As the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors held a budget public hearing Saturday morning, residents from across Loudoun held a rally to urge the county to put a one half-cent affordable housing designation toward housing for low-income essential workers.
The rally, organized by New Virginia Majority, attracted current residents of Lucketts Mobile Park and The Fields of Cascades, two affordable housing communities potentially threatened by development. In addition, six individuals spoke directly to the Board of Supervisors during the public hearing.
“It really wasn’t easy for us before living in our current apartment,” speaker Rosa Nochez told the Times-Mirror through a translator. She, her husband and their two young children live at The Fields of Cascades, a 320-unit affordable apartment complex in Sterling. Before finding their current home, Nochez said she and her husband rented a room but were evicted when Nochez became pregnant, as the landlord didn’t permit children.
But now the current price restrictions that keep The Fields of Cascades affordable for families like Nochez’s are set to expire in 2025.
“We have been doing well… The community is safe, my son is going to a school which he loves,” Nochez said. “If they were to increase the rent, it would be very difficult for us.”
Since the threat of redevelopment last year at Leesburg Mobile Park, residents have sought answers from the county as housing prices increase and affordable housing dwindles.
Most affordable dwelling units in Loudoun are priced for residents at 60 percent of the adjusted median income (AMI), or an income of about $77,400 for a family of four. However, many of Loudoun’s essential workers earn 40 percent or less of the county’s AMI.
When he presented the fiscal 2023 budget, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet recommended that the town designate one-half cent per $100 of the real property tax rate, or about $5.6 million, to a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing needs.
According to Jon Liss, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, that fund could go toward a variety of programs to help low-income families, including preservation of current low-income communities and housing grants to help lower-income tenants.
“Often [Loudoun’s] affordable housing skews higher… There’s not enough for those who make 40 percent of the AMI,” Liss said. “We are in a housing crisis.”
Protestors gathered at the former Walmart location on Edwards Ferry Road, waving signs as they marched past Leesburg homes and apartments. They gathered outside the Loudoun County Government Center to chant and share personal stories about the need for affordable housing.
New Virginia Majority community organizer Sofia Saiyed, who addressed the Board of Supervisors, is hopeful that the Board of Supervisors will listen.
“If the county doesn’t invest in housing, we don’t know if [these essential workers] will be able to live here,” she said. “Now is the time for the county to take action.”
At least one supervisor has voiced support for the half-cent designation.
As Saiyed waited inside the government center for the rest of the protestors to arrive, Supervisor Juli Briskman (D-Algonkian), leaving the chamber, thanked the speakers for their message.
“I will be fighting as hard as I can to keep that half-cent,” Briskman told Saiyed.