Editor: I was at the Committee of 100 meeting you alluded to in your Nov. 28 editorial [“Our View: Single-Family Zoning Faces Uncertainty”].
Many people didn’t read the editorial, unfortunately, and only a handful of county residents heard Michelle Winters, executive director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, make her presentation at that meeting, where she discussed the housing-affordability problem the county calls “the missing middle,” as in housing for middle-income individuals and families unable to afford the McMansions going up in Arlington.
One of her prospective solutions was a “fourplex” – a mini-apartment – which could be built in a single-family-zoned neighborhood.
Winters simply proposed the concept. She did not answer any of the many critical questions about either the viability or suitability of a fourplex. Among them:
• What makes anyone think that a developer building a fourplex in walking distance of the East Falls Church Metro station, for example, would sell those units for $2.6 million (that was the price for the new home built next to mine three years ago) divided by four, or $650,000? Is a $650,000 tiny house an attractive option for a family? Would that single-family townhome or condo even have as low as a $650,000 price tag? Probably not. The developer is going to “tart” it up so that it can be sold for more than the $2.6 million he could get for a new single-family McMansion.
So let’s assume for argument’s sake that each of those units would go for a minimum of $800,000. Is that “affordable” for most of the young people now living in Clarendon condos?
• What guarantees do we have that the owners of these new units won’t use them as investment vehicles, renting them out on Airbnb?
• Even if four families buy those four units, what if each has two cars? Where are they going to park? Is the developer going to clear-cut the backyard, cement it over and build a parking lot? Or are those cars going to be parked in front of my house?
• I don’t even want to think about the implications for the Arlington sewer systems.
I have an idea. Why doesn’t the county government offer some sort of incentive to Baby Boomers living in $700,000 homes who are retiring to Florida (or wherever)? Instead of selling their homes for quick cash to a McMansion builder, maybe the county can incentivize those Boomers to sell their $700,000 homes for $700,000 to someone from the “missing middle.”
Steve Barlas, Arlington