A local advocacy group is raising concerns that the redevelopment of a county-owned Reston apartment complex could displace the 181 low-income families who live there.
About 250 people attended a walk at the Crescent Apartments near Lake Anne Village Center on Sunday. Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) organized the event.
“Where are we going to go? What is going to happen to us if we cannot come back?” said Crescent resident Herminda Belleza. “This is where I want to be, this is where I want my child to grow up.”
Fairfax County purchased the property in 2006 as part of its affordable housing preservation program. Now, the county plans to sell the property to a developer who could build more than 900 units there, with the requirement to preserve at least 181 of those as affordable housing.
However, the income guidelines for what is considered “affordable,” 50 percent of area median income, include those with incomes up to $63,000 per year, said VOICE member Rabbi Michael Holzman, of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation. Current residents have incomes of $30,000 to $45,000 per year, he said.
“The numbers they are using are too high for the existing residents,” Holzman said. “By design, the plan will put these people on the street.”
The property is well-suited for the needs of the residents there, Holzman said, because it is accessible by transit and walking distance to a county health clinic and other amenities.
Belleza, who moved back to Crescent Apartments with her daughter about nine years ago and previously lived there before she was married, said she loves the community and wouldn’t want her daughter to have to change schools. It’s a safe neighborhood with a strong sense of community, she said.
“We look out for each other, we care for each other,” she said.
The county issued a request for proposals for the property last year but still has not entered into an agreement with a developer. The proposal came about as part of efforts to revitalize the Lake Anne Village Center area.
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) and Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large) have pledged to VOICE representatives that they will keep the interests of current residents in mind as they work through the process.
“The county’s commitment is what we stated,” Hudgins said, that the existing units will be replaced with equivalent ones. “All residents will have the opportunity to stay at Crescent.”
Hudgins said she believes that once an agreement is negotiated and can be made public, it will ease the community’s concerns. The project is “a really good thing” for both affordable housing and the future of Lake Anne, she said.
Holzman said no one is disputing the need for redevelopment, they just want to ensure that current residents are not displaced.
Beyond the specifics of this situation, Holzman said this signifies larger problems with the county’s affordable housing programs.
“If we can’t get it right on a property we own, we’ll never get it right,” he said.