Arlington Co. and Amazon partner to preserve more than 1,300 affordable apartments

Amazon and Arlington County, Virginia, are partnering to preserve more than 1,300 affordable homes at Barcroft Apartments for 99 years, the county board announced Tuesday, calling it one of the single largest affordable housing investments ever in the region.

The Arlington County Board, at a Tuesday meeting, committed to a loan of $150 million toward buying the property. Amazon is committing $160 million in a low-rate loan from the Amazon Housing Equity Fund to support the preservation.

Barcroft Apartments, located off the Columbia Pike transit corridor, is known as one of the last market-rate affordable apartment communities in Arlington, according to Anne Venezia, housing director for Arlington County.

The 60-acre garden-style apartment complex had been put for sale this fall. If a developer whose main goal was to turn a profit had bought the property, residents would have been at risk of displacement, Venezia said at the Tuesday meeting.

The county’s acquisition of the property will ensure that no residents are displaced and that rent for the 1,334 units — including 659 family-size apartments — is held at current rates in 2022 and after that capped at no more than 3% a year up to the 60% area median income rent level.

The units currently have rents that are affordable to low-income households earning up to 60% of the area median income, which for 2021 is $77,400 for a family for four in Arlington.

“The shortage of affordable housing has been a chronic challenge for this region. By teaming up with Arlington County, Amazon can help be a part of the solution,” Catherine Buell, director of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, said in a news release.

“These families are the heart of our community and include teachers, law enforcement, construction and transit workers, just to name a few,” she said.

The purchase, which is expected to be completed this year, will help address immediate repairs, add amenities and upgrade the property. Venezia said it marks a significant milestone in the county’s neighborhood area plan for Columbia Pike, which aims to preserve 6,200 affordable units, with Barcroft accomplishing 20% of that goal.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to preserve the largest neighborhood of privately owned, naturally occurring affordable housing in the county,” said County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti.

“By our actions today, we take a big step toward ensuring that the 1,100 current families living in this community are able to stay in their homes and have safe and affordable housing for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Since announcing its selection of Arlington as the site of its second headquarters three years ago, Amazon has committed more than $500 million in low-rate loans and grants to create or preserve up to 2,300 affordable homes in the Arlington region, with more investments to come.

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Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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