I am genuinely excited about the news that Amazon will locate half of its highly-coveted HQ2 in Arlington. I am ready to embrace the new vibrancy that will come to the “National Landing” neighborhood where I already live (in a place formerly called Pentagon City).
As Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol tweeted, I am proud to be a member of a community that is educated and connected enough to win Amazon’s approval.
Arlingtonians, #HQ2 news is a validation of the community you’ve planned for and built, for decades: Sustainable, inclusive, civically engaged. I’m proud to be part of this community & can’t wait to continue the conversation about our future. Learn more https://t.co/mxY0xkErKC
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) November 13, 201
The problem is, I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to remain in Arlington to enjoy the benefits that this announcement promises. The pressure my lower-income neighbors will be facing will be even greater.
Arlington already has a housing shortage, as does our region. Recently regional leaders confirmed we already (before Amazon's announcement) needed 100,000 new homes beyond what is already planned in the pipeline.
New apartments are coming online in Crystal City, but that wasn't enough to stop my rent from rising 5% last year. Seattle saw rent price increase 13.5% in the last year. How long before I and other current residents pack up and head to Fairfax County?
Without an immediate, forward-thinking, and ambitious plan to add new homes throughout the county, many residents will be pushed out, especially those with lower incomes. We also need to seriously discuss other aggressive strategies to ensure affordable options remain in our county.
Being civically-engaged does not bestow rent control. Embracing Amazon without also championing more housing in all neighborhoods does not advance the goals of sustainability or inclusion.
Arlington has been successful at using “smart growth” principles to bring density to the Metro corridors in the form of high-rise buildings. But this isn’t enough. Approximately 40% of Arlington’s land area is zoned for detached, single-family homes—meaning that it will never be affordable for anyone making less than an Amazon employee. With straightforward (though politically-challenging) zoning changes, Arlington can unlock vast swaths of land for more housing.
Now that we’ve landed the economic development prize of 2018, it’s time to talk housing and how we can keep Arlington a sustainable, inclusive, and civically-engaged community while making room for new residents (Amazon employees or not).