What is Market Rate Affordable Housing?
The term “affordable housing” can mean many things; it is most often used to describe housing that receives some form of government subsidy to keep rents low. It can also mean housing that’s naturally affordable simply because the market rent for the units falls into the range that can be considered affordable to a low- or moderate-income household. This usually occurs due to amenities, condition, age, and/or location of the units. In Arlington, these apartments are referred to as market rate affordable housing or MARKs. Many, but not all, of the older garden apartment buildings in Arlington can be classified as MARKs.
In the Arlington area, we are losing these valuable, affordable housing resources at an alarming rate. From 2000 to 2017 the County lost approximately 18,000 MARKs, mostly through rent increases. These older apartments are also being lost through redevelopment, often replaced by either higher cost rental housing or luxury townhomes.
Preservation of MARKs has been identified as a priority in the county’s Affordable Housing Master Plan. To date, acquisition through the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) has been a productive tool for preserving affordability, but AHIF budget resources are limited. Other means available to produce replacement housing rely on planning and zoning tools including the Affordable Housing Ordinance, the Special Affordable Housing Protection District (SAHPD), Bonus Density, and use permits. In 2017 Arlington County adopted a new tool, the Housing Conservation District, which is intended to provide incentives to property owners to help keep housing affordable.
Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance report on market rate affordable housing preservation
Urban Land Institute report on multifamily workforce and affordable housing