A Mixed-Income Neighborhood Makes Good

Community Planning

1. OTC_ExteriorAs federal subsidies for affordable housing have declined, cities and developers across the nation are being forced to find innovative financing methods to create mixed-income neighborhoods.

Old Town Commons (Alexandria, Va.) is one of the latest success stories.

Created by a public-private deal between Bethesda, Md.-based developer EYA, the City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the partnership was financed exclusively by market-rate land value and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC).

The 50-year-old property began its rebirth in 2006 as more than 100 units that were uninhabitable due to flooding and other structural issues. There were also diverse issues and concerns to address among local residents—density, parking, open space and the like. Consultants also engaged with public housing residents for their input.

4  OTC_ParkToday the five-city-block neighborhood is a vibrant new presence in the heart of popular Old Town Alexandria—yet the architecture blends seamlessly with Old Town’s historic rowhomes, and condos were designed as stacked apartments to be indistinguishable from the market-rate homes.

The community includes 155 market-rate townhomes (up to $1 million) and 76 condominiums ($350-500,000).

One-third of Old Town Commons is public housing serving low-income residents, and each development phase has met LIHTC requirements and has been completed on time. Sales of the market-rate homes have been brisk, with prices increasing some 20 percent.

In other words, Old Town Commons provides a global model of what public-private partnerships can accomplish to provide beautiful housing no matter a resident’s income.

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