A diverse, welcoming community of open hearts and minds since 1948
Monday, July 23 VOICE members from UUCA and other Arlington congregations attended the County Board hearing on the proposed Columbia Pike Neighborhoods area plan. In what appeared to be an exhaustive, 10-year process, the County reviewed its plan to preserve and increase Affordable Housing in the Columbia Pike area, which it defines as the Pike from the Air Force Memorial to Jefferson Street, including several blocks on either side of the Pike.
The problem with the plan is how it defines affordable housing income targets: 60 – 80% of the average median income, which is $103,500 for a family of four. If you do the math, that is $62,100 to $82,800. This excludes just about every customer service worker in the County, who average $12, 870 in annual salary. It also excludes nurses’ aides who work at Virginia Hospital Center, home health aides who work all over, taxi drivers, private bus drivers, waiters, book shop workers … the list is long, but you can see that there are many who fall far short of the County’s definition.
After the County made its presentation, the Housing Commissioners spoke, some who stated that there had to be a greater emphasis on low-income people’s access to Arlington Housing. Then the public was provided the opportunity to speak: two minutes each. There were almost 50 people signed up to speak. VOICE was represented by a parochial school teacher who held a master’s degree in education who explained that she would not meet the County’s 60-80% AMI and so could not afford to live along the Columbia Pike.
She was followed by Friar Tuck Grinnell, pastor of St. Charles, who asked for:
VOICE members in attendance who sat together near the front stood as the teacher Ingrid and Friar Tuck made their remarks. We all wore big yellow VOICE pins so we made a unified show of support. After Voice testified, a Mr. Shaiky Paik was called to the speaker’s podium, where he testified that he was a Columbia Pike business owner who has employed one worker for 28 years who lives just a few blocks from his store. He can’t afford to pay him much, but he is worried if the County’s plan is enacted, his worker will have to move and he will be hard pressed to replace him.
It was a great night and very moving to see and hear so many people stand for mid- to low-income people. We must continue to press the County to modify its plans to be more inclusive. I left before the County Board voted on the plan, but check back here to see what they decided.