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Wednesday, February 8, 2023
ArlingtonOpinionLetter: Arlington leaders' efforts on Missing Middle verge on Orwellian

Letter: Arlington leaders’ efforts on Missing Middle verge on Orwellian

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Editor: On Jan. 3, incoming Arlington County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey publicly laid out five principles which he recommended should guide the county government’s housing policy.

Chairman Dorsey’s principles are laudable. Unfortunately, unless his position on Missing Middle upzoning changes from how he described it in 2022, county policy will violate every one of the principles he describes:

• It will violate inclusivity because Missing Middle policy favors higher-income earners over those most in need of housing, especially in a high-land-value jurisdiction like Arlington, because naturally occurring affordable housing is at the greatest risk to be torn down to make way for new market-rate housing. It unjustifiably relies only upon market forces and fails to include a single inclusionary-zoning requirement.

• It will violate community-based planning because it is a blanket, countywide policy. Community-based planning means that planning is done with and for the residents of individual communities. The alternative is state planning by fiat.

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• It will violate iteration because there is no indication within the current staff proposal that Missing Middle policy will necessarily include any phasing.

• It will violate the principle of economic access because there is nothing within the policy to insulate residents from market forces. The policy includes no market correctives like appraisal reform or support for cooperative housing or land trusts.

• It will violate integration with transportation and environmental goals because the county government has willfully failed to incorporate such planning or study into the policy. Though I am in favor of more mixed-use neighborhood planning, with greater residential and commercial proximity, this is not part of the county’s proposal.

With respect, the chairman’s statement reflects to me the kind of double-speak George Orwell portrayed in his novel “1984.” Missing Middle housing policy deserves better study and less ideology.

James Schulman, Arlington

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