Displacement fears grow with Va. housing development

The project would build more than 6,000 housing units, both condominium and rental apartments along Beauregard Street, replacing about 2,500 units in the Mark Center Apartments. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

ALEXANDRIA,Va – A massive development plan that will change the face of Alexandria over 30 years will also displace thousands of working class people along the way.

The project would build more than 6,000 housing units, both condominium and rental apartments along Beauregard Street, replacing about 2,500 units in the Mark Center Apartments.

Current rents for the garden apartments can run from $1,500 to $2,000 a month.

Some of the tenants say they are already being forced out by higher rents and utilities.

Hector Penada, who has lived there 10 years, says he is considering relocation options.

“With this new plan here, we can’t afford to live here anymore,” he says.

He may move to Manassas or Woodbridge, where rent is more affordable. But then getting to work would cost more, he says.

His neighbor Jane, who does not want her last name used, says she is already looking for a new place because her rent will be raised $200 a month when her lease runs out.

Faroll Hammer, Alexandria’s planning director, says housing costs in that area are already high. She says the housing market has bounced back and rental units close to D.C. are going up dramatically.

She says the plans, which will play out over 30 years, will create a new neighborhood.

“Under the plan, there will be 800 guaranteed affordable housing units that won’t be tied to market forces,” she says.

There will be some retail stores, a new fire station, ball fields and eventually bus rapid transit down Beauregard street.

But Jane, who has lived in the Mark Center apartments for nine years, sees it differently.

“It doesn’t include us. It excludes all the minorities,” she says. “It’s going to include rich people.”

The developer, JBG Companies, says no residents will be displaced for at least two years, and they will be offered other apartments with moving expenses.

The city planning commission is expected to vote on a zoning change April 2. The city council will get the proposal April 13.

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