On December 4th, approximately 50 ULI members gathered in the community room at Columbia Hills Apartments to experience first-hand what a new affordable multifamily property in the Columbia Pike corridor in Arlington, Virginia looks and feels like. Attendees learned from a panel discussion by key implementors, followed by a walking tour and ending with a networking reception. The project was made possible by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s (APAH) forward-thinking land banking strategy coupled with its community-centered approach to leverage density. Panelists included:
Nina Janopaul, President/CEO, APAH
Mike Chiappa, Director of Real Estate Development, APAH
Chris Gordon, Principal, KGD Architecture
Matt Mattauszek, Urban Principal Planner, Arlington County Department of Community Planning Housing and Development
APAH and KGD Architecture teamed up to solve a persistent challenge in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area – how do we create affordable housing in areas with limited land available? The solution in this case: converting an existing surface parking lot servicing APAH’s garden-style apartment complex, Columbia Grove Apartments, into a dense, narrow, attractive new high rise. Columbia Hills is the first new affordable housing development approved by Arlington County under the new Neighborhood Form-Based Code, which seeks to provide new density and vitality to the 3.3-mile Columbia Pike corridor with no net loss of affordable homes.
It is a highly innovative project; the $91 million project pioneered a complex hybrid financing structure, combining the 9% and 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) programs to maximize equity for the project. APAH was the first developer to propose the hybrid financing model to Virginia Housing Development Authority. Hybrids like this now account for over one-third of Virginia projects. Columbia Hills leveraged $37M in housing tax credit equity plus $20M in state bond financing. The 1.2-acre site, valued at $10M, was donated by the limited partner to APAH. To accommodate requirements of the hybrid financing, the structure is designed as two buildings in one.
The project includes an eight-story concrete building atop three levels of structured parking, several community rooms for resident programs, 10 units designated for permanent supportive housing, a clubhouse, and a roof terrace. For rental units, the building consists of 229 new studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units – all committed affordable to households earning 60% AMI or below. The property is rated Earthcraft Multifamily Platinum for its environmental and energy efficiencies. It is located is less that one block from a bus stop on Columbia Pike, the most heavily traveled bus route in Virginia.
The project broke ground in 2015 and was completed in 2018. APAH received 1,775 applications from potential residents for the 229 available apartments at Columbia Hills, demonstrating the high demand for affordable housing in the region. The two adjacent properties, Columbia Grove and Columbia Hills will offer combined programs for the 437 households living on the campus.
ULI members learned how to expand affordable housing opportunities through land banking and innovative financing. ULI members also learned how the team navigated zoning to secure the development vision for the site. The panel shared the architectural and planning objectives that shaped the project, as well as the tax credit restrictions and how the project fits into the broader redevelopment in the Columbia Pike Corridor, an area immediately adjacent to National Landing. Lastly, ULI members learned how Columbia Hills can serve as a model for future affordable housing developments in high-opportunity areas with limited land available.