Plan Langston Boulevard: Key Planning Elements Part 3

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Key Planning Elements Series: Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of this newsletter series on Plan Langston Boulevard’s key planning elements. This week, our newsletter is talking about HOUSING. In this newsletter, we outline the planning element goal and provide a brief summary of what has been shared previously. If you would like to take a deeper dive into all the public feedback received or read the full reports, go to the Documents webpage or click the links throughout this newsletter.   

The Key Planning Elements are: 

  • Land Use  
  • Economic Vitality 
  • Housing 
  • Building Form 
  • Transportation, Connectivity, and Urban Design 
  • Public Schools, Facilities, and Spaces 
  • Historic and Cultural Resources 
  • Sustainability and Resilience 


Goal: Welcome residents who want to age in place, families, young professionals, middle‐income households, and households at 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI)

Housing is an integral pillar of equity and economic development.

Arlington County, like many neighboring jurisdictions, has a shortage of housing—apartments, condos, detached homes, townhouses, and duplexes—for low- and middle-income community members due to high land values and construction costs. Under the current zoning, there is a limit on the housing types permitted along Langston Boulevard. In addition, did you know that rowhouses, such as those found in historic Glebewood and several other locations beyond Langston Boulevard, were banned for 30 years after the County amended the Zoning Ordinance in 1938 and found that rowhouses “detracted” from the single-family character of the County? That is one reason why this housing is less prevalent in the County today.

Expanding housing options enables equitable access for people of all races, ages, and income levels, including housing for residents who want to age in place, young families, and people with disabilities. New housing will provide better access to services for all populations, helping to reduce disparities and enhancing individual opportunity and wellbeing.  

Separate from Plan Langston Boulevard, Arlington County is conducting the Missing Middle Housing Study to explore how new housing types could help address the County’s shortfall in housing supply and gaps in housing choices. 

Embracing land use changes and new development increases housing supply, creates more housing choices, and improves affordability. More homes along the corridor will also provide the ridership needed to support investments in more frequent transit service, enhanced amenities, pedestrian improvements, and dedicated bicycle infrastructure. 

Aging in Place 

Many seniors indicate that they would prefer to age in place. The physical environment within the study area—including existing conditions that separate residential and commercial areas, the absence of adequate transportation services, and limited accessible housing—presents barriers to elder health and wellbeing. Paratransit service is key for older adults to stay autonomous and engaged in their community.  

Market-rate Affordable Housing Units (MARKs) and Committed Affordable Units (CAFs) 

The Affordable Housing Master Plan’s (AHMP) goal for Langston Boulevard is to achieve 2,500 affordable units (MARKs and CAFs with rents at or below 60% AMI) by 2040. MARKs are market-rate affordable housing units that have “naturally occurring” rents that are affordable to low- and moderate-income households by virtue of the age, location, condition, or amenities of the properties. There is no guarantee that these homes will remain affordable to lower-income households. As of FY 2021, there were 538 MARKs (at or below 60% AMI) along the corridor. COVID-19 caused an increase in MARKs due to rent rates decreasing. Rents are rebounding quickly, though, so it is likely that the number of MARKs will fall again this year. Some neighborhoods in the study area feature smaller homes, however, many have been torn down, renovated, and re-built with expensive large houses. In addition, some garden apartments have been torn down and replaced with new apartments—using existing by-right zoning standards—without community review or the inclusion of County- and community-desired features that could have been achieved had the projects gone through public review like we envision in the future, according to the Plan for Langston Boulevard. 

A few nonprofit affordable housing providers own properties along Langston Boulevard and have worked with the County to provide committed affordable units, or CAFs. CAFs are guaranteed to remain affordable for an extended period of time subject to both rent restrictions and income restrictions for tenants. CAFs can also be incorporated into market-rate developments creating a mixed-income living environment. As of FY 2021, there were 266 CAFs along the corridor. Senior housing at Hunter’s Part Apartments in Cherrydale accounts for 74 of these CAFs. Most of the other 188 CAFs are in garden apartment buildings that could be redeveloped, following new PLB guidance, to create even more affordable units in the corridor. 

In total, as of FY 2021, there were approximately 800 affordable units, including both MARKs and CAFs, along the corridornearly 30 percent of the County’s AHMP goal. Bridging the gap of approximately 1,700 affordable units to meet the goal is a big endeavor. 

The plan for Langston Boulevard will guide public and private investments, including the development of new residential, mixed-use, and infill residential development with the aim of addressing housing demand and diversifying housing opportunities for all ages and incomes. Specifically, the plan will: 

  • Identify planning and zoning changes needed to create opportunities for a range of housing types and affordability 
  • Establish a minimum percentage of required CAFs for all site plan developments  
  • Designate areas at key nodes and in areas near transit for more density and building height to attain more committed affordable units and other community improvements 
  • Guide increases in density and building height on existing CAF sites 
  • Provide incentives to owners to help preserve existing MARKs and/or convert MARKs to CAFs 

Have you weighed in on the corridor-wide objectives or neighborhood improvements and benefits that are most important to you? There's a feedback form on the PLB webpage

2016 Visioning Study Report + Housing

According to the 2016 Visioning Study Report, the plan for Langston Boulevard will encourage a range of housing choices to meet the needs of families, students, and older adults who wish to stay in place, as well as support living closer to transit, jobs, shopping, services, and universities. 

The housing recommendations in the report include:  

  • Increasing residential variety to include multi-family apartment homes and other housing types, including duplexes, townhouses, and accessory units. 
  • Enabling development of housing for the elderly. 
  • Promoting development of housing types that allow people to stay in their neighborhood or “age in place.” 
  • Evaluating the potential for increased density to enhance development feasibility. 
  • Evaluating the potential affordability requirement on all new developments. 

Existing Conditions Analysis Report + Housing

The Existing Conditions Analysis Report shared that in the Langston Boulevard planning area: 

  • 43% of housing units are single-family detached, 46% are multifamily, and 11% are other (townhomes and two-family). Single-family detached zoning districts comprise approximately 70% of the total land area, whereas, multi-family zoning districts comprise only approximately 11% of the total land area. 
  • Only 15% of housing units are considered affordable housing (CAFs and MARKs up to 80% AMI). 
  • The current housing mix provides limited opportunities for housing affordability and additional housing types beyond single-family homes.  
  • Existing development standards in the Zoning Ordinance, including minimum parking requirements and minimum lot size requirements, impede development of diverse housing types.  
  • External factors, including high land acquisition and construction costs, also constrain design and construction of diverse and affordable housing.  
  • The work to date on the Housing Conservation District (HCD) areas on Langston Boulevard will be brought into the land use scenarios.  
  • The work to develop draft Zoning Ordinance amendments to implement the HCD will occur concurrently with the planning process, and HCD recommendations will be coordinated with ideas and materials emerging from PLB.  
  • No amendments for HCD would be adopted for the PLB areas until further reconciliation occurs, with input from the County Board. 

Neighborhood Inspiration Report + Housing

The community identified the following housing-related priority actions in the Neighborhood Inspiration Report: (see also the NIR Appendix)

Area 1: Arlington East Falls Church 

  • Increase density along transportation corridors with good design and beautification  
  • Add garden-style apartments just outside of EFC Plan along Langston Boulevard, Sycamore Street, and Washington Boulevard 
  • Add townhouses, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, and accessory dwellings in single-family areas 

Area 2: John M. Langston, Yorktown, Tara Leeway Heights, Leeway Overlee 

  • Explore potential for historic district designation (State not local) of neighborhoods to obtain financial incentives for preservation  
  • Consider zoning of single-family areas to include a range of housing types 
  • Plan for multi-family as part of activity node development 

Area 3: Waverly Hills, Donaldson Run, Old Dominion, Glebewood, Waycroft Woodlawn 

  • Encourage and promote diverse housing types 
  • Encourage innovative building techniques 
  • Promote workforce housing 
  • Protect affordable housing goals 
  • Address racial and economic segregation by encouraging diversity and integrating affordable housing 
  • Connect housing with transit - plan for density in line with MWCOG housing goals for region and higher provision of transit services 

Area 4: Cherrydale + Maywood 

  • Financial assistance to County employees  
  • Tools to increase affordable units, as part of development process, such as allowing for greater density 

Area 5: North Highlands + Lyon Village 

  • Remove regulatory barriers that prohibit density and new forms  
  • Allow non-conforming missing middle to conform and continue to be built 

Land Use Scenario Analysis + Housing

Through several public feedback engagements with the Land Use Scenario Analysis, the community shared concern about the loss of existing MARKs and the consolidation of single-family residential edges with commercial development. Participants expressed support for the following aspirations.  

  • Incorporating more diverse housing options, including affordable housing in some areas 
  • Preserving and enhancing existing affordability 
  • Integrating housing types that transition well to lower density residential areas 
  • Providing housing for essential workers near EFC Metro 
  • Creating opportunities for independent senior living 
  • Incentivizing production of affordable units in exchange for density in some areas 

A mailer was sent to approximately 14,875 mailing addresses within the civic associations that intersect with the PLB study area. Click on the image below to view the full mailer.