New construction site tour photos for the Bloom/Carpenter's Shelter

On Monday, AHDC paid a brief visit to the Bloom and Carpenter’s Shelter construction site, where progress has moved up to the third floor of vertical construction, including the garage. While at the moment everything is concrete and metal, it’s possible to start visualizing future spaces - lobbies, kitchens, gardens, and more. If you like the photos below, be sure to check out a few more over on our Instagram Story.

AHDC is excited about this development for many reasons; it’s an example of the sort of deep partnership work that builds more housing in our city, it will include an expansion of our urban gardening efforts that improves resident quality of life, and at the end of the day it will add not only a new purpose-built space for Carpenter’s Shelter but also 97 new affordable apartment homes.

Want to learn more about The Bloom? You can learn how The Bloom got it’s name, see highlights from our 2018 Groundbreaking ceremony, or learn more about the National and Virginia Housing Trust Fund awards that made this project possible. You can also learn more about the Carpenter’s Shelter New Heights effort on their webpage.

The Bloom will open units in 2020.

Are you interested in receiving email updates about The Bloom, including information about the pre-leasing process for units in 2020? Add your name to our Bloom Updates email list by filling out the form below. You can also learn more at our The Bloom main page.

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Three reports on area economy highlight need for collective action on housing affordability

Image from Flickr user Mr.TinDC

Image from Flickr user Mr.TinDC

Housing advocates in different regions, jurisdictions, sectors, and organizations work towards different individual ends – but the overarching fabric for why the work exists remains the same. In our D.C. Metro region, like so many others around the country, housing affordability, access, and equity is at an inflection point and we need all solutions on the table in order to resolve this crisis.

Within the past month, three major publications by three different organizations have highlighted just how important working towards affordable housing is to us in Alexandria and the D.C. area at large. In the report “Meeting the Washington Region’s Future Housing Needs”, economic policy researchers at the Urban Institute highlight how “[i]naction on housing affordability challenges could ultimately undermine the region’s future economic growth and prosperity.” In “The Future of Housing in Greater Washington”, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments group of elected leaders stress how the housing affordability problem “undercuts [the region’s] appeal to new companies and talent, strains the transportation system, and impacts the environment and quality of life for the region’s residents”. Finally, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce 2020 Legislative Agenda locally focuses the issue, connecting how affordable housing is a part of workforce investment, and that “[w]orkforce investment and development enhances economic stability and prosperity by focusing on people.”

While each report gets there differently, in the end they have three very similar take-aways for those working in the housing affordability field:

1.       Every jurisdiction and every sector have a role to play.

What the reports say:

  • Urban Institute: “Meeting these targets requires local governments across the region to strengthen or expand existing policies and adopt new policies to advance three key objectives.”

  • MWCOG: “It will take a range of tools and innovative policies to meet these targets over the next ten years, including strategic partnerships with the business, non-profit, and philanthropic sectors. No one sector alone can solve the region’s housing challenges.”

  • Alexandria Chamber of Commerce: “Issues relating to economic development and sustainability; transportation and 21st century public works, infrastructure and workforce investment through affordable housing and educational opportunities, to name a few, require critical analysis and visionary thinking.”

Its not enough for individual groups like AHDC or single jurisdictions to tackle this problem alone. (One look at a WMATA Metro map can visualize how interconnected we are, and that connection extends far beyond the end of the train lines.) All of us using our strengths and leaning on our neighbors will be required to make long-lasting and impactful solutions for housing.

In AHDC’s case, there’s no better example of this than The Station at Potomac Yard. There, we were able to add 64 units of housing while coordinating with the Alexandria Fire Department to meet critical municipal safety needs. The upcoming property The Bloom also reflects a deep partnership with another non-profit organization, Carpenter’s Shelter – the combined new development simply wouldn’t be possible to achieve alone.

2.       Getting all solutions in play is vital to the health of our local and regional economy.

What the reports say:

  • Urban Institute: “Inaction on the challenges of housing affordability could ultimately undermine the region’s future economic growth and prosperity.”

  • MWCOG: “There is an imbalance between the number of jobs and the amount of housing available to the workforce. This gap is expected to widen without intervention; the region is forecast to add approximately 413,000 new jobs to its employment base between 2020 and 2030, but only approximately 245,000 new housing units over the same period.”

  • Alexandria Chamber of Commerce: “Workforce investment and development enhances economic stability and prosperity by focusing on people. The premise is that the more workforce-ready City residents are, the more large and small businesses will be attracted to Alexandria.”

The cause of housing is many things – it’s about placemaking, health, the environment, social equity, and about creating deeper community. Woven into everything, however, is how adequate housing infrastructure is an economic necessity. We simply cannot be our best if our neighborhoods are shut off to low- and middle- income households. Like the Alexandria Council of Human Services Organizations said in their 2015 Needs Assessment report: “The lack of affordable housing is the ground zero of need in the city, influencing every other issue that service providers work to address.”

3.       Adding housing at price points that low- and middle- income households can afford is essential to supporting the economies we have built here.

What the reports say:

  • Urban Institute: “Recommendation: Shrink the current affordability gap. Today, the number of housing units in the low-cost range falls short of household needs by 264,000.”

  • MWCOG: “Target: At least 75% of new housing should be affordable to low-and middle-income households.” 

  • Alexandria Chamber of Commerce: “The Chamber recommends the City: Incentivize the creation of workforce housing stock. Workforce Housing, as defined by the Urban Land Institute, is: “housing that is affordable to households earning 60 to 120 percent of the area median income.””

Right now, Alexandria is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country, and the toll this takes on budgets stretches families to the margins. Those most affected, those working in lower pay professions that are still yet vital to the vibrancy of our cities, will be forced out or forced to make sub-standard compromises in order to stay. To keep our region and our economy diverse, we must intentionally add housing, and specifically housing at an affordable price point to low- and middle-income families – or we must figure out how to live with a shortage of teachers and para-teachers, bus drivers, nurses, civil servants, clergy, and office professionals (not to mention the broad categories of “young families” and “seniors” as well).

The work it takes to make this happen is substantial. It requires cross-jurisdiction and cross-sector collaborations over countless hours, and it requires imagination and a willingness to employ new solutions. If you’d like to be a part of the design of our region’s future, you can help support AHDC in our work (or, possibly join our team if you’re a real estate or accounting professional).


Nexus Renderings and Floorplans

We’re excited to be underway with the leasing process for the Nexus - thanks to all who submitted waitlist applications during the two-week open period! (If you’re still interested in being notified if units become available in the future, please visit the Looking to Rent page.)

While is been a busy month getting the waitlist process moving, construction has still been ongoing. Take a look below at these new rendering images, new floorplans, and some shots from a recent construction site tour:

View of the front of the Nexus.. The leasing office is on the first level in addition to retail and dining spaces. Units are on the floors above.

View of the front of the Nexus.. The leasing office is on the first level in addition to retail and dining spaces. Units are on the floors above.

Nexus Courtyard. The courtyard features a grilling space (left) and an indoor community room (the door is to the right, between the two trees.)

Nexus Courtyard. The courtyard features a grilling space (left) and an indoor community room (the door is to the right, between the two trees.)

Nexus Floorplans:

July Construction Site Visit

A single adult with two children in 2017 would have needed to earn $46.83/hour to live a "modest but adequate" life in Alexandria

A calculator provided by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) - that has recently been talked about by many of our NoVA colleagues - estimates that in 2017 the income a two adult, two child household needed to attain a “modest yet adequate standard of living” in Alexandria was $105,239. (The area median income has risen by over 9% since then.) To arrive at that income, the EPI considered the 2017 Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment, childcare for a 4 and 8 year old child, food, transportation, healthcare, taxes, and other necessities (clothing, cleaning supplies, school supplies, telephone services, etc.) We’ve provided a chart below that compares the values determined for all ten scenarios the calculator provided:

Annual Income needed for "modest yet adequate" standard of living in Alexandria, 2017

Y axis: dollars/year ($)

It should come as no surprise that the more people that live in a household, the more that household needs to get by. It also makes sense that more children equals more childcare costs. (There is a bit of a leveling off period observed in this graph between three and four children in a household; it is assumed that a three and four child household both rent a three bedroom apartment, but that the oldest child in a four child household (at age 16) no longer needs substantial child care.)

However, the data this chart compares can obfuscate the disproportionate impact the costs have on a single-adult household, or how households of the same size but a different composition of adults to children might fare differently. Below, we take the cost required in each of the above scenarios and break it down into the wage needed per adult per hour, assuming each adult works 52 weeks per year and 40 hours per week:

Dollars per hour needed by each adult member of a household to attain "modest yet adequate" standard of living in Alexandria, 2017

Y axis: dollars/hour needed for each adult in household

To illustrate this impact, consider the three person family living in a two bedroom unit: a three person family that is one widowed or separated adult, and two children ages 4 and 8 needs $97,398 per year to get by in Alexandria, where a household of three people that is two adults and one child household needs just $88,810. (You can see screenshots of the results from EPI for these two families in the images at right.)

The entire burden of the $97,398 household income needed by the one adult, two child family falls on a single worker who, if working full time, needs to earn at minimum $46.83/hour - over six times the minimum wage, three times a $15/hour wage, and nearly double the NLIHC’s estimate for the mean renter wage in Alexandria last year ($23.51). In comparison, The two adult, one child household can split the $88,810 income burden into an average of $21.35/hour for each adult, or reduce the childcare burden with an at-home or part-time parent.

What can a household do to reduce this cost burden?

  1. Reduce the cost of housing. With a rent estimated at the Fair Market Rent of $1,736, this hypothetical family is already well under the Alexandria average of $2040/month for 2017 according to Zumper (The Patch) - finding a cheaper unit around here would be tough.

    This family could move to a different area, but this comes with significant additional costs that might place this option out of reach. The costs of moving itself and finding a new place to live (including first/last month’s rent and a security deposit) can easily become multiple thousands of dollars. The emotional costs of moving away from an established network of family and friends, and the possible impacts of changing schools, moving away from established medical care, and going to a place where you don’t have the same professional connections or opportunities also need to be considered.

    The family could also choose to live in substandard housing, such as renting a one bedroom unit and converting the living space into a bedroom, or living in unsafe/overcrowded conditions. This comes at significant cost to their emotional and physical, and long term well being. (How Housing Matters)

  2. Reduce the cost of childcare. Childcare is nearly as expensive as rent in this scenario ($1,736/month for rent, and $1,635 for childcare for a 4 and 8 year old child, which is still substantially less than infant care costs). The one adult, two child family could reduce this burden if they’re lucky enough to have local grandparents or other friends/relatives who don’t need work and are capable of providing childcare, look for subsidies (work or government based) for childcare, or compete for space in affordable childcare programs, which can be difficult to come by and, at the end of the day, still expensive (Alexandria Living Magazine).

  3. Reduce other costs which have diminishing returns on impact given their smaller portions of the monthly budget. Their $747 in transportation costs could be dropped some via public transportation (though this study already considers transit as it estimates the transportation cost); the food budget of $756 could be dropped with creative spending, choosing less nutritious options, or public benefits; or they could spend less on the $1,005 on “other necessities” (clothing, cleaning, furniture, school supplies, grooming supplies, and telephone coverage among other things.)

    (Note that this budget makes no concern for things that make life enjoyable and support the emotional well-being of individuals and families: youth league memberships, family vacations, or a private space to play or for an angsty pre-teen. It also makes no concern for saving for a rainy day or a house down payment.)

As non-profit housing advocates, we work hard to leverage as many financial resources as possible to create new low-cost housing and rehabilitate existing affordable housing, nurture innovative partnerships and building arrangements to drive construction costs down, and create spaces that are budget-friendly to their occupants. We know that by helping families reduce the cost of rent, we can substantially improve their lives. But with an issue as large and holistic as the impacts of housing on families, and with limited resources to solve the problem via building and renovating, it’s important for us to consider too where we might be able to support our neighbors through other programs and services that can support their budgets as well - such as helping families with free, fresh produce that supports grocery budgets.

Want to hear more from AHDC? Pop over to our “contact us” page, where you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter for updates and stories.