February 05, 2021

Big Changes Proposed for Workforce Housing Policy in Fairfax

4 min

In July 2020, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (the "Board") authorized for consideration Countywide Plan Amendment 2020-CW-2CP (the "Plan Amendment"), which provides revisions to (1) the Housing and Land Use elements of the County's Policy Plan volume of the 2017 edition of the Comprehensive Plan (the "Policy Plan"), (2) the Area Plan volumes as they relate to rental Workforce Dwelling Units (WDUs), and (3) other related changes to the Housing Element of the Policy Plan, which are differences between the Comprehensive Plan and the Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan.

The Plan Amendment proposes to revise WDU levels and income tiers served under the rental WDU program as policy guidance within the Comprehensive Plan. It also includes updates to the Housing Element of the Policy Plan to ensure consistency between the new Plan Amendment as it relates to other related policies (including the 2015 Strategic Plan to Facilitate Economic Success for Fairfax County, the 2017 One Fairfax Policy, and the 2018 Communitywide Housing Strategic Plan), as well as revisions to Board's WDU Policy Administrative Guidelines and Tysons Corner Urban Center WDU Policy Administrative Guidelines for consistency with the Comprehensive Plan.

The proposed changes in the Plan Amendment provide for reduced maximum household income levels for rental WDUs served under the rental program from the current 80%, 100%, and 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI) to 60%, 70%, and 80% of the AMI, as well as a reduction in the rental WDU percentage commitment level (WDU percentage of total residential units) from 12% to 8% of the total dwelling units, which serves to offset the cost of providing the WDUs to lower-income households. In other words, the Plan Amendment gets rid of the commitment to units at income levels at or above market rental rates (see the below table).

Big Changes Proposed for Workforce Housing Policy in Fairfax Chart 1

The Plan Amendment does not propose changes to the current 20% maximum density bonus that is associated with the provision of rental WDUs or the WDU policies associated with for-sale units, but does clarify that bonus density for residential projects is expressed in terms of dwelling units per acre, and in mixed-use projects bonus "intensity" is expressed in terms of floor area ratio. It further provides that non-residential portions of mixed-use developments are not eligible for the calculation of bonus density.

The Area Plan changes proposed by the Plan Amendment include updates to recommendations referencing countywide policies or specific Area Plan recommendations for rental WDUs in specific areas, such as the Tysons Urban Center, the Annandale Community Business Center (CBC), and the Seven Corners CBC. The Plan Amendment proposes the removal of the assisted housing tables in the planning district in order to eliminate the County's ongoing plan maintenance issue, editorial changes to revise outdated terminology and remove redundant text, and changes to WDU recommendations for the Tysons Urban Center, Annandale CBC, and Seven Corners CBC.

The Tysons Urban Center and Annandale CBC changes would allow developers to select one of two options when the WDU Policy applies to their project: (1) reduce the maximum household income for rental WDUs from 120% to 80% of the AMI, or (2) reduce the overall commitment level from a 20% to a 10% commitment level if maximum household income is 60% of the AMI or less (see the below table for an example of the proposed Countywide and Tysons WDU Policy).

Big Changes Proposed for Workforce Housing Policy in Fairfax Chart 2

The Seven Corners CBC changes would proportionately decrease the rental WDU commitment level for Sub-units A3 (Willston Village) and Land Unit B (CBC town center) from 15% to 10% of the total dwelling units, the rental WDU commitment level for Land Unit C (Leesburg Pike Village Center) from 12% to 8% of the units, and the maximum household income for rental WDUs (Sub-unit A3, Land Unit B, and Land Unit C) from 120% to 80% of the AMI.

The Plan Amendment was recommended for adoption by the Planning Commission on February 3, 2021, and the Plan Amendment is scheduled to go before the Board at its public hearing on February 23, 2021.