Last night the City Council approved the Novus Gateway project at Kamp Washington. This will be a transformational mixed-use development on the western border of the city.
Over the last several years we have talked about economic growth and smart redevelopment where we can create additional economic activity in the city with the goal of keeping our taxes in check but our services best in class.
This project helps meet our strategic objectives for the city and will allow us to compete against those nearby areas in the county that are also redeveloping. And this project is not only smart but sustainable.
We are doing things the right way from an environmental standpoint, strengthening the economy and enhancing the community.
My comments from the hearing are attached for review.
Fairfax, I think we are making some good decisions now.
I welcome your thoughts.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
City Council Public Hearing
Agenda Item 8a.
Kamp Washington Novus Gateway Project
Councilmember Michael DeMarco remarks
First let me say that I would be extremely disappointed if we did not approve this project tonight. Over the last several years and even on the campaign trail most of us have talked about economic growth and smart redevelopment where we can create additional economic activity in the city with the goal of helping to keep our taxes in check but our services best in class. This project helps meet our own council objectives and will allow us to compete against those nearby areas in the county that are also redeveloping.
And I think this project is not only smart but sustainable. And when I think about sustainability, I think about not only doing things the right way from an environmental standpoint, which this project does, but also strengthening the economy and enhancing the community. I think this meets all those objectives.
Now, to the subject of affordable housing. It is very clear, that we need to have a housing strategy that enables us to support affordability for all who want to live in the city. But affordable housing is not only a developer issue, it is a jurisdictional issue, a community issue and one that we need to address collectively.
Now we can settle (emphasis on settle) for 24 units at 60% AMI, but I struggle with how that’s going to help our teachers, police officers, fire medics and nurses whose starting salaries are between 43 and 50% AMI.
I think we need to be bolder than this, if we are going to tackle the issue head on. Some of us don’t want to be in the housing business, but we need to be if we’re serious about not only providing affordability but also addressing senior housing, student housing and homelessness.
Is a voluntary cash proffer of $700,000 going to resolve all of these issues? Of course not. But it’s a starting point that we can leverage into additional funds that could really make a dent in affordability? Is it perfect? No. Is it immediate? It could be, if we turn some of these funds into rent relief towards existing market rate housing. But we’re losing many of these market rate housing complexes like Layton Hall and Oak Knoll. Well, rent relief is only one option. We could potentially support existing property owners out of a housing trust fund to update and maintain existing affordable housing. We can also leverage a housing trust fund to create substantive partnerships with not-for-profit organizations, the faith-based community and developers to create new affordable dwelling units. The key in my mind is the flexibility to have a multi-faceted approach in dealing with affordability.
Case in point, in yesterday’s Washington Post there was an article about a developer who created a new 104 unit mixed-income housing community. This was a partnership between a local jurisdiction, commercial lender and the Virginia Housing Development Authority. The gap financing for this project, in the form of a loan…not a grant, was provided by the local jurisdiction. This project will be 94% affordable, most of which are at 60% but with several units each in the 50% and 40% range. I think an opportunity like this would be very exciting in the City of Fairfax.
So, I agree wholeheartedly with the end game, I just have an honest difference of opinion on how to best get there.
For more information on the Kamp Washington Novus Gateway project, visit the website.