Wesley Housing opens The Arden — 126 affordable apartments near Huntington Metro
The Arden, a new seven-story, 126-unit multifamily apartment located a block from the Huntington Metro station at 2317 Huntington Avenue and built by award-winning affordable housing developer Wesley Housing, was officially opened Friday, Jan. 13 with a ribbon cutting, speeches and an open house tour.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Chair Jeff McKay and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck participated in the event, along with Shelley Murphy, past president and CEO of Wesley Housing, who shepherded the project as it entered construction in summer 2020. Other event attendees included representatives of the Fairfax Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Virginia Housing’s Rental Housing Department and Truist Community Capital — all of which had a hand in the project’s complicated funding.
Wesley Housing is moving its main office to the ground floor of the building.
Households earning 40–80% of the area median income (AMI) are eligible to live in The Arden. Eighty percent of AMI is $79,760 for a single person and $113,840 for a family of four, according to federal gross income limits as of 2022. The Arden has a mix of units, from efficiencies to three-bedroom apartments, to accommodate everyone from seniors and disabled people, to families and young working couples. Wesley also provides services such as social and recreational activities, seasonal celebrations and volunteerism; health education, preventative screenings, exercise classes and nutrition; and adult programming, youth out-of-school enrichment and financial literacy.
Building affordable housing near a Metro station is tricky because of the high cost of land. The $59 million construction cost was financed by grants and loans from the county and state, as well as Truist Bank, plus special funds allocated for workforce housing in Virginia’s bid to bring an Amazon headquarters to this area. A key to the financing was state and federal low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) administered through Virginia Housing. Virginia Housing’s Art Bowman, managing director of rental housing, said, “This project could have been built without LIHTC, but it would not be affordable.”
The Arden replaced a 12-unit 1950s apartment building and two post-war duplexes similar to other buildings in the neighborhood.
A few other low-to-moderate income rental properties are scheduled for the Metro station area, where plans for high-rise housing both around and on top of the station are being approved. Cityside Huntington Metro Apartments on Richmond Highway was purchased by affordable housing developer Lincoln Avenue Capital of Alexandria for workforce housing (up to 80% AMI), and they plan to add two new towers to house families at 40% AMI. Of the many units planned for land owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), 15% will be set aside for workforce housing capped at 80% AMI.
In his speech, McKay noted that the Board of Supervisors has committed to building 10,000 new units of affordable housing by 2035 and offered his four E’s of affordable housing: promoting equity as set forth in the One Fairfax policy; helping economic development by providing housing for workers; enhancing the environment by reducing commuting emissions by providing homes close to transit and jobs; and it is “easy.” The last E brough a laugh from the audience, many of whom had been through the rigors of putting together a financing package and then constructing the building during COVID-19 when they faced “volatile supply chain issues,” according to Scott Vossler, president of WCS Construction.
Following an outdoor ribbon cutting, attendees toured the apartments in small groups, seeing each size apartment as well as a large outdoor patio with grills and a smaller computer lounge. Many were impressed with the workmanship, the kitchens and the layouts.
Bill Curtis, assistant director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, looked out at the post-war duplexes in the surrounding area and recalled that he had owned one of them when he was single and starting his career years ago. It was the only thing he could afford near a Metro.
The Arden may offer a similar opportunity to young workers as well as people at other stages of life.