Workforce households in the DC area are increasingly feeling what the Urban Land Institute callsthe “Beltway Burden,” a function of the combined cost of housing and transportation in the region. It isgenerally accepted that households making between 80% and 120% of Area Median Income (AMI)qualify as “workforce households.” The core of this group is the school teachers, police officers, and firefighters, and EMT’s who serve and protect our communities. Policy interventions are necessary to ensurethat workforce households, particularly the core group described above, can afford to live near their placeof employment.According to the one-year estimate from the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS), the AMIfor the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area for a family of four is$102,340. As indicated by the official name of the metro area, this AMI calculation covers anextremely large geographic area. The focus of this paper is on workforce housing conditions and policiesin the District of Columbia and three of the most affluent and urbanized surrounding jurisdictions: City of Alexandria, Virginia, Arlington County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland. Within theseclose-in jurisdictions, there is significant variability in the AMI, where more than sixty thousand dollarsseparates the District of Columbia from Arlington, its neighbor across the Potomac River. This highly-localized disparity has implications on how each jurisdiction attempts to address the issue of workforcehousing affordability.
Defining the Need Nationally
Historically, the focus of public housing support in the United States has not been on theworkforce housing segment. Most current measures utilized by housing affordability programs, themortgage interest deduction excluded, are only available for, or heavily weighted towards, householdsthat are below the 80% AMI threshold. This is evidenced by the Community Development Block Grant(CDBG) program which must dedicate at least 70% of its funds to benefit low- and moderate-incomeprograms at or below 80% AMI, the HOME Investment Partnership program which only assistshouseholds below the 50%, 65%, or 80% AMI levels, the federally-regulated multifamily housing bond