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Letter: Action needed now to tackle affordable housing

Efforts by Arlington officials are a way to start

To the editor:

Across our nation, there is a crisis that has been gripping our communities, both large and small, for many years now.  It does not discriminate between young and old, native or immigrant, poor or middle class.

It is the affordable-housing crisis.

Here in Arlington, we have a unique opportunity to remedy the crisis by supporting proposals currently being put forth by the County Board. We should unequivocally support these proposals, including the Missing Middle housing effort and Plan Langston Boulevard, for a number of reasons.

First is the issue of quality of life. Northern Virginia has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. It is not uncommon for workers in the region to have combined commuting times of one to two hours or more. Much of this is directly attributable to the lack of affordable housing. If you can’t afford the rent or mortgage for housing close to the city, then you are going to have to buy or rent in the suburbs.

This has led to a terrible time crunch. People lose out on so much of their lives when precious time is sucked away by long commutes on top of their already long work schedules. When this happens, there is rarely time for family dinners, social and leisure activities, exercise and much-needed sleep. Our current mental- and physical-health crises are directly tied in with these quality-of-life issues. In short, people should be able to live close to where they work, and we need to make it affordable to do so.

Second, the affordable-housing crisis has left a devastating impact on our environment. Over the last few decades, we have paved over and bulldozed hundreds and thousands of acres of beautiful Virginia countryside to make way for thousands of homes and miles of multi-lane highways. All of this has led to more traffic congestion and air pollution.

Moreover, this ever-expanding suburban sprawl is simply not sustainable. It requires ever more money and resources to maintain, and the tax base to support it is wholly inadequate.

Higher-density housing close to the city is a much better solution. It reduces greenhouse-gas emissions and pollution, there’s an adequate tax base to support infrastructure, and it preserves the countryside’s natural habitat.

Finally, there is the ongoing issue of diversity and inclusion. What kind of society are we and what kind of society do we want to be? Do we really want whole neighborhoods and communities separate and unequal? Is it really in our best interest to divide our communities by socio-economic status? These problems can be fixed if we adjust our zoning laws to allow for higher-density housing that will in turn bring more affordable and equitable housing options.

The time has come to make these necessary changes.

Michael Gering, Arlington