Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Friday, January 22, 2016

Big Money is Talking in Tysons. Will the County buy it?

In a new Washington Business Journal article headlined, "Cash vs. affordable units: This Tysons development case is worth watching," Michael Neibauer describes how Reston-based developer Renaissance Centro is seeking to sell its way out of providing workforce housing at affordable prices while building a huge luxury condominium complex called The Arbor.  Here is the gritty part of this article:
 The project's website describes The Arbor, with its large units ringed with terraces, as supporting an "active, urban lifestyle indicative of the newly urban Tysons." The site design includes pedestrian paths winding around the building and connecting with Lerner Enterprises' Tysons II expansion.
Fairfax County's comprehensive plan for Tysons, also known as the Tysons Plan, places a premium on workforce housing — those units affordable to households with incomes ranging from 60 percent to 120 percent of the area median income. For providing workforce dwelling units, or WDUs, developers can achieve a 20 percent bonus density.
Renaissance Centro, the contract purchaser of Block D, has offered two options to reach the density it proposes for The Arbor. The decision, according to the list of proffers, is theirs, not the county's.
One option is to provide 20 percent of the units as WDUs, though if those units don't sell in relatively short order, Renaissance Centro would have the option to flip them to market-rate. The difference between the for-sale WDU price and the market-rate price would be contributed to the county.
The second option is simply a cash contribution to a new Tysons Affordable Housing Trust Fund, generally equal to 1.5 percent of the sales prices of all units at The Arbor, plus 1 percent of the net base sales price paid in installments. But the Tysons Plan is wary of cash in lieu of affordable housing, noting explicitly it is "not desired."
Staff does not believe, per the report, "that bonus intensity or height should be granted to the applicant for the provision of workforce dwellings when no actual workforce dwelling units are being provided in the building."
So it's up to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors just how serious they are about keeping some affordable housing in Tysons or whether they will settle for money to address their budget problem, which is a problem of too much spending, not a problem of too little revenue.   

It's an excellent article.  Click here to read the rest

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