Fairfax Co. Candidate Vows To Keep Out Arlington-Style Missing Middle

NORTHERN VIRGINIA — Several candidates running for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in November favor taking steps to make housing more affordable in the county, but no candidate has expressed support for duplicating Arlington County’s Missing Middle Housing plan that went into effect July 1.
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Andres Jimenez, the Democratic nominee for Mason District, one of the two Fairfax County magisterial districts that borders Arlington, said Fairfax County needs to do everything it can to create housing that is affordable to people with various income levels in all parts of the county.

But Jimenez, who is an “approved candidate” by the YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, a pro-housing development group, said Fairfax County needs to try to get more housing built near “mass transit and job hubs … before looking to drastically change zoning amongst single family neighborhoods” like what happened in Arlington when county officials approved the Missing Middle Housing plan earlier this year.

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Christopher Morgan, who is running as an independent for the Mount Vernon District supervisor’s seat against incumbent supervisor Dan Storck (D), said that when he lived in San Diego several years ago, he saw zoning changes in certain parts of the city that allowed single-family homes to be built in an existing home’s backyard and single-family homes to be demolished to construct multifamily condominiums or apartments on the lots.

“These changes increased the overall housing supply, but universally destroyed the quality of life of many communities,” Morgan said in response to a candidate questionnaire sent out by Fairfax Healthy Communities, a coalition composed of the YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, the Fairfax County branch of the NAACP, the Sierra Club and several other groups. “Trees and habitat vegetation were clear-cut away. Street parking became non-existent.”

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READ ALSO: Arlington Turns Into Testing Ground For ‘Flashy Projects And Policies’

The promises of more affordable homes in San Diego never materialized, according to Morgan.

“I know the same problems that I saw first-hand in California will soon plague Arlington County, and I will fight very strongly to protect Fairfax County from those same mistakes,” Morgan said.

In March, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to approve the Missing Middle Housing plan, a major zoning overhaul that eliminated single-family zoning across the county. It also allowed multifamily structures to be built in neighborhoods “by-right” — buildings that qualify for construction without requiring discretionary approval — that were previously zoned only for single-family detached homes.

While current members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors are not publicly supporting implementing a Fairfax County version of Arlington’s Missing Middle zoning reform, Morgan told Patch that he believes the county leaders and staff are already beginning to wage a “war on single family homes” through their accessory living units, Parking Reimagined and other policies.

While opposing the elimination of single-family zoning, Morgan emphasized that there are places in Fairfax County where officials should look at increasing housing density and where the county should be encouraging the creation of condominiums and apartments with three or more bedrooms. Housing units with three to six bedrooms are essential for families with children and extended families who opt to live in a higher density population area, he said.

“It’s dystopian to expect a family of four to share a 1- or 2-bedroom unit and the county should, via zoning and policy, encourage such larger units,” Morgan said in response to the questionnaire. “These families also require multiple vehicles in order to achieve economic success, and ample parking must be required. We should still be encouraging mass transit options, but as we work to push more families above middle class, we must be honest about what a middle-class lifestyle looks like.”

Jimmy Bierman, a Democrat running for supervisor of the Dranesville District, the other Fairfax County district that borders Arlington, said he’s glad that Arlington County went first on the Missing Middle Housing issue “because the devil is in the details, and we need to better understand what does and doesn’t work to expand our housing options.”

Bierman, who is also a YIMBYs of Northern Virginia-approved candidate, said that lifting single-family zoning restrictions like what happened in Arlington with Missing Middle “has been too often seen as a panacea in and of itself.”

“Simply changing zoning restrictions alone is not going to lead to more multifamily or affordable housing units in a lot of neighborhoods. Far more comprehensive and detailed urban planning will need to occur to actually generate the panoply of housing options that are needed,” Bierman said.

Other Fairfax County Board of Supervisors candidates, in their responses to the Fairfax Healthy Communities questionnaire, applauded Arlington for what they view as the county’s effort to address the housing affordability crisis by passing the Missing Middle Housing plan.

Supervisor Dalia Palchik, the incumbent seeking re-election in the Providence District, said that “watching Arlington address head on their affordability crisis demonstrated the importance of our elected officials taking an aggressive stance to create more affordable housing to build a more accessible and inclusive community.”

“While policies that work in Arlington do not always work in Fairfax, I believe we can follow Arlington’s lead and creatively pursue zoning policies that increase affordability in our community,” Palchik said.

Missing Middle units under consideration by Arlington’s permitting office, though, will not be affordable or subsidized units, and instead will be market-rate. Households making at or above area median income — $128,100 — are the group the county believes could stand to benefit most from missing middle construction.

In response to Fairfax Healthy Communities’ request for his views on Arlington’s Missing Middle Housing plan, Morgan said Arlington’s move to increase the density of housing within neighborhoods whose existing infrastructure was not designed for a sudden population influx will fail and will destroy the quality of life for the areas targeted by Missing Middle housing.


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