October 18th, 2023 — Housing Alexandria broke ground on Sansé and Naja, marking a significant step in creating a vibrant and inclusive community in the heart of the Arlandria-Chirilagua.
Sansé and Naja will be an innovative, mixed-use residential and commercial development designed to address the growing need for committed affordable housing in the neighborhood. This new community includes a total of 474 affordable homes, over 100 of which will be available at the deeply affordable 40% Area Median Income threshold, ensuring future affordability for residents who have long been an integral part of this vibrant neighborhood.
Ceremony participants highlighted that the work to reach this milestone required deep collaboration and partnership among community, government, design, financial, and housing partners.
“For around half my life, I have lived within 100 yards of where we are right now,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “I am very excited to know that that the 474 families living at Sansé and Naja will be able to call this neighborhood home, too.”
“This is a sum of so many different policies and goals,” Mayor Justin Wilson continued. This is not just the largest affordable housing project the city has ever undertaken; this is a project adjacent to some of the best transit investments we have around and within a mile of the new metro station. It is adjacent to some of our biggest and growing job centers, in Potomac Yard and along Route 1. We are making significant stormwater improvements too, bringing together so many city goals in one project.”
“This is a testament to the hard work of everybody involved for many years” said Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. “I was the Vice Mayor when we approved predevelopment loans for this project, and I was in Richmond when the state awarded it Low Income Housing Tax Credits and a $16.8 million dollar grant through Virginia Housing. I hope to see more funding from the state to continue investing in affordable housing opportunities like these to help truly serve our communities.”
“We have been in the Arlandria community for over 40 years,” said Evelin Urrutia, Tenants and Workers United Executive Director. “We say today is a historic day for us because this project will truly benefit the families that we work with. The work reflects the government and development partners, but it is also the work of our community. This project is a reflection of the type of housing we need across the city. We hope this is just the beginning, and that this project will serve as an example for all who want to work in our city.”
“It takes a community to stand up and boldly say ‘this is what we need for our neighborhood’ to make projects like Sansé and Naja come to life,” said Jon Frederick, Housing Alexandria President and CEO. “It also takes committed partners, from the state, from the local government to the Office of Housing, to our financial and design teams as well.”
“The opportunity to develop 474 affordable units and commercial space doesn’t come along very often,” said Aaron Remolona, Housing Alexandria Vice President of Development and Acquisitions. “During one of our first meetings with [previous site owner] Nina Weissberg, CEO of the Weissberg Investment Corporation and founding member of the Weissberg Foundation, she expressed to Jon and I that she wanted to demonstrate to other property owners that selling to a buyer who plans to build a project that is 100% affordable can be as financially viable as selling to a market rate developer. It was that intention from Nina that gave this opportunity it’s first breaths of air.”
“We are not new to this housing development, but we are new to this neighborhood” Aaron Remolona continued. “I want to thank the organizations in this community that have been willing to help us, teach us, and connect us – namely Casa Chirilagua and Tenants and Workers United.”
“Affordable projects on this scale require the patience and cooperation of all involved. This is an iconic investment in the Alexandria community.” Daniel Abramson, Chair of the Housing Alexandria Board of Directors
ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT:
The Sansé and Naja project goes beyond housing by providing publicly accessible outdoor community spaces with all-ages features, improving pedestrian safety, and enhancing stormwater systems. Additionally, the building will be equipped with Ting internet, ensuring tenants have access to essential online resources. Housing Alexandria will also provide 34,000 square feet of community-serving commercial space, which will include tenants like low-cost childcare and healthcare services.
Housing Alexandria expects that move-ins for the development will begin in 2026. The non-profit is also piloting a program this year called “Rent Ready”, expected to fully deploy in 2024. Rent Ready will be a holistic new approach to the committed affordable housing leasing process, working with residents to help them overcome barriers to the traditional leasing process (such as non-traditional incomes like family nannying, language barriers, poorly captured rental histories, and more) so that all families who are interested in renting with Housing Alexandria are eligible and ready when Sansé and Naja opens in a
ABOUT THE NAMES SANSÉ AND NAJA:
The words “Sansé” and “Naja” come from Nahuat (na-wat), a language indigenous to El Salvador and part of the broader Uto-Aztecan/Uto-Nahuatl family. Sansé (san-say), the name for the larger building, means “unique” or “only one” and invokes a sense of a unified group. Naja (na-jah or na-ha), the name for the smaller building, means “me” or “myself”. The name and logo were developed by our design team in consultation with residents and advocacy organizations in Arlandria-Chirilagua to create a brand identity that was by and for the residents of the neighborhood.
ABOUT HOUSING ALEXANDRIA:
Housing Alexandria is a 501(c)3 non-profit community developer committed to creating and preserving quality affordable housing and community-focused spaces to empower our residents and benefit Alexandria’s neighborhoods. We envision an equitable Alexandria where all can live and have equal access to opportunity.