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VOICE in the News

  • Tue, 12/17/2013 : Washington Post

    Housing activists pushing Arlington County to build 1,500 new units of affordable housing on county-owned land said Tuesday that they do not plan to back off after the County Board said it will consider the idea along with other proposals in the coming year.

    “We are not going away,” said Robert Buckman, one of the leaders of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Empowerment (VOICE), which collected 10,375 signatures in the past six months in support of its plan. “Priorities are nice, but without deadlines, nothing happens.”

  • Mon, 12/16/2013 : Washington Post

    It’s no secret that some parts of Fairfax County are richer than others. Hybla Valley, along Route 1 in the Alexandria area of southeast Fairfax County, has long been part of the “others,” with more low-income housing and fewer high-end shopping and eating options. Even within Hybla Valley, there’s an economic divide between the east side of Route 1, with Gum Springs and Fort Hunt, and the west side, with the Audubon Estates trailer park and Murray Gate apartments. But the folks in Audubon Estates, which has 711 homes without yards, have begun organizing and with the help of VOICE, an interfaith community organizing group, they are making progress in bringing long-needed recreational facilities to their part of Fairfax. The Audubon residents have formed a partnership with churches and high school booster groups on the other side of Route 1 to help raise money for artificial turf fields at West Potomac and Mount Vernon high schools, and to get much needed repair to Muddy Hole Farm Park on their own side of Route 1.

  • Mon, 12/16/2013 : Arlington Sun-Gazette

    County Board Chairman Walter Tejada said the board on Dec. 17 will reply to a petition submitted by housing activists, seeking to use public land for construction of affordable units. "Our statement will be positive," Tejada said at the Dec. 14 board meeting. The organization - Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, or VOICE - recently presented board members with a 10,000-signature petition, urging the county government to use some of the land under its control for construction of new housing.

  • Sat, 12/14/2013 : Washington Post

    Finding ways to address the shrinking supply of affordable rental housing in Arlington County would be the County Board’s biggest priority in 2013, chairman J. Walter Tejada (D) declared in January.

    Two weeks before the year ends, the board on Saturday approved new temporary rental assistance for low-income residents who find themselves being priced out of their existing apartments, loaned a nonprofit developer $8.3 million to buy and preserve 101 apartments near South Glebe Road and I-395, and adopted a set of financial tools to preserve 6,200 existing affordable apartments in the neighborhoods along Columbia Pike.

  • Mon, 12/09/2013 : Arlington Sun-Gazette

    Those who are doing the asking consider it an easy-to-grant request, and the answer they receive could help determine the direction of the county government’s affordable-housing policy for years to come. Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, or VOICE, is asking County Board members to direct staff to analyze a list of publicly owned sites that could be used for affordable housing, and report back next April with the three most feasible sites.

    The goal? Cut the cost of construction by building on parcels that the government already owns. “When land is free, you can accommodate those people who get lost in the shuffle,” said Robert Buckman, a leader of the VOICE effort. “We want to be a national example for the use of public land.”

    The ecumenical organization plans to present County Board Chairman Walter Tejada on Dec. 12 with a 10,000-signature petition in support of its effort, then turn up en masse at the Dec. 14 County Board meeting to press its case.

  • Tue, 11/19/2013 : Fairfax Patch

    The City of Fairfax has taken a clear step toward attempting to increase the availability of affordable housing within its borders. At its most recent meeting, the City Council unanimously passed an amendment to the City's Comprehensive Plan that makes it clear that having a mix of different housing types to match many different ages and economic statuses is a priority.

  • Thu, 11/07/2013 : Mount Vernon Gazette

    When athletes at West Potomac High School travel to other schools in the region, they often hear students call their school “West Poor.” That’s because the school
    has notoriously bad athletic fields, ones that are so bad they have a reputation that stretches across Northern Virginia. That’s all about to change, though, because advocates for athletic fields have persuaded Fairfax County leaders to invest $3.5 million to improve conditions up and down the Route 1 corridor, where poverty rates are some of the highest in the county.

  • Wed, 11/06/2013 : Mount Vernon Voice

    By this time next year, West Potomac High Athletic Club Booster president Rick Genuario expects the brown grass on the school’s football field will be replaced
    with artificial turf.

  • Mon, 11/04/2013 : Mount Vernon Patch

    West Potomac and Mount Vernon high schools will receive an estimated $1.5 million each from FCPS & Fairfax County carryover funds to complete the fields.

  • Sun, 09/29/2013 : Washington Post

    Shiny new high-rises in Rosslyn, the hip condos of Clarendon and the renovated bungalows in Ballston hide a truth about the state of housing in Arlington County and throughout Northern Virginia — unless your household income is above $60,000, you are increasingly being priced out of the market.

    Construction is booming and 25-to-35-year-olds are flooding into the county from the District, Fairfax County and Maryland. But even starter apartments in Arlington are moving out of range for a large portion of the workforce because incomes have not kept up with the rising cost of housing, according to a study compiled by a county task force.

  • Sat, 09/14/2013 : Washington Post

    Each time Ron Taylor steps outside the squat brick townhouse he rents in the Manassas neighborhood of Georgetown South, the house next door is a reminder of how things used to be. It’s his old home, now vacant. The yard, where he once carefully carved a planter from a tree trunk, is overgrown with weeds. Taylor, 68, and his wife lived there for about a decade before it was foreclosed on last year. Georgetown South was envisioned as a tony, southern sister for the District’s famous and affluent Georgetown when it was built in 1964. But that was never in the cards for the neighborhood, and it soon became better known for blight and crime. When the foreclosure crisis came, it was among the area’s hardest hit neighborhoods. At the height of the housing bubble, nearly 60 percent of residents were homeowners. Now, about 60 percent rent.

  • Wed, 08/28/2013 : USAToday

    The Christian housing ministry Habitat for Humanity builds houses using volunteer labor and has helped many low-income families become homeowners. But the recent foreclosure crisis and shortage of rental units have opened my eyes to an even bigger need — helping families to stay in their homes.

    Instead of swinging a hammer, I'm meeting with developers, bankers and politicians in an effort to preserve affordable housing for my needy church members and neighbors. It's a trend that has caught on across the country.

  • Wed, 08/07/2013 : Reston Connection

    “One of the primary requirements of anyone that responded to RFP was the retention of 181 affordable units,” said Barbara Byron of the county‘s Office for Community Revitalization and Reinvestment. “In addition to that, the RFP required that the rest of the units provide 20 percent of the total as affordable dwelling units.”

    #LAKE ANNE DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS, a subsidiary of Republic Land Development, was selected by the county in early July.

    #“They are required to submit detailed relocation plan for how the 181 residents will be moved to new development within Crescent property,” Byron said. “They will have to do that to our approval, and will be required to do that in the first phase of development.”

    #Many of the current residents are concerned about the proposal, fearing that any relocation will be detrimental to their way of life. Herminda Belleza, who has lived at the Crescent Apartments for 12 years, is concerned about the effect a move would have on her daughter, who just graduated from Forest Edge Elementary School.

    #“I am very worried about the Crescent redevelopment plan. If my family is forced to move from Crescent, this will disrupt my daughter’s education plans,” she said. “We have built our life at Crescent around good schools and closeness to my job. I would be unable to afford a more expensive apartment in Reston.”

  • Wed, 07/31/2013 : Fairfax Times

    Restonians came out in force to a public hearing Tuesday evening to voice their support for the proposed redevelopment of the Crescent apartments at Lake Anne, and for the preservation of affordable housing in general.

    “We support and we applaud the county’s commitment to the residents of the Crescent Apartments,” said the Rev. Stephen Smith-Cobbs, a pastor and member of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), a group that has been working to support the Crescent residents. “We want that priority to remain clear … as the planning process continues.”

  • Wed, 07/31/2013 : Reston Patch

    "I am very worried about Crescent's redevelopment," said Hermina Bellezza, a single mother who has lived the development for more than 10 years. "We are on a very tight budget. If my family is forced to move, it will will disrupt her education. I will be unable to afford a more expensive apartment in Reston. This could have a big impact on her future. "

  • Mon, 06/24/2013 : Washington Post

    When Fairfax County spent $49.5 million to buy the Crescent apartment complex near Lake Anne in Reston, in 2006, it was with the stated goal of preserving affordable housing in the county as real estate values continued their upward climb. So it came as a surprise to the residents when they learned that Fairfax was already looking to sell or lease the property for redevelopment, as part of a bigger plan to revitalize the Lake Anne area. The county’s plan is to replace the 181 apartments in the 50-year-old, three-story buildings with up to 935 apartments overlooking the lake and close to shopping and a new Metro station. The current residents love the place, not only because their rents are low ($1,150 for a two-bedroom place) but because it’s near two elementary schools and many bus lines. “There are good people living here,” said Andres Paz, a dental assistant who’s lived in the Crescent for 8 1/2 years. “We are somebody. We are poor, but we are good people.”

  • Mon, 06/24/2013 : Washington Post

    When Fairfax County spent $49.5 million to buy the Crescent apartment complex near Lake Anne in Reston, in 2006, it was with the stated goal of preserving affordable housing in the county as real estate values continued their upward climb. So it came as a surprise to the residents when they learned that Fairfax was already looking to sell or lease the property for redevelopment, as part of a bigger plan to revitalize the Lake Anne area. The county’s plan is to replace the 181 apartments in the 50-year-old, three-story buildings with up to 935 apartments overlooking the lake and close to shopping and a new Metro station.

  • Mon, 06/24/2013 : Sun Gazette

    Suggesting that only a small window of opportunity remains, proponents of more affordable housing in Arlington laid down challenges to themselves, and county officials, during a June 23 forum.

    The event, expected to draw 500 people from religious communities across the county and surrounding area, drew about 550, organizers said.

  • Sat, 06/22/2013 : The Muslim Link

    At a roundtable, fifteen Muslims nervously share stories about their financial problems. It is a new concept especially for older immigrants, not used to airing their laundry in public, more so inside a masjid. They are at the Dar al Noor Islamic Center in Manassas, VA located in a county heavily hit by the mortgage crisis. Some skip their turn but then gain the courage to speak up, after seeing others in the same situation.

  • Fri, 06/21/2013 : Washington Post

    An interfaith group of housing and justice advocates is calling for the use of publicly owned land in Arlington for the development of affordable and workforce housing. The group, Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, says that Arlington County in particular needs 1,000 to 1,500 new housing units in the next five years that are affordable to people who make less than $50,000.