Affordable housing in Northern Virginia has become a hot topic.   “Region’s leaders keep eyes open on Amazon challenges” (Aug. 30-Sept. 5 edition of InsideNoVa/PrinceWilliam) revealed how the area’s elected leaders believe that issue can best be addressed.  

Everyone quoted in the article, except the chairman of our Board of County Supervisors, Corey Stewart (R-At Large), seems very aware that taking the wrong approach to affordable housing will end up worsening other problems, like school overcrowding and traffic congestion.  

According to the article, during the Northern Virginia Regional Elected Leaders Summit on Aug. 26, Phyllis Randall, chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, said she “favored a regional approach in addressing the affordable-housing crunch” and “recommended infrastructure be put in place before the new housing units arrived.”  

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson added that he “favored affordable-housing initiatives, provided they took into account different jurisdictions’ employment centers and transportation networks.  ‘We don’t want to exacerbate transportation problems,’ he said. ‘We need to put housing in the right places…to meet the need.’”  

In an article on Sept. 26, “Amazon sparks a chance for rare alliance,” the Washington Post reported that the chairman of the Arlington County Board warned against just “…reacting to market forces that make it difficult to shape anything that’s meaningful to people.”  Thoughtful words of wisdom from elected leaders focused on their constituents’ quality of life.

Prince William’s chairman, Stewart, on the other hand, would take a much different approach to the affordable housing issue based on his usual developer-focused point of view. 

 According to the InsideNoVa article, Stewart said local governments could help affordable-housing providers by easing up on the regulations.  “The biggest thing government can do is get out of the way. We need to let the private sector do its job.”  

Stewart’s words reflect his signature philosophy that puts the financial interests of land investors, developers and other special interest groups – and his own statewide political self-interests – far ahead of those of the citizens he was elected to serve.  His failed leadership has resulted in our county having the worst school overcrowding in all of Virginia and some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Unfortunately, Stewart has been aided and abetted by most of the other board members.  

The results of our recent comparison of the use of school trailers in Loudoun and Prince William counties reflect the wisdom of Loudoun’s leaders in working to put schools, roads and other infrastructure in place before more housing is built.  Our findings include the shocking fact that, while Prince William had only 9% more students than Loudoun last school year, we’re having to use almost 400% more trailers than Loudoun this year (184 vs. 47).  And while fast-growing Loudoun didn’t need to add any trailers this year, Prince William added 29 trailers at 13 schools.       

The new Board of County Supervisors to be elected next month will have its work cut out to clean up the mess left by members of the current board.  We’re hopeful that the “new broom sweeps clean” and future affordable housing will be in the right place – within walking distance of our transportation hubs and employment centers – and built only after the necessary schools, roads and other infrastructure are put in place to fix our current school and traffic problems.  The citizens of Prince William deserve nothing less. 


Doug Widener is a Gainesville resident and founder of Citizens Alliance of Prince William. He can be reached at citizensalliancepw@gmail.com

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