A long, self-referential open letter to the Alexandria City Council.

Dear Distinguished Nominated and/or Elected City Officials,

I am writing to share my opinions on Alexandria’s housing demands and plans for economic development. After living in Houston for the past five years, I have returned to Alexandria in order to work in real estate management, development, and restoration. Currently, our company serves the housing needs of several hundred local residents, and during the past six months, I have gained an extensive knowledge of Alexandria’s unique housing demands and plans for future development. On an average day, I speak with at least thirty people who are looking for a place to live, but because our turnover rate is so small, we rarely have vacancies. In other words, based on my experience, Alexandria is in desperate need of expansion.

I know that the City Council continues to research the need for affordable housing. However, I am somewhat baffled by the lack of communication and collaboration between local government officials and individuals who, like myself, respond to these needs on a daily basis.

It is difficult to deny that there are thousands of individuals in need of subsidized housing here in Alexandria, and I think there are a number of reasons we continue to struggle with this situation. First, management companies are reluctant to rent to people on housing, because for the most part, people have greater respect for their home when they pay for it themselves. Second, I have encountered, on numerous occasions, individuals that receive subsidized housing who, in most other cities our size, would not qualify. I speak as a disabled individual who has received government assistance in the past. The perception that Alexandria lacks subsidized housing is perhaps exaggerated by the number of people who exploit these programs.

I understand that for many people, rent is a huge expense, particularly for a single parent with multiple children, and I believe in our community’s obligation to ensure shelter for these individuals. However, I also strongly feel that these programs also serve to perpetuate poverty, and I believe that the City of Alexandria should place tighter controls on the criteria for qualification. That said, you should know that I am diehard liberal, and my opinion does not arise from a disdain for the poor, but from a belief in an individual’s capacity to succeed. I know this may not be a popular opinion, and it may not win elections.

But we have to eventually face the facts: Despite the fact that our community continues to grow, there is a large segment of our population who are left behind. Of course, there is only a certain amount of change that a local government can affect, but it’s readily apparant that the policies and programs we have in place are not efficient or solvent. Rather than spend millions of dollars researching and constructing property that segregates the lower class from the middle and upper classes, we should implement creative lease-to-own programs that empower people.

Consider this typical scenario: A local investor spends $25,000 for a three bedroom home near Monroe Street. The investor then locates a tenant on housing and rents the home for $550 a month. In four years, the investor collects over $26,400 in profit, not directly from the tenant, but from the Alexandria Housing Authority. After year four, the investor enjoys $6,600 in pure profit, paid directly from the local government. This policy only serves to benefit the investor. Surely, Alexandria can implement the same type of rent-to-own programs already implemented in other cities. I suggest reading Harvard University’s reports entitled “Tax Credits and Rural Housing” and “Pursuing the American Dream: Homeownership and the Role of Federal Housing Policy.” We wouldn’t have to work from the ground up; these programs exist already.

Thanks. I love you guys. NOW LISTEN TO ME. please.

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