It’d be easy to assume there’s no affordable housing in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s 20 minutes from Washington D.C. However, Alexandria challenges assumptions held all over the country about who can live where and what happens when they do.
Rocky Hackett lost her job during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was earning a six-figure salary. Now she lives in an affordable housing complex.
She lives at The Bloom, which offers rent at well below the market rate.
For 20 years, as the rising cost of houses has priced out the middle class, Alexandria has opened affordable housing units across the city.
Christina Stacy works for the Urban Institute. She ran a study commissioned by Alexandria officials that asked: When affordable housing comes into an area, what happens to the value of all the other homes?
“Nearby properties actually increase in property and property value compared to houses or homes or condos further away,” Stacy said.
Affordable housing made surrounding housing more valuable, even in affluent areas, according to the study. The numbers should have upended the assumptions, except they didn’t. They actually reinforced the numbers from countless other studies in countless other cities that found the same results.
“Community members in a specific community will say, ‘Oh, well, they only found those results because that’s in Portland, Oregon. It’s so different from here.’ or, ‘You know, that’s in a whole different state,’” Stacy said. “The arguments you hear are, ‘It’s going to cause more traffic. It’s going to overcrowd our schools. But I think on a lot of cases, those are just kind of excuses for saying, ‘I don’t want people that aren’t like me to live near me.’”
Hackett agrees and attitudes change toward affordable housing.
“If we have a little bit more compassion and love for one another as a whole, then we’d be a better place to live," she said.