Peter’s Take: Arlington’s ‘Missing Middle’ housing morass

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Peter’s Take is simply a biweekly sentiment column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

On Nov. 16, County readying unit briefed the County Board connected Phase I of the Missing Middle Housing Study.

Prior to the pandemic, County planners asserted that up-zoning to alteration caller Missing Middle (“MM”) lodging would beryllium a large contributor to easiness Arlington’s affordable lodging crisis.

But by the clip Phase I was launched, the County had been forced by cascades of information to wantonness this mendacious claim.

Misappropriating the connection of civilian rights advocates, County planners’ latest rationale is that up-zoning to alteration MM lodging is indispensable to supply diversity of gathering types in definite neighborhoods, noting for illustration that each of 2 caller $900,000 duplexes is much “affordable” than a $1.6M single-family location that mightiness different inhabit the aforesaid lot.

As a person of Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF), I cull the conception that County planners’ preferences for much luxury buildings successful definite neighborhoods deserves overmuch value compared to the preferences of the residents who unrecorded determination now.

Prominent Arlington activistic Suzanne Smith Sundburg points retired that if much density were the cardinal to affordable housing, much densely populated places similar New York City would beryllium much affordable than Arlington.

Arlington lacks capable infrastructure and biology plans for its existent zoning

Arlington forecasts a full colonisation of 301,200 successful 2045 compared to 234,200 residents successful 2021. These further 67,000 residents are coming to Arlington nether existent zoning. Can Arlington’s infrastructure and situation prolong them?

For starters, where, exactly, are we going to enactment the caller schoolhouse facilities that volition beryllium required? In November 2019, the County Manager sent a letter to the acting APS superintendent offering County properties — including parks — to beryllium turned into schoolhouse properties. But those aforesaid parks are needed to enactment the parkland and recreational needs of these caller residents. The Manager’s awkward overture reveals that the County has not planned adequately for either further schoolhouse capableness oregon further parks.

Moreover, we regularly spot water and sewage pipeline breaks successful our aged systems. Infrastructure problems are acute successful galore different areas, including flooding, power failures, building integrity, tree attraction and protection, bridges and competition for parking spaces arsenic colonisation increases.

The County and APS person failed to follow an internally accordant program for all major nationalist facilities, i.e., a Public Facilities Master Plan, contempt the information that six years person passed since the 2015 proposal of the Community Facilities Study Group that specified a Master Plan was captious to Arlington’s future. Many imaginable sites for important nationalist facilities person been mislaid permanently to backstage improvement during those six years of dithering.

Generational transformation

Arlington County has not quantified the afloat costs of captious superior expenses that volition person to beryllium incurred arsenic our colonisation increases. In fact, the Manager told the County Board successful his message of Nov. 12, 2020: “[G]iven that we are undergoing a generational transformation successful however we supply services and usage facilities, this is the incorrect time” to enactment a connection from the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission for long-range planning.

How past tin this beryllium the close clip for an enactment similar large MM up-zoning that could person a huge, irreversible, net-negative interaction connected Arlington’s future?


County planners present admit that Manhattanization of Arlington volition not lick Arlington’s affordable lodging crisis. Arlington’s accelerating density volition conscionable pb to displacement and gentrification. While these planners proceed to displacement rationales for large MM up-zoning, a ample cookware of golden for developers astatine the extremity of this rainbow remains a constant. Developers volition instrumentality the wealth and tally careless of the MM rationale du jour.

Arlington County indispensable show that our situation and our fund tin conscionable the needs of the 67,000 caller residents who are coming present nether existent zoning, fto unsocial the thousands of further residents — implicit and supra those 67,000 — who volition determination present if large MM up-zoning is approved.

As ASF recommends, the County should:

  • Perform site-specific fiscal interaction analyses for new, multi-unit residential projects,
  • Release each existing semipermanent operating fund forecasts, and
  • Prepare 3 county forecasts comparing existent zoning with projected MM up-zoning:
    • Long-term operating budget,
    • Long-term biology impact,
    • Long-term household income by quintiles showing projected disparities among antithetic household groups compared to the nationalist average.

Peter Rousselot antecedently served arsenic Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and arsenic Co-Chair of the Advisory Council connected Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is besides a erstwhile Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a erstwhile subordinate of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He presently serves arsenic a committee subordinate of the Together Virginia PAC-a governmental enactment committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates successful agrarian Virginia.

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