What is Affordable Housing?

In the broadest sense, housing is considered “affordable” if a person pays less than 30% of their income toward housing costs. Most of the time, however, when people refer to affordable housing they are referring to homes and apartments that are affordable to low- and moderate-income households.

Arlington has two types of “affordable housing.” 

Market-rate affordable housing units (MARKs)

These privately owned units offer rents currently affordable to households up to 80% of AMI, with no requirement to stay affordable. Often described by affordability level, “80% MARKs” are affordable to a household earning 61–80% of AMI, and “60% MARKS” are affordable to households earning at or below 60% of AMI.

Committed affordable units

These units have income-restricted rents for an extended period of time (25–60 years), and generally are available for households earning at or below 60% of AMI. In Arlington, CAFs are most often developed by nonprofit developers, with County assistance. 

Why is Housing Affordability important to Arlington? 

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Community Values – Arlingtonians value our community’s economic, cultural and demographic diversity. Sufficient housing for all income levels and household types supports this diversity. 

Economic Impact - A good housing mix supports economic sustainability. Given anticipated job growth in our area, housing that serves a range of income earners can help employers attract and retain workers, keeping Arlington’s economy resilient. This region’s economic engine could stall if local jurisdictions do not plan for sufficient housing to accommodate future workers. 

Family and Student Success – Housing affordability helps sustain Arlington schools’ diversity. Having an adequate supply of stable, affordable housing is good for both students and schools. 

Environmental Benefits – Reducing commuting by allowing more people to live near where they work yields a cleaner environment for everyone. 

Health and Wellness – Living in good quality, stable housing that is priced affordably reduces stress and improves wellness, and can reduce the cost of health care in the long run. 

How Housing Matters offers more in-depth information on how housing contributes to the success of individuals, families, and entire communities.  

How do we create affordable housing in Arlington? 

Housing in Arlington is all privately owned and managed by individuals, real estate companies, or nonprofit housing organizations. Unlike many other communities, Arlington does not have a public housing authority.  

Most development in Arlington for the past several decades has been focused within the Metro corridors. The County’s Affordable Dwelling Unit Ordinance, adopted in 2005, sets affordable housing requirements for developments greater than 1.0 FAR that are approved by site plan. The Ordinance requires developers either to build the required units (on-site or offsite) or contribute to the County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF)

The County also uses a combination of federal funds (such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, HOME and Section 8 Vouchers) and locally-appropriated dollars (through AHIF and Housing Grants) to facilitate new committed affordable housing development or to help preserve the stock of older, existing housing.  

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Learn more


In 2015, the Arlington County Board adopted its first Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) and Implementation Framework, which will guide County housing policy for the coming decades. The AHMP is one component of the County’s Comprehensive Plan

5-year Consolidated

Arlington’s five-year Consolidated Plan is a HUD-required document that provides the blueprint for developing affordable housing, preventing homelessness, ensuring fair housing, expanding economic opportunities, and improving neighborhoods. Read about the 2016–2020 plan. The Citizen Summary provides highlights. 

Columbia Pike Neighborhood

The innovative Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan establishes tools to help preserve and create new affordable housing in the corridor. 

    Lee Highway Visioning

    A community-driven visioning process for the future of the Lee Highway corridor took place in 2015 and 2016, and a formal planning process for the corridor is underway.