Updates from Letty – September 15, 2023

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,

Fall is in full swing, with busy weekends coming up. Two events of note this weekend amidst your soccer games and apple picking: 1) let’s celebrate Welcoming Week with a Welcoming Falls Church fundraiser on Saturday and 2) learn from a great speaker from Pew on his groundbreaking research on housing and affordability at the Falls Church Forward meeting on Sunday. Speaking of housing, read on for good news on housing initiatives and an update on student enrollment based on data published this week. The latter was discussed in a School Board meeting, but I often field questions about enrollment and housing, so I’ll continue to share information when it’s available.

Also if you’ve seen the yard signs, campaign season is afoot! While early voting starts next week – endorsements, candidate forums, and voter guides are just starting to trickle out. I’m thrilled to announce that I’m once again endorsed by the Sierra Club, as environmental sustainability is a key priority for me. I encourage you to learn more as resources become available before you head to the polls.

A final scheduling note – thanks for your patience while I juggle a busy season. I’ll be holding my next office hours next Wednesday, September 20 at 12 pm at Mr Brown’s Park. You’ll also be able to catch me the following weekend at the Fall Festival; we’ll have a spot to meet the City Council next to the Cherry Hill Barn. City Council meetings resume on Tuesday, September 26 (due to Yom Kippur) with a final vote on T Zones.


What Happened This Week:

(1) Sierra Club Endorsement

I’m thrilled to be once again endorsed by the Sierra Club! As 1 of 3 candidates endorsed by the Sierra Club, I believe we have a huge responsibility to meet our climate change goals for now and future generations. A sustainable city is a core part of my vision for Falls Church, and it’s not as simple as saving one tree at a time (although to be clear – we all love trees, we are proud of our city’s high tree canopy – one of the best in the region – and we should keep doing more to protect and sustain our urban forest). For transparency – as the answers to the Sierra Club questionnaire and interview is not yet online, I had shared my answers about my top environmental priorities in a previous blog post.

(2) Housing News – Welcoming Falls Church, Affordable Homeownership, “Deeply Affordable” Housing

Welcoming Falls Church: If you don’t yet know about Welcoming Falls Church, this is a great week to learn as it’s our 5th Welcoming Week. While Welcoming America is a national non-profit, our local chapter is a grassroots effort with two areas of focus: a Renting to Refugees initiative and an Adult & Family Literacy Center that teaches English to adults and provides childcare at the same time. As a first generation immigrant, I strongly believe that housing and education are the great equalizers, so their work in both areas has been especially meaningful to me.

Specific to housing – Welcoming Falls Church reported out that they’ve currently settled three refugee families in the city since January with one more on the way. The federal government and resettlement agencies have been overwhelmed by need, so the support they offer is insufficient for families to truly develop independence in a new country. Seeing this gap, Welcoming Falls Church offers housing subsidies in partnership with local landlords in addition to help with employment, school, social needs, and other wraparound support. Welcoming Falls Church’s mission supports our city’s values and vision – so as such, the city contributed $50K towards the Renting to Refugees pilot program last year. The community can support Welcoming Falls Church in various ways, including a delicious one this Saturday afternoon at Harvey’s.

Affordable Homeownership & “Deeply Affordable” Housing: from this week’s Housing Commission meeting, staff reported good news on two fronts:

  • The first two units in our new Affordable Homeownership Program will go to closing in the coming weeks. Recall this is a new program we launched last year with funds from the Amazon REACH program that targets perspective homeowners between 50-120% of AMI (Area Median Income). In partnership with a non profit, we buy homes and resell them to buyers at a below-market price, offer a unique equity sharing arrangement so that homeowners can build equity while “paying it forward,” and affordability covenants so the unit can be eventually resold affordably to a future first-time homebuyer.
  • Also, you might recall that in the most recently adopted FY24 budget, City Council funded more “deeply affordable” housing units in the city, which are traditionally not built in new buildings because of the big gap between market rate rents vs affordable rents. Staff reported out that the first two units at 30% AMI (targeted to workers like bus drivers, janitors, home health aides) where the city buys down the price of market rate apartments will be available this fall.

(3) School Enrollment

As there has been much interest about school enrollment since the initial headline of higher student enrollment than projected, I had committed to sharing information as it became available. This week, in the School Board meeting, the opening day report included more data on student enrollment by grade and school. A few takeaways:

  • There are 89 more students than last year, which is 71 more than projected (the original headline was 93 and 75, but there were some no shows).
  • While enrollment increased 89 students over last year (3.5% growth), total enrollment across FCCPS is still lower than pre-Covid enrollment. Enrollment had dropped about 150 students during the Covid years so we haven’t seen a total bounce back yet.
  • Interestingly, the biggest variances are primarily in Oak Street and Mary Ellen Henderson.
  • We don’t yet have this year’s data on where the students live/originate which is the annual analysis we do every fall (more details on how that happens in my previous post).

What’s Coming Up:

Saturday, September 16 – Welcoming Falls Church Fundraiser (1-5 pm, Harveys)

Sunday, September 17 – Falls Church Forward Meeting (4 pm, Founders Row Club Room)

Wednesday, September 20 – Letty’s Office Hours (12 pm, Mr Browns Park)

Saturday, September 23 – Fall Festival & Meet the Council

Tuesday, September 26 – City Council Meeting*

Monday, October 2 – City Council Work Session*

*Mondays (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings