Affordable Housing: Alexandria Grants $8 Million Loan to Secure Avana Apartments

"It’s very much groundbreaking in a lot of ways for us in terms of housing," said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson.  

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Avana Alexandria photo

Alexandria, VA – The Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a $8 million loan to help buy a 30-year-old apartment complex that will add hundreds of affordable and workforce housing options for the city. Council approved the loan to the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation to buy the 6-acre Avana Alexandria Apartments at 3001 Park Center Drive, and as far as the city is concerned it’s a great deal.

“This is an extremely exciting moment to be discussing this effort,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson before the council vote on Tuesday, Dec. 10. “It’s very much groundbreaking in a lot of ways for us in terms of housing.”

The property, portions of which were recently renovated, has 326 apartments, including 137 one-bedroom apartments and 187 two-bedroom units. Amenities include a playground, business center, swimming pool, tennis court, game room, fitness room, and dog parks. Half of the 6-acre property is currently devoted to surface parking, which could potentially be converted to another use.

Photo: Avana Alexandria

“This is the type of transaction that housing dreams are made of,” Helen McIlvaine, the city’s Housing director, told council. “The property is in excellent condition, and no substantial renovations are contemplated for the first 10 years.”

Real estate investment firm JBG SMITH contacted the AHDC in mid-October about the acquisition. The deal, in the short term, offers the city a chance to secure 130 longterm committed affordable units and to retain 115 workforce level units, potentially providing relief to current residents who are housing cost burdened.

AHDC anticipates opening the property to affordable housing within the first year of ownership, due to natural apartment turnover and attrition. The final goal will be to have 130 affordable units – about 40 percent of the total number of apartments with rents at 60 percent of the area media income. Additionally, 114 units – about 35 percent of the apartment stock – wil be dedicated to workforce housing with rents available at 80 percent AMI.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recently set a goal for the region to produce 320,000 affordable housing units from 2020 to 2030. In Alexandria, low cost, market-affordable (non-subsidized) rental housing dived 88 percent from 2000-2018, according to a September regional COG report.

“I think they’re doing something that’s new and different,” Wilson said of JBG SMITH. “This is really market-based investment in affordable housing, and they’re trying to make this work. I think everybody’s watching this around the country. This is something they’re doing that’s extremely different. If it works it’s going to provide a tool that hopefully is replicated all over the country.”

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