Northern Virginia Officials Discuss Affordable Housing, Transportation and Education at Local Chamber Forum

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Northern Virginia leaders want to push development of affordable housing across the region.

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Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Northern Virginia leaders want to push development of affordable housing across the region.

Housing was one of the many topics touched upon by elected officials at the 7th Annual Northern Virginia Area Elected Leaders Summit at George Mason University in Arlington Thursday.

The event is hosted by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and includes panelists Margaret Franklin, Superintendent of Prince William County, Jeff McKay, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Phyllis Randall, Chairman of the Loudoun County Supervisory Board, and Arlington County Commissioner. It included Katie Kristol, mayor of Alexandria. Justin Wilson.

Panelists said affordable housing should be a high priority for all areas of Northern Virginia as prices continue to soar.

“People see affordable housing as a problem for young professionals. I think it’s really important to know that this generation of families can’t afford to keep their roots in Northern Virginia.” Roads that could have been reached by anyone do not exist today…This is not just a problem for our very low-income neighbors, it is a problem for our middle class, even upper middle class. ”

Franklin said each region needs to determine the importance of affordable housing. She said Prince William County is “at a crossroads,” highlighting her recent proposal to extend land-use decisions across the county.

“These discussions are very controversial because we’re looking at expanding housing across the county, not just in specific areas,” she said. We have a board that is willing to go as far as necessary to ensure that it is decentralized rather than concentrated in one particular area of ​​the county.”

Fairfax County’s McKay said housing should be seen “as an investment, not an expense.”

“We need to build affordable housing everywhere in this area,” he said. “One of our problems was that it was politically acceptable to build it in small areas and small pockets in counties and cities that were considered politically acceptable.”

Officials also discussed electronic participation in meetings, one of the positive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on government services.

McKay said the face-to-face-only model “takes people out of the equation when it comes to testimony, and that’s something none of us should support.”

“Even people who want to testify about a particular zoning ordinance don’t have to sign up days in advance, drive long distances to government centers and potentially miss work,” he said. There’s no reason not to.”

The pandemic has also necessitated some different approaches to economic development.With some employers adopting full or hybrid work-from-home models, office space is less of a priority.

Franklin said Prince William County is particularly focused on revitalizing and redeveloping the US 1 Corridor.

“Prince William is going through what I call teenage years and we’re entering adulthood that will finally be our own.

Panelists also touched on transportation, especially the subway system, and recent struggles from the pandemic.

Wilson said Metro is “going through a tough time… Metro can’t afford to fail.”

Franklin advocated for a subway extension to Prince William County, stating, “There is no reason why the subway system should not be accessible at this time.”

A brief exchange of tension ensued around the discussion about school. Randall has lashed out at Governor Youngkin and Republicans for attacking Loudoun County schools over the past year.

One of the controversial subjects was critical race theory. It is an umbrella term applied to graduate-level legal studies that focus on how issues of race are woven into U.S. history through government and private policy. One example is the red line, where banks refuse to give black people mortgages or impose harsh conditions.

The theory has been hotly debated among conservative groups who claim it is taught at all levels of schooling and hold children today responsible for past acts of racism. ing.

Officials at local and state schools in Virginia say the theory is not taught and that people confuse equitable initiative and culture-responsive education with critical racial theories.

“I am really disgusted that the governor is campaigning against our school system. “I’ve experienced it by attacking and attacking schools in Loudoun County,” she said. If so, you probably shouldn’t be in the office.

As Randall said, “It’s a joke what happened to our teacher,” someone in the audience shouted that Youngkin was “attacking CRT and Marxist ideology.”

“We don’t teach CRTs in public schools,” says Randall. “And if your child is learning her CRT, your child should be proud to have graduate-level classes.”

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