Updates from Letty – February 19, 2021

Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council

Dear Friends,

For the first time in 11 months, we had a tech glitch that prevented us from holding our City Council meeting this week. (Tech issues aside, this article argues that virtual meetings may be the best thing that’s happened to local government!) Luckily it was a work session, with no votes needed, so our agenda items will be rescheduled. But the big news this week occurred outside of our meeting anyway, so there are still a few worthwhile things to share:

1) Affordable Housing Part 2 – on the heels of our big vote to achieve 10% affordable units at the Broad & Washington project, we’re making moves again. The city is now in the process of acquiring a property in the Virginia Village subdivision on S. Maple, in order to preserve the currently affordable housing and create options for housing development in the future. Read on for more details.

2) Vaccinations – since last week’s post, Fairfax Health Department has rolled out more tools like a vaccine dashboard and registration tracker. The state also tracks vaccination statistics by locality, so you might be interested to read on to see how the region and the City of Falls Church are faring. 

Looking ahead: this Sunday at 1 pm, the Virtual Ribbon Cutting of the new high school will premier and be available for later viewing. (A post-COVID in person event will happen too.) This has been the largest undertaking in the city’s history, with so many involved that have made it possible – it’s indeed cause for celebration. Next week’s City Council meeting is packed, including the long awaited report from the Police Use of Force Review Committee at 189 pages (!).

Stay safe,

What Happened This Week:

(1) Affordable Housing Part 2

More exciting news for affordable housing this week!

This week, the city’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) voted to enter a contract to buy 302 Shirley Street, in the Virginia Village subdivision off S. Maple Ave, for $925K. Virginia Village contains 20 quadraplexes (“quads”), that are currently considered market rate affordable. Using their land banking funds from the sale of previous property, the EDA has authority in their charter to purchase and hold property (they previously owned part of the land where Harris Teeter is located).

The City currently owns one building within Virginia Village already, with the units rented to a local non-profit. City staff will prepare options for us to consider possible long term uses. Once the sale is complete, the City will retain the existing tenants and maintain the current affordable rents, so no tenants will be displaced.

Letty’s thoughts: As the liaison to both the EDA and Housing Commission, I’m thrilled to see the alignment of these two boards’ missions and am grateful to the EDA for jumping on this strategic opportunity. First, it’s important to preserve market rate affordable housing when housing prices continue to climb. In general, I also believe it’s smart for the city to acquire property that is contiguous or adjacent to other city property – such as the quad we already own and Big Chimneys Park nearby. Finally, ownership of multiple buildings here can create future options like expansion of open space or serve as a catalyst for redevelopment and creation of additional affordable housing. Symbolically, this acquisition and our vote to set aside 10% of the units in Broad and Washington hopefully represent a real step change in our commitment to affordable housing going forward.

(2) Vaccines

Since last week’s post, Fairfax Health District has rolled out more tools like a vaccine dashboard and registration tracker. These tools provide additional transparency while we are asked to be patient. We continue to advocate for more vaccine supply as that remains the limiting factor. I have heard good feedback that the vaccination clinics have been efficient and well-run. So slowly but surely, the 150K waitlist at Fairfax Health District is moving down closer to 100K now.

For now, Fairfax Health is NOT participating in the statewide registration system, which was intended to cut down confusion. Despite this, the Virginia Department of Health sent notifications to residents about registration. There was a mass email that VDH sent based off of one of their data systems and should be disregarded. If you are in Phase 1b, please make sure you are registered in the Fairfax system, and if you are not, you may register here (or call the vaccine hotline at 703-324-7404).

The state also tracks vaccination statistics by locality. As of yesterday, 2968 total doses of vaccinations were administered to city residents, with 939 people fully vaccinated (using an estimate of 15K residents, that’s about 5-6% of the population). I find that the per capita vaccination rate is the most helpful metric. When looking across the region, we appear to be leading the pack, likely due to a number of reasons.

Vaccinations per 100,000, as of 2/18/21

City of Alexandria13,695
Arlington County11,778
Fairfax County14,835
City of Falls Church20,305
Loudoun County12,396
Prince William County11,444
Source: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine-summary/

What’s Coming Up:

Current draft schedule of meetings and agenda items

City Council Meetings start at 730 pm, unless otherwise specified. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings

Sunday, February 28 (4-515 pm) – Citizens for a Better City and League of Women Voters are co-hosting a three part series on affordable housing, with the first of the panels on Sunday, Feb 28 via Zoom.