Editor: I have been struck by some of the comments in letters to the editor opposing the county’s draft Affordable Housing Master Plan and Implementation Framework. A letter in the July 2 edition decries doing “radically more than our fair share,” which seems to be defined as more than what neighboring jurisdictions are doing. Yet, the writer doesn’t make clear why Arlington should be considered comparable to other jurisdictions.
The letter also assigns a $20,000 cost per year to students from families making less than an estimated $60,000 per year who move into new affordable units, ignoring data from recent affordable-housing projects that clearly show the overwhelming majority of families moving into those new units already live here and attend Arlington schools.
This kind of number crunching is not only misleading; sadly, it discriminates among students, assigning a cost to these students while seemingly ignoring the same cost of the children from families in single-family neighborhoods who are the primary source of our burgeoning school enrollment. It also treats our families, neighbors and co-workers as simply commodities to be assessed against bus stops, park space, school capacity and other physical needs.
I don’t understand this kind of calculation. Here’s what I do understand about Arlington’s affordability crisis:
* My daughter, a talented teacher, had to move away from Arlington, taking my granddaughters with her, because she couldn’t afford to pursue her profession and live here.
* Many young people in my Arlington faith community must move outside Arlington to find affordable housing, depriving us of their energy, ideas and civic contributions.
* Many older people who are still contributing to this county are being forced to move away from their faith community, family and friends because of high housing costs.
* The Arlington businesses that I frequent increasingly struggle with training workers who must live far away, only to lose them to jobs closer to home as those open up, putting strains on both cost and productivity.
* As I drive around the county that I have called home for 40 years, I struggle more and more with the traffic that results from growing numbers of people who can’t afford to live near their work traveling into Arlington.
The Affordable Housing Master Plan doesn’t attempt to redress the significant loss in market-rate units – 13,500 since 2000. It attempts to meet a need based on current conditions and expected employment, and the implementation framework makes clear that there is a myriad of ways to do that, none of which need to involve the undermining of single-family neighborhoods that opponents like to claim.
Arlington has employed the creativity and vision of its residents in the past to deploy innovative ways to make it, in the words of its vision statement, a diverse and inclusive, world-class urban community with secure, attractive residential and commercial neighborhoods where people unite to form a caring, learning, participating, sustainable community in which each person is important. We can do so again.
Pass the Affordable Housing Master Plan in September, and let’s get to work! Our economic sustainability and community depend on it.
Robert Buckman, Arlington