Housing Conservation District Planning Process Begins

With the loss of market rate affordable housing (MARKs) continuing at a rapid pace, Arlington County has embarked on an attempt to improve on the set of tools available to preserve the affordability of MARKs or to encourage replacement of MARKs lost due to redevelopment. The first step in this effort resulted in a detailed report published in March 2017, Market Rate Affordable Housing: An Approach for Preservation. The report focused on MARKs in areas that are not already covered by detailed land use plans and offers recommendations for new and updated tools to be pursued by the County.


In December 2017, the Arlington County Board approved Phase 1 of a proposal for a Housing Conservation District (HCD) that will provide protections and incentives to preserve or replace affordable apartments in market rate affordable buildings. The main action taken with the approval of Phase 1 is a change in the approval process for new townhomes being developed within the HCD boundaries, which will now require site plan approval. This change is expected to slow down demolitions such as those seen in the Westover neighborhood.

Phase 2 of the plan, which includes developing a set of incentives to help property owners renovate or redevelop their properties in exchange for affordability protections, will be developed throughout 2018.

The Housing Conservation District Policy Framework outlines several goals for the district:

• Implement the Affordable Housing Master Plan via the General Land Use Plan;
• Encourage the retention and renovation of existing rental affordable housing units;
• Provide opportunities for the creation of new affordable units (either rental or ownership) when redevelopment occurs;
• Maintain the character of established multiple-family areas, considering historical buildings, tree canopies, mix of affordability, and mix of rental vs. ownership housing; and
• Signal that a variety of tools are available to achieve the above, including removal of zoning barriers to reinvestment.

Attend these upcoming events to learn more:

  • March 10th, Lee Highway Alliance Educational Forum: Lee Highway Alliance Offices, 9:30-10:30 am. Six of the 12 areas included in the HCD are located along Lee Highway. Join the LHA for an educational forum on the HCD development process and discussion of its impacts along the corridor.
  • March 12th,  HCD Open House: Walter Reed Community Center, 6-9pm. The County is holding a general open house to share information with anyone interested in learning more or providing feedback on the plans.

AHS Executive Director Michelle Winters is participating in the County Working Group that is helping to guide the next phase of the process. Feel free to get in touch with any questions or feedback that AHS should bring to the Working Group.