Fairfax County’s proposal for low-income studio apartments would allow 500-square-foot rental units into most neighborhoods through an expedited process. Targeted for insertion into neighborhoods are the homeless and “persons with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or substance abuse disorders,” among others.
Neighborhoods forced to host such units would see declines in property values and flight by families. Because county property taxes are based on housing value, this would cause a drop in revenue. With more than 16,000 such units considered needed, a permanent underclass would literally be built into neighborhoods throughout the county, providing breeding grounds for blight.
If the labor market were allowed to naturally tighten, employers would be forced to pay higher wages, which would enable the less fortunate to move into the middle class. Instead, these cramped units would serve as cheap-labor subsidies for business and dumping grounds for social service agencies. With three to 75 units per neighborhood, they would be scattered piecemeal, where it would be extremely difficult to provide public transportation, social services, social networks, and jobs for studio dwellers.
Fairfax County should reject this idea and maintain its traditional zoning process, which allows the county to design specific areas around the functions that they serve.
David Kroeger, Fairfax
Director, Sugar Creek Consulting