Journal of Housing & Community Development

Award of Excellence: The Residences at Government Center

October 7, 2019

The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) wins a 2018 Award of Excellence in Project Design for the Residences at Government Center, a workforce housing project for the Government Center campus site. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development. 

Fairfax County, a suburb neighboring Washington, D.C., needed affordable housing for the low- and moderate-income families in the area. Workers were being priced out of the local market and moving farther away from D.C. to find affordable housing, creating more traffic and straining the already over-burdened public transportation system.

In order to increase the area’s stock of workforce housing, the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) created a public-private partnership with SCG Development, the Jefferson Apartment Group, and the Virginia Housing and Development Authority (VHDA)  to build the Residences at Government Center, which offers 270 affordable rental units in a mix of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Twenty percent of the rentals are occupied by households making 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), and 80 percent are rented by households making 80 percent of AMI.  

The Residences at Government Center is in an extremely convenient location – the building has a bus stop directly in front of it, and is within walking distance of both jobs and shopping opportunities. Its design blends in with the architecture of the surrounding area, which includes the Fairfax Corner commercial and retail mixed-use developments.

The building boasts many features that are not typically associated with affordable housing developments, including multi-purpose activity room, fitness room, smart mailroom, swimming pool, two internal courtyards, high ceilings in units, solid surface countertops, modern vinyl plank flooring, electronic access controls, multiple elevators, structured parking, as well as a clubhouse. 

Both the county and the developer took steps to minimize the development’s environmental footprint and site impact. These include:  

  • A permanent conservation easement and new trees; 
  • Trail connections that followed the existing topography to minimize the amount of clearing and grading at the site; 
  • Underground storm-water management facilities and small bioretention basins to minimize the clearing and grading of the site for Best Management Practices (BMP) facilities;  
  • Retaining walls to eliminate the need to “grade out” the site in the resource protection area corridor to the south of the site; and  
  • A structural parking deck, which eliminated the need to clear or grade the site to the extent that would be required for full surface parking.  

The development also incorporated green features such as Energy Star appliances, additional air sealant and insulation measures, energy-efficient windows, high-efficiency water heaters, and programmable thermostats to lower its environmental impact on the environment and to allow residents to benefit from lower monthly utility bills. 

The Residences at the Government Center project is the first of its kind in the State of Virginia to employ a financing structure that uses a mixture of both 9 percent and 4 percent tax credit allocations from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA), as well as tax-exempt bonds from the FCRHA and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Credit Enhancement. FCRHA provided 13 million in tax-exempt bonds and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors leveraged a private investment of $56 million from Jefferson Apartments Group and Stratford Development Group through a long-term, unsubordinated ground lease. The tax credit allocations were critical in providing the developers, Stratford Capital and Jefferson Apartment Group, with the necessary funding to move forward with the project.  

By forming partnerships and developing a new financing structure to build The Residences at Government Center, FCRHA and its partners were able to provide new and sorely needed affordable housing to working families in their community. 

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