Developer Jair Lynch says it is exploring ways to make some units at the Barcroft Apartments even more affordable to families.
This comes as two organizations, Arlington Community Foundation and advocacy group ACE Collaborative, have put pressure on Jair Lynch to deepen affordability at the site over concerns of displacement.
“We have heard the assertions that tenants won’t be displaced, but we are asking for detailed plans for the displacement prevention,” ACE Collaborative Director Mitchell Yangson tells ARLnow, adding that rent for legacy residents should “be rolled back to a level that will prevent their displacement for as long as they live at Barcroft, not just on a temporary basis.”
Around this time last year, Jair Lynch acquired the Barcroft Apartments with the intent to renovate some units and redevelop other parts of the site with $310 million in loans from Arlington County and Amazon. It received these loans after promising to preserve at least 1,334 units for households earning up to 60% of the area median income (AMI).
But deepening affordability remains a live issue for two reasons. First, most residents make less than 60% of the area median income, according to the developer’s Master Financing and Development Plan, submitted to the county in late October — equating to $85,380 for a family of four. Second, the developer says next year it will begin phasing in 3% rent hikes.
A majority of the 1,100 residents living in Barcroft before the sale reported earning 40-50% AMI, or $56,920-$71,150 for a family of four, while some reported earning up to 30% AMI, or $42,690 for a family of four.
“There are some rent-burdened people here,” Jair Lynch Development Senior Vice President Ruth Hoang said in an Arlington Housing Commission meeting in November. “We are also concerned about overcrowding hiding some rent burden as well.”
The federal government defines being rent-burdened as spending more than 30% of one’s income on rent.
Jair Lynch and Arlington County have said that households will not be displaced. Rent in 2022 was frozen at 2021 levels, and increases capped at 3% per year will start in 2023.
The developer also says it will work on a case-by-case basis with residents who feel they cannot afford any rent hikes.
“As we roll out the 3% increases, those residents who are concerned and feel like they can’t pay, we’ll have those meetings with them and look at their incomes to see what they can and cannot support,” Hoang said.
Jair Lynch has committed to trying to find on-site options for those earning more than 60% AMI.
Per the financing report, Jair Lynch says it can still meet its original goals despite “significant economic and financial headwinds.”
These include scarcer affordable housing financing due to the more than 2.5 percentage point increase in interest rates and increases in operating and constructing housing, due to 8-10% inflation and a 15-20% increase in construction costs.
The report listed additional funding sources that could be used to deepen affordability levels, similar to those Arlington Community Foundation identified in a report showing how 255 units could be preserved for extremely low-income households, or those earning 30% AMI.
One mechanism would be redeveloping some units as well as the retail property it acquired at the time of the apartments acquisition. That includes an old Penske truck rental location at 4110 Columbia Pike — which is currently staging construction equipment, perhaps ahead of demolition — and a small strip mall.
The developer proposes renovating the “core” of the 60-acre development, along S. Thomas Street and crossing S. George Mason Drive, while building taller apartment buildings, community centers and green spaces in the northeast and northwest portions of the property, which abutt apartment towers and retail.
One advisory commissioner said the county should be upping its transportation investments in the area to better accommodate the added population.
“This is a tremendous opportunity but it is topographically challenging. It’s very steep,” said Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey during the meeting. “It’s transit rich in that it’s close to Columbia Pike, but it’s still a car-centric community… I welcome the density, but with that density should come a greater responsibility for transportation. That is a failed area of the county and it is very dangerous for people.”
Redevelopment could also mean more 2-3 bedroom units, which are more likely to net highly competitive state 9% tax credits, which would further offset the cost associated with providing units for extremely low-income households.
“If we can focus on 9% tax credits, we can target those 30% units,” says Jair Lynch Vice-President of Development David Hilde. “It’s a much better tool to do that. Those are ideas we’ve been bouncing around with each other and will be part of the conversation going forward.”
Meanwhile, ACE Collaborative organizers and tenants held a press conference Wednesday at Barcroft announcing the creation of a tenant organizing group to continue advocating for residents.
“Over the past year, the Barcroft tenants involved in the efforts have grown, and more of them are becoming leaders, making this the right moment to move forward as a tenant organizing group,” Yangson told ARLnow. “Previously, Jair Lynch and the County only wanted to deal with tenant concerns on an individual basis. It’s as a group that Jair Lynch and the Arlington County Board began to speak to the tenants about the deal and respond to their concerns more seriously.”
County staff will spend the next few months reviewing the plans and looking for additional ways to preserve affordability on the site. Jair Lynch will continue briefing Arlington commissions and committees next year, ahead of an expected Arlington County Board vote to approve parts of the plan.