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FairfaxAmazon kicks in $55M to support affordable housing in Tysons

Amazon kicks in $55M to support affordable housing in Tysons

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A $55 million commitment from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund will allow construction of hundreds more affordable-housing units at the Dominion Square West development in Tysons, Fairfax County officials said.

“Any investment in affordable housing is much more than an investment in buildings,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D) at a May 3 briefing at the Fairfax County Government Center. “We believe it is an investment in people, an investment in our economy, an investment in equity and opportunity.”

The Board of Supervisors in January approved $33 million for 175 affordable housing units at Dominion Square West, which will be located on Spring Hill Road about one-quarter of a mile west of the Spring Hill Metro station.

That project and the second part benefiting from Amazon’s funds are being advanced by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).

Amazon’s additional funding will allow construction of a second high-rise building at the site, bringing the total number of affordable units on the property to 516.

The project, which also will include a 30,000-square-foot community center on the property, will serve people earning from below 30 percent to 60 percent of area median income.

The Dominion Square West units will bring to more than 3,000 the number of affordable units in the county’s pipeline in the last two years, McKay said. Supervisors recently doubled from 5,000 to 10,000 the minimum number of affordable dwellings sought by 2034, he said.

“Dominion Square is helping change the landscape of how we address affordable housing,” McKay said.

Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), who chairs the board’s Housing Committee, called the project a model for future housing endeavors in Tysons and elsewhere in the county.

Affordable housing is a crucial need in Fairfax County, where about 20 percent of renters have to devote more than half of their incomes for housing expenses, Foust said. In Tysons, 16 percent of households – including ones whose members work in retail, trade, custodial, childcare and other low-paying jobs – have incomes of less than $50,000 per year, he said.

“These people and their families are essential contributors to our local economy and they deserve to have a safe and decent place to live in our community,” Foust said.

Fairfax County will purchase and own the site, then ground-lease it to APAH for long-term affordable housing, said Carmen Romero, APAH’s president and CEO.

“This is what we need for economic vitality and diversity in Fairfax County in the Tysons area,” said Romero, adding that APAH would provide on-site services for the development’s residents.

Building both phases of the affordable-housing project simultaneously will save money as construction costs escalate and bring more units to more families more quickly, she said.

“People need to be able to live in the community in which they work and serve,” said U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-11th), calling the county’s affordable-housing goals “the most ambitious in the region.”

Housing is expensive in Tysons and enabling construction of affordable units there is a “statement about values, about who we are as a community and who we want to be,” he said.

Art Bowen, director of rental programs for Virginia Housing, said the agency would provide mortgage lending for the project.

“If you set aside the concrete and the steel, the real foundation of a development like this is partnerships,” Bowen said. “This county, unlike many others, is putting its money where its mouth is and that’s a fantastic thing to see.”

Bowen also praised Amazon for its contributions to the effort.
“A development of this size, this quality, in a location like this is unprecedented,” he said.

The public and private sectors must work together to pursue affordable housing, said Brian Stout, senior manager of public policy for Amazon.
“We want to create the types of communities where everyone has opportunity,” Stout added.

Since its creation a little more than a year ago, the Amazon Housing Equity Fund has helped create and preserve more than 4,400 affordable homes for residents in the Washington region, he said.

The Dominion Square West development is a “prime example of how smart investing of public funding can help leverage hundreds of millions in private capital and expertise to bring projects like this to a reality,” said Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority chairman Melissa McKenna.

“We’re not in the business of creating a place to stay,” McKenna said. “We’re in the business of creating a place to progress and to grow.”

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