services from the COVID-19 pandemic: electronic participation in meetings.

McKay said the solely in-person model was “leaving people out of the equation in terms of testimony, and that’s something none of us should be supporting.”

“Even the person who wants to testify on one particular zoning ordinance shouldn’t have to sign up days in advance and drive a long distance to the government center, take time off work potentially,” he said. “There’s no reason why these things can’t become permanent.”

The pandemic has also required some different approaches to economic development, as office space isn’t as prioritized with some employers adopting total or hybrid work-from-home models.

Franklin said Prince William County is focusing on revitalization and redevelopment, particularly in the U.S. 1 corridor.

“Prince William is going through what I call the teenage years where we’re going into adulthood of finally coming into our own and economic development is going to be the capstone to help us do that,” she said.

The panelists also touched on transportation, particularly the Metro system and its recent struggles coming out of the pandemic. 

Wilson said although Metro is “having a tough time … we cannot afford for Metro to fail.”

Franklin advocated for a Metro expansion to Prince William County, saying there is "no reason at this point why we shouldn’t have access to our Metro system.”

A brief tense exchange occurred around the discussion of schools. Randall railed against Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Republicans who have attacked Loudoun County schools over the past year.

One of the hot-button subjects has been critical race theory, which is an overarching term applying to graduate-level law studies focusing on how issues of race are interwoven into U.S. history through government and private policies. One example is redlining, in which banks refused to give mortgages to Black people or imposed harsh terms.

The theory has become a battle cry among conservative groups, who say it is being taught in all levels of schooling and assigns the blame of past racist actions to current children.

Local and state school officials in Virginia have said the theory is not being taught and that people are conflating equity initiatives and culturally-responsive teaching with critical race theory.

“I am really tired of the governor running a campaign against our school systems. He does not know what he’s talking about. I have had it with Gov. Youngkin attacking school systems and attacking Loudoun County schools,” she said. “If the only way you can get elected is attacking teachers by calling them groomers and attacking educators then maybe you shouldn’t be in office.”

As Randall said “what has happened to our teachers is a travesty,” someone in the audience shouted that Youngkin is “attacking CRT and Marxist ideologies.”

“There is no teaching of CRT in public schools,” Randall said. “And if your child is learning CRT, you should be proud because your child is a genius that they’re taking a graduate-level class.”

Nolan Stout covers Prince William County. Reach him at nstout@insidenova.com or @TheNolanStout on Facebook and Twitter.

(25) comments

Faith Myrvold

These are the same morons who increase taxes at every opportunity and then scratch their heads at why everything is so expensive

Allen Muchnick

>> there is "no reason at this point why we [Prince William County} shouldn’t have access to our Metro system.”

Really??? PWC has ALWAYS had "access", but there are a bunch of compelling reasons to NEVER extend Metrorail into Prince William County.

1) PWC has no plans to EVER establish the density of residential and/or commercial land uses surrounding any future PWC Metrorail stations needed to financially support the Metrorail system.

2) The cost to extend Metrorail to PWC is at least 10 times higher than it would cost to extend the planned Route One bus rapid transit line from the Huntington station into PWC.

3) The Route 1 corridor in PWC is already served by VRE (whose two-way off-peak service will be expanded significantly once the Long Bridge expansion project is completed) as well as by a 65 MPH high-capacity express bus facility on the I-95 Express Lanes. A future Metrorail trip from PWC into the regional core would be substantially slower than express buses running on the I-95/I-395/I-495 Express Lanes at 65 MPH..

4) PWC is not generating ANY of the gasoline or sales tax revenue needed to support Metrorail operations and capital expansion. The County would need a substantial increase in those taxes to join the Metrorail compact.

5) Despite the post-pandemic depression of Metrorail ridership, the core capacity of the Metrorail system--including additional Potomac River crossings--must first be expanded before any future Metrorail extensions could be accommodated. That expansion will likely take decades and tens of billions of dollars to achieve.

6) Metrorail is NOT and never has been "PWC's system." PWC has never been a member of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and has never invested financially in that system. Currently, the Metrorail compact jurisdictions provide a substantial subsidy for every Metrorail trip taken by a PWC resident.

Sacagawea Lax

Facts

Allen Muchnick

>> “In Prince William County, you have a board that is willing to go as far as we need to go to ensure that housing is spread out and not just concentrated in certain parts of the county.”

What a profoundly ignorant and dangerous statement! 1) Housing in the outer suburbs that is not served by high-capacity public transportation will NEVER be affordable. 2) Building $1 million homes on one-acre lots in the rural crescent (instead of the $2 million homes on 10-acre lots currently allowed) in NOT going to produce any "affordable" housing.

Sacagawea Lax

More facts

Janet Smith

What can you expect? USA has been the World Police Force, World Human Services Provider, and World Political and Economic Refugee Welcome Center for 75 years.

Duke Nukem

It's a shame.. 85 million (apparently) of our neighbors voted to return to this while we were on a path to focusing on Americ first.

Paul Benedict

Is there anyone more arrogant and obnoxious than Loudoun County Board Chair Phyllis Randall? She's had it with Governor Northam, she says. Too bad! Virginia voters elected him and her lousy county management was a big impetus for that. We need to vote her nasty kind out.

Duke Nukem

I'm sure she feels someone, or group needs to be punished for the election. So angry. I hear they have a direct link to the AG and can get... Uh law enforcement deployed and judges or masters or magistrates whoever these elites are to execute the punishment. Speaking of elections, the resident just said no elections gonna be stolen anymore. Guess he gonna be impeached now.

Lynne June

Redlining went out years ago. It’s old news. I don’t know if CRT is being taught anywhere. I do know that Kendi came to FCPS to present to administrators. I don’t agree with racism in either direction. As for CRT, it’s an old theory developed at a different historical time. Why should I be proud my child is taught a graduate level course? First, there are many worthless graduate courses. Secondly, I wouldn’t want my child being taught anything that teaches victimhood, or fragility, based upon race. It’s just wrong. We need to get over race and focus on our shared humanity. Period.

Sacagawea Lax

"We need to get over race and focus on our shared humanity. Period."

Exactly. But that also includes what I've mentioned to you before about "Caucasian" being an obsolete and debunked classification, but somehow still manages to be of importance in the U.S., and unknown or laughed at abroad. Last I heard, you apparently were waiting for Merriam Webster to change their definition of the word before you would agree with this assertion.

"Native American" again isn't a race either.

Lynne June

Oh yeah, I just heard someone laughing and debunking the word Caucasian the other day. No thanks. I’ll continue to use the word I choose because I dislike using color words to describe people. My choice. No, Native American is not an ethnicity. There are too many tribes with distinct cultures, traditions, and languages to lump [into one ethnicity, “Sacajawea.”

Sacagawea Lax

Merriam Websters themselves admit the word "Caucasian" only follows logic in it's literal, original definition:

“of or relating to the Caucasus (a region in southeastern Europe between the Black and Caspian seas) or its inhabitants.”

If archeologists themselves admit that "Caucasian" is not a race of "whites", why would you continue to use the word?

How about Lynne that all Europeans aren't Caucasians And you don't have to describe them as white if you choose not to?

Merriam websters even goes on in their definition with this claim:

NOTE: People of North African and southwest Asian ancestry were historically also sometimes considered to be of the Caucasian race.

Finally, I meant that Native American can actually be considered a "race."

https://myundoculife.com/2020/09/02/hispanic-or-latino-try-native-american/

John Dutko

It must be fantastic to be White.

Lynne June

Idk. Haven’t seen too many white people in my lifetime. Most are beige.

Sacagawea Lax

[lol]

Will Williams

I agree ditko is a troll [batman][ninja][pirate][ban]

Donald Quella

Infill...Infill...Infill...Urbanize..Urbanize..Urbanize...Whether Missing Middle inside-the-Beltway, or Data Centers outside-the-Beltway, they're all deep in the Developers' pockets.

Sacagawea Lax

[thumbup]

Janet Smith

If you go back 10 years there were the same discussions, Metrorail, affordable housing, and so on. How much has been poured into Metrorail, affordable housing, etc., over the past decade and how much more will be poured in? Talk about "Smart" Growth, aka continual infill urbanization, anyone who is knowledgeable and intelligent is or will be outta urbanized NoVa and living in place like Nowhereville, completely off the Developers' radar.

Bill Rio

How much more housing or affordable housing can possibly be needed in this area? PWC was farm land 20 years ago and now you would be hard pressed to not find a row of townhouses in any direction.

John Dutko

Well since housing has not kept up with population growth, economic influences, and zoning laws... yeah, more housing is needed.

Bill Rio

You are the biggest troll that has ever lived. Do you even live in this state? Have you seen how busy it is around here? There is no space. Why not fix the infrastructure? Have you driven around Woodbridge? There are vacancies at apartments everywhere. There are houses for sale all over the county. Don't just make stuff up.

John Dutko

Yes, I love to troll. Rustle them jimmies.

And I bring up valid points that people can't ignore and get angry at.

In this instance, the average home in the Woodbridge area is being listed for 100k above the tax assessment and rental properties average about $1500 (if you are lucky).

The price of living property has gone up and many people are being pushed out of the market. If there is an injection of new properties (via affordable housing) then that would help solve some of the criminal elements from economic disparities among various demographics who have been pushed out due to gentrification and/or lack of funds.

dave strut

Houses for sale all above market value you mean.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.