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Northam signs executive order to improve housing affordability

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Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday issued an executive order to improve the availability and affordability of housing in Virginia.

Northam signed the order during the 2018 Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference in Arlington County. Two days earlier, Northam had announced Amazon HQ2 was establishing a headquarters at National Landing, a newly branded area that will include parts of Arlington and Alexandria. 

The headquarters, expected to create 25,000 high-paying jobs over 12 years, also is expected to drive up housing prices. Critics of the Amazon deal highlight that the problem of affordable housing likely will only grow.

The median sales price of homes in October was $542,500 in Arlington and $540,000 in Alexandria, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

Northam’s executive order will focus on developing housing policies and actions that increase the supply of permanent supportive housing, including programs to reduce homelessness and housing instability for vulnerable populations.

The policy is designed to coordinate economic development efforts with housing production, supporting housing production technology, and supporting regional and local pilot projects that increase the supply of affordable housing units.

The effort will prioritize the development of affordable housing in close proximity to employment and educational opportunities.

The executive order also is designed to reduce the rate of evictions, including evaluating pilot programs that provide eviction relief and counseling and education services.

As part of the Amazon deal, Arlington and Alexandria announced they would invest at least $150 million over the next decade in affordable housing initiatives. The localities said in a release that the efforts are designed to create and preserve 2,000 to 2,400 workforce units around Crystal City, Pentagon City, Columbia Pike and throughout Alexandria.

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