Several members of our congregation recently attended a City of Fairfax city council meeting as part of VOICE, a local advocacy organizing working at affordable housing. We were lobbying in support of a mandate that 6% of all new housing in our city be designated as affordable housing. The developer and the council agreed and, by working together, we were able to secure 24 new affordable housing units.
The high cost of rent and of purchasing a home makes it almost impossible for service providers and lower paid professionals such as teachers, police, pastors, and firefighters to live here. Affordable housing is generally figured at 60% of the median income of $111,000 for households in our area. To be affordable, the rent or mortgage should not exceed 33% of the income of a household. At an annual income of $66,600 (60% of the median income), it comes to a monthly rent mortgage payment of $1,850.00. Even this is out of reach for many households.
Consequently, maintaining our present stock of affordable housing and building new affordable housing are among the biggest social challenges in our city. It greatly exacerbates rush-hour traffic on our congested highways as people commute to work from more affordable outlying communities. Another huge social cost is if those who provide services during bad weather or other emergencies are not readily available because they can’t afford to live here. It also makes it much harder for agencies working with our homeless population to help them transition to permanent housing. The whole community loses.
We need to be forward thinking about this. Walkable communities that combine housing, offices, and commercial space are more livable by cutting down the need for transportation. City planners are working hard to make our city more walkable. Our church wants to be part of this effort. We have a three acre property in the middle of the city, which includes a fairly large wooded area and a stream.
We’re in conversation with various people, including Habitat for Humanity, about developing our property in a way that will preserve our green space and also include affordable housing, church and worship space, and perhaps some office space or even commercial space. It’s a long-range goal that we want to keep working toward. We see ourselves as an integral part of our city. In this respect, we seek to work for the common good, together with all others who share our goals.