Yesterday RestonNow posted an article on the upcoming hearings for redevelopment of Crescent Apartments and Lake Anne Fellowship House (LAFH). We responded, in part, with our continuing concern over the fate of the residents of more than 100 apartment units who will be evicted to make way for the building of 285 luxury apartments at LAFH. Robert Seldin, the head of NOVUS LLC, the company redeveloping LAFH castigated us for errors and said we should apologize to LAFH's volunteers and residents. We responded in turn. Below are those comments for your information.
The two Lake Anne applications are the first re-zoning applications to implement the re-development of Lake Anne Village Center. The plan for re-developing the Crescent Apts. has been widely endorsed, especially for its effort to assure at least the same number of affordable units as the existing facility. The re-development of Lake Anne Fellowship House at last count included plans to evict more than 100 poor, largely foreign language speaking residents in favor of high-end apartments. We need to watch to ensure that the latest revision to this re-zoning plan includes a reasonable apartment for ALL the current LAFH residents.
Terry Maynard, you are completely misinformed about the Fellowship proposal and by further spreading disinformation may cause irreparable harm to the Fellowship Square residents. Please allow me the opportunity to state the facts. At present only 114 out if the total 240 potential residents at LAFH receive direct Federal housing subsidy. This subsidy is set to expire for most residents (86 of the 114) in 24 months leaving them with no means of housing support. Further this subsidy is tied directly to the Fellowship Square building so those residents who need subsidy are forced to stay at the property. The proposed redevelopment will instead provide "Permanent, Portable Direct Housing Subsidies To All 240 Residents For The Rest of Their Lives" provided they earn less than 80% of AMI. This is a degree of housing security that none of the residents currently enjoys and I dare say very few people anywhere receive. The subsidy will pay the difference between 30% of a residents income and their actual housing cost, meaning that if a resident has no income, their housing is free. By being portable all residents will now have the freedom to choose housing that best suits their needs rather than being tied to a decaying structure. In addition to this permanent security for all, the proposed redevelopment will also add 140 new permanent affordable units to replace the 26 temporary affordable units that will be on site in 2016. All residents will be given access to a housing relocation counselors and will receive up to $3,500 apiece to cover moving expenses either into the new building or into other housing of their choosing.
I think that in light of the facts, you owe all of the fine Fellowship volunteers and their residents a sincere apology.
Terry Maynard reply to Rob Seldin
Thank you for your feedback, Mr. Seldin. For those of RestonNow’s readers who don’t know who Mr. Seldin is, he is the head of NOVUS Residences LLC, the residential division of Cafritz Interests. They have proposed the redevelopment of Lake Anne Fellowship House (LAFH) into more than 285 luxury apartments and only 140 affordable units, leaving the residents of 114 units without a home next year.
Now to your comment: It corroborates explicitly the point I made. It is NOVUS’ intention to force (i.e.—evict) residents of more than 100 low-income units in LAFH to find housing elsewhere. It is well within NOVUS’ ability to provide that housing at the current LAFH area location in the new over-sized luxury apartment complex NOVUS plans to build, but you have chosen to build a very limited number of low-income housing units in your redevelopment of LAFH. At the same time, NOVUS is buying residents off with a miniscule rent subsidy because, under Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, IT IS REQUIRED BY LAW. This is not because of NOVUS’ overwhelming corporate generosity as Mr. Seldin infers. Here is a simple statement covering this situation from a Nevada publication on affordable housing support: “In the new Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher project-based rental assistance program, a tenant in good standing moving out of a project-based unit (such as LAFH) must be offered a tenant-based subsidy, provided the tenant has lived in the project-based unit for at least a year.” Do you see that word “must”? So thank you for obeying federal law. And if you need more documentation, I can provide it.
Right now In Fairfax County, the 2014 maximum allowable rent in affordable dwelling units (excluding utilities) ranges from $780 to $1,115 per month, depending on the number of bedrooms (0-3). It is unclear to me how many, if any, LAFH residents could afford those rents, even with your small subsidy.
But there are NO available rental units in Fairfax County under its Housing Choice Voucher program. In fact, even THE WAITING LIST IS CLOSED according to the County website. (See http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/r... So your plan will not only throw them out of LAFH and Reston, YOUR PLAN WILL THROW THEM OUT OF FAIRFAX COUNTY. Great work there, Mr. Seldin! That so defies Reston’s Vision calling for diversity—including income diversity--as stated both in Bob Simon’s original vision and the recently approved Reston Master Plan that it is sickening. It is also morally reprehensible. We clearly understand where NOVUS’ priority lies: Maximizing profits at the expense of tenants.
As for the volunteers at LAFH, I have nothing but immense gratitude for their tremendous efforts in assisting the hundreds of LAFH residents in difficult circumstances, and nothing I said in my comment suggested otherwise. In fact, your statement was gratuitous.
Moreover, I hope that—and I will work for—an accommodation that allows ALL the existing LAFH residents can remain at Lake Anne in the new NOVUS development—even if it cuts into NOVUS’ bottom line. And we at Reston 2020 will work with other community advocates to press the County to help assure that happens. Throwing more than 100 poor people out of LAFH and Reston would violate all that Reston stands for.
UPDATE:In the meantime, I believe the only person who owes LAFH residents an apology is you for what you are about to do to them.
Thank you Terry. We appreciate your desire to see the best outcome for the Lake Anne residents. This is a desire that we likewise share and that has been the animating principle behind our efforts on behalf of Fellowship Square for the better part of the past 2 years. If recognition of your desire to help arrive at the best possible outcome, we are happy to meet with you and any members of your orgainization to discuss the challenges and opportunities available for the property and the solutions that we have been able to thus far arrange. If you are aware of any potential methodologies by which we can arrive at a better outcome for the residents we are certainly glad to incorporate them into the plan if we can. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to reach me in the office at 202-446-0670. In the interim, please allow me the courtesy of rectifying certain aspects of our proposal that may still be misunderstood.
At present only 114 "units" of the 240 total units at Lake Anne Fellowship House carry "temporary" project based subsidy. This subsidy enables the residents in these units to afford to live.
Residents in the other 126 units do not receive any housing support despite financial circumstances that see many of the "unsubsidized" residents paying upwards of 65% of their limited income on housing.
The temporary project based subsidy is set to expire for 86 of the 114 units in September, 2016.
The temporoary project based subsidy for the remaining 28 units expires in 2023.
Once the subsidy expires, it cannot be reinstated since the existing subsidy programs are no longer in existence.
Once the subsides expire, the newly unsubsidized residents will lose their ability to pay rent and therefore have an increasingly uncertain future.
The existing Lake Anne Fellowship Houses 1 and 2 are both in need of signficant repairs. The property's meager income stream (the product of the property's extremely low rents) is insufficient to enable even routine maintenance. This creates an ongoing cycle of decline that hastens the property's functional and physical obsolescence. This cycle of decline is not in anyone's best interests to continue.
Fellowship Square has been investigating potential solutions to these challenges for the past 4 years in hopes of arriving at a solution that would provide lasting financial benefits to all residents (not just those in jepoardy of losing current subsidy) while generating a new 40 year life in permanently affordable senior housing.
The existing buildings are completely unregulated in terms of rent and age by the County and therefore once the mortgages expire (2016 and 2023 respectfully) they could be leased at 100% market rates and to residents of all ages. While this would create the best financial outcome for the Foundation, as stated previously the primary motivating factor beind this exercise is to provide maximum benefit to the existing residents while enabling the maximum amount of long lasting senior affordable housing.
We have been working with the Foundation for over 2 years and have been funding 100% of the cost of their exploration into potential solutions during this period. At no point during this process has our involvement been predicated upon requiring a solution that would enable us to develop new apartments but rather has been done, in large part, as a component of our owner's ongoing history of charitable works thoughout the DC region.
After hearing the Foundations list of desires, we set about working with the relevant Federal and State agencies who play ongoing roles in this property to see how to craft the best potential solution. After one year of ongoing discussions and explorations, the best direction was as follows:
1) HUD would provide PERMANENT, GUARANTEED, and PORTABLE section 8 housing vouchers to all 240 residents living in either Lake Anne 1 and Lake Anne 2 regardless of whether they were in a currently subsidized unit. Rather than being forced to live in properties that carried current subsidy that could expire, all residents could now choose properties and bring the subsidy with them and that subsidy could not expire.
2) These vouchers WOULD NOT come from the County's existing allocation but would instead be accretive to the County total. Therefore no Fellowship Square residents would need to wait in any lines and no Fellowship Square residents would see any gaps in their coverage. As you are correct that the County's existing wait list for normal vouchers is currently 3 years long, it was important to get this assurance as the primary animating principal behind this initiative was to provide benefit to the existing residents.
3) The vouchers would provide PERMANENT HOUSING SECURITY FOR ALL RESIDENTS FOR THE REMAINDER OF THEIR LIVES. This is a condition that not one resident currently enjoys and that frankly most people in the US don't ever achieve.
4) To secure these Vouchers, Novus would fund and construct for Fellowship Square a new 140 unit permanently affordable senior building on the east (vacant) portion of the existing FSF site. It was expected that this building would be complete with construction by year end, 2017.
5) The 140 new units were required by HUD as 140 is the number of units currently covered by the existing mortgage on Lake Anne 1. Even though the existing Lake Anne 1 only has 28 subsidized units and is ultimately unregulated by the County once the existing mortgage expires, the new property would carry permanent affordability and be permanently for seniors.
6) From the time that we are able to finalize a deal with HUD (which ultimately requires having an approved site plan from Fairfax County) all Fellowship Square residents would be granted vouchers and given access to a housing counselor who would help each resident identify the potential housing that best suited their individual needs. As the new Fellowship building would not be complete until the end of 2017, this would give all residents upwards of 3 years to identify the best option for them.
7) Once the new Fellowship Square was complete and all of the residents had been successfully accommodated in the new housing of their choosing, Novus would remove the existing buildings and commence construction on the new market rate housing.
8) Through the "creation" of 240 "Permanent, New, Transportable Vouchers" for all existing residents plus the construction of 140 new permanent affordable senior units, the proposed redevelopment would create the opportunity for up to 380 deserving seniors to have dramatically improved housing prospects as compared to 114 existing residents who are currently facing subsidy expirations and the prospect of life in a decaying structure that does not best meet their needs. By most objective standards this appeared to be a worthwhile set of achievements.
A few other points that may also be worth understanding include:
1) Current HUD Fair Market Rent for a 1 Bedroom unit in the DC MSA is $1,239 per month, as compared with the $780 per month that you may have been lead to believe.
2) The Section 8 voucher pays the difference between the Fair Market Rent and whatever amount is 30% of a resident's income. If the resident earns $0 the voucher pays the full $1,239 per month (or up to $14,868 per resident per year).
3) Over a 30 year period, assuming a resident has no income, this would equate to a benefit of nearly $450,000 per resident in todays dollars; an amount I would respectfully suggest is somewhat more than "miniscule".
4) Absent this proposal, none of these benefits can accrue to any of the existing residents. The residents who lose their subsidies will lose their subsidies. The residents with no money to afford better accommodations will be forced to remain in the existing cycle of decline.
While there are countless other legal nuances that underscore the set of facts outlined above, they are indeed the facts as we best understand them. As stated in many prior instances, we are certainly sensitive to people's concerns about the property, the proposed redevelopment, and the issues facing the existing residents. As it remains primarily the resident's interests that we are working to advance we are grateful for the community's interest and their willingness to help advance solutions that guarantee the best possible outcomes. While there are plenty of items worth discussing, we believe that a solution that guarantees housing security for life for all existing residents remains a priority and worthwhile goal. We likewise believe that any solution that adds 140 new permanent affordable senior housing units to a site that has no permanent affordability today advances those goal even further. And lastly we believe that any solution that requires that all existing residents must be provided for, and all affordable units be constructed before any new market rate apartments can even commence furthers that goal yet again. We proudly stand by the work that we and the Foundation have done and continue to do on behalf of the residents and we invite you to share in the success that we hope to bring them. Thank you again for your time and thought. We look forward to speaking with you soon.
With Best Regards,
Robert M. Seldin
Mr. Seldin: Thank you for your more considerate and illuminating response. Still, it appears that they reinforce the two key points I made earlier and leads to a shared conclusion: ·
--NOVUS is planning to evict poor, largely non-English speaking residents of 100 LAFH apartments.
--NOVUS is doing little to nothing more than is required by federal, state, Virginia, and County law, including building 140
affordable dwelling units, to meet the housing needs our Reston’s less fortunate.
--Although we have not mentioned it before, I agree with you that LAFH has become a barely livable place in recent years and needs to be replaced.
In replacing LAFH, you are pursuing a course that sees the construction of 140 permanent affordable dwelling units (because you must) and 285 “market rate” apartments under the “full consolidation” option of the new Lake Anne Comprehensive Plan allowing 425 units. First, it is not clear to me how your proposed plan meets the requirements of the “full consolidation” option, i.e.—that your effort is combined with the efforts of others Lake Anne redevelopment efforts. A paragraph in the same section of that Plan also states: “Any redevelopment of this (LAFH) property should replace the loss of any of the existing affordable rental units among all the Land Units (at Lake Anne).” It would seem logical, then, that guarantees of the concurrent availability of the other 100 needed affordable residences in the Lake Anne area should be included. Is Republic onboard with the notion to build affordable units at Crescent Apartments to make up for at least some of your shortfall at LAFH? I am not aware that this is the case. What arrangements do you have in place (or expect to have in place before you seek County approval)
to assure that all LAFH residents can be re-situated in their current neighborhood when they are forced to leave LAFH with their vouchers in hand?
Another approach you might consider is pursuing “bonus” density for providing 100 “extra” affordable units at LAFH for all those people you now plan to displace. As you are aware, the County is woefully short of affordable housing and, to the extent legally permissible, would probably look favorably on such an offer. Heaven knows, the county has been “flexible” elsewhere in Reston for much less humanitarian reasons.
And you have a basis for doing so: “Housing will be provided for all ages and incomes” is one of Reston’s core Planning Principles under the new Reston Master Plan. Twenty percent might be an appropriate bonus number of units, so you might be able to add as many as 85 units to your 425 currently allowable total units if you added 100 affordable units, thus creating 240 affordable units and 270 “market rate” units. My guess is that the added rents from the 85 extra units (even if there are 15 fewer “market rate” units) would substantially exceed the revenues under the current proposal. (100 ADUs at $1,289/month is $128,900. Would you expect to receive $8,600/month in rent from each of the 15 “market rate” units you’d lose to make up the difference?) Admittedly there would be added costs, but the affordable units would also offer NOVUS tax incentives. You’d have to do the math to see if it’s workable.
Finally, I will take a critical shot at your remarks. You make it sound as if NOVUS is making a sacrifice or doing something extraordinary for LAFH’s residents when you are not, in fact. You are doing what is legally necessary to create the opportunity for a vastly more profitable market-oriented apartment complex. You even made it sound as if the housing subsidy LAFH evictees would receive would come from NOVUS, and apparently that’s not true.
You also note that the new “permanent, guaranteed, and portable” Section 8 vouchers are accretive and would not mean that displaced LAFH residents would not have to go to the back of line that is closed to wait for affordable housing. That is a good thing, but it still doesn’t address the issue of affordable housing availability in Lake Anne as called for by the Comprehensive Plan, or more broadly available in Reston or Fairfax County. You can’t live in a voucher. Are you aware of any such current housing opportunities or opportunities by the time you evict LAFH’s residents? I’m not. You see because most developers like NOVUS don’t want to build more affordable housing than the law requires, rarely is any new housing available.
Most importantly, the idea of large scale eviction and gentrification of Reston’s low-income housing is anathema to Reston’s vision. As a new developer in Reston, you will do much better if you try to become part of our community and not fight it on one of its most important foundations. I think you will find Restonians and others interested in housing affordability much more receptive to your plan if NOVUS shows its commitment to that core value by accommodating all of LAFH’s current residents in its new development. You simply have to find a way to keep all LAFH's residents in the Lake Anne area, and preferably in the new LAFH.