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Affordable Housing Initiative

The Affordable Housing Initiative at Fairfax Presbyterian Church seeks to continue the enduring mission-focused tradition of the church. Through a partnership with three other mission-focused organizations with affordable housing expertise (Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, HomeStretch and HomeAid), the church seeks to lease a portion of the northeast corner of the church's property to provide affordable land. HabitatNOVA will provide building expertise, HomeAid will provide building materials and tradesman expertise at reduced prices, and HomeStretch will provide experience in property management.  This partnership will enable—Fairfax City Council permitting—the construction of ten three–four bedroom town homes at affordable prices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated September 12, 2021

What is affordable housing and why is it needed in the City of Fairfax?

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the accepted standard for affordable housing is that costs not exceed 30% of household income. In Fairfax County, we have a severe shortage of affordable housing.

Consider a first year teacher in Fairfax County who earns $50,000/year ($4,166/month) before federal/state taxes are deducted. (FYI – a starting fireman and a starting policeman will receive a similar pre-tax salary.) According to HUD, the teacher (or firefighter or police officer) should pay no more than $15,000/year ($1,250/month) for housing. However, average rent in the Fairfax area is almost double that at $2,495/month. At that average rent, a starting teacher (or firefighter or police officer) in Fairfax County would consume 60% of their before-tax monthly income on housing.

Why is Fairfax Presbyterian Church interested in affordable housing?

Quite simply, it’s what we do! Fairfax Presbyterian Church (FPC) has a long history of public outreach and active engagement with our surrounding community on issues related to affordable housing and alleviating the high costs of living in the Fairfax area. We contribute to the Lamb Center and Fairfax FISH. We support the FACETS group in providing a hypothermia shelter for the homeless in winter months as well as contributing to their hot meals program. We support the Main Street Child Development Center. We support the Rebuilding Together program. Providing affordable housing to those in need is what we are called to do. Additionally, the City of Fairfax’s Comprehensive Plan challenges social and civic organizations to get involved in affordable housing and this would, of course, include houses of worship.

Who is responsible for planning and implementing the Affordable Housing initiative?

The FPC Mission Outreach Ministry, led by two FPC Elders, formed the AHIT (Affordable Housing Implementation Team) composed of FPC members. Membership on this team is open to all FPC members.  All are welcome to attend meetings and participate actively. Meetings are normally held on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 PM in the FPC Multipurpose room.

What organizations will be working with FPC on this initiative and what are their roles?

Three organizations are partnering with FPC for this initiative. These are:

  • Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia (Habitat NOVA): Habitat NOVA will be the developer and general contractor. Under our current plan, it will manage homeowner selection (with input from the AHIT), provide financing, and manage future resales for 8 townhomes.
  • Homestretch, Inc, Northern Virginia: Homestretch assists homeless families in attaining self-sufficiency within 2-3 years. It will manage and maintain two townhomes for two of their client families.
  • HomeAid Northern Virginia: HomeAid is the official non-profit of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association (NVBIA) connecting regional builders and housing industry professionals with housing non-profits.  HomeAid’s partners donate their expertise, time, and resources to reNOVAte or build affordable housing. This allows housing non-profits to greatly reduce their construction costs.

Why use the FPC property?

The City of Fairfax is in desperate need of affordable housing. The primary hurdle to the City’s efforts to increase the number of affordable housing units is the lack of available land within City limits.

FPC property includes 8.26 acres with potential open space to support building affordable housing. Churches in the City of Fairfax are among the last landowners that have property which could be converted to affordable housing alternatives. As a church, we are taught to give our time, talent, and treasure to Christ. And treasure is not limited to money. Land ownership is one of the most valuable treasures within the City (and the County).  Land is the treasure we can offer.

Are we selling or leasing land to Habitat NOVA?

National Capital Presbytery (NCP) is the owner of the 8.26 acres on which FPC is located. NCP has formally agreed to lease a portion of the property designated for affordable housing at a very small fee ($1 per year). This is in keeping with NCP’s strong endorsement and support for projects such as this one.

NCP will lease the land to a Virginia nonprofit corporation created and controlled by FPC. This FPC-controlled entity will sublease the land at a nominal fee to Habitat NOVA. Habitat NOVA will act as the developer of the land. Homestretch will be granted two of the structures with a nominal annual lease from Habitat NOVA as sub lessor. Once the Habitat NOVA homeowners are selected for the remaining eight homes, each homeowner will purchase the structure with an affordable mortgage. The homeowner will then lease the land on which the structure stands from the FPC entity at a nominal fee.

What if the homeowner wants to sell their home?

If a homeowner of one of the 8 Habitat NOVA townhomes wishes to sell their home, Habitat NOVA, will have the first right to buy the homeowner’s equity in the property and arrange for another income-eligible family to purchase the  home. If Homestretch wishes to sell one or both of its townhomes, Habitat NOVA will have the first right of refusal. If Habitat NOVA ceases to exist, the FPC nonprofit retains the right to purchase the home and to sell to another limited-income family.

Who would be eligible for the affordable housing on FPC property?

Two Homestretch Homes: Homestretch will determine the families that will live in the homes. The Homestretch families will typically occupy the homes for approximately 2 years.

Eight Habitat NOVA Homes: Habitat NOVA will conduct the homeowner selection process according to Habitat NOVA’s established criteria. Habitat NOVA’s criteria include – but are not limited to – income, need, and credit history. All criteria are in accordance with the Federal Credit Equal Opportunity Act. FPC will have member representation on Habitat NOVA’s Family Selection Committee. Qualified Homestretch “graduating” families will be invited to apply for the Habitat NOVA townhomes.

Does FPC have any control over the activities of the persons in the homes? What about parties, loud music, and upkeep of the property?

Habitat NOVA, Homestretch, and the FPC AHIT will create a homeowners’ association. There will be provisions that protect FPC property, require certain standards of maintenance, and limit certain activities. The FPC nonprofit entity that is created for purposes of leasing the land will have a majority vote in all business conducted by the homeowners’ association. Habitat NOVA constructs their homes with long-term durability in mind. Habitat NOVA homeowners take great pride in their homes and have a long history of maintaining their property to very high standards; homeowners invest 400+ hours of sweat equity into building Habitat homes. Sweat equity hours include home maintenance education and financial education, which includes saving for future home repairs and maintenance.  

How can the homes be built at prices affordable for families to be sold at prices below the traditional market value (40% to 80% of AMI)?

The process is set up to ensure high quality townhomes are built and sold at a below-market rate.  This is one of the benefits of the unprecedented partnership between FPC, Habitat NOVA, Homestretch, and HomeAid.

  • Land cost per home will be $1/year if the project is constructed on FPC property. To build similar homes elsewhere in the Fairfax area, land costs would range from $100,000-$200,000 per house.
  • Labor costs and materials will be significantly lower. HomeAid will provide the trades experts at a discounted rate and Habitat NOVA (with FPC’s help) will provide the volunteer labor and materials.
    • Please note: the materials are of the highest quality. While purchased cheaply, they are not “cheap.”
  • Habitat NOVA partners with a non-profit solar panel installer who provides the photovoltaic panels and installation at a greatly reduced cost. Solar panels reduce the monthly utility expenses for the families which adds to the long-term affordability of the townhomes.
  • Habitat NOVA, HomeAid, and Homestretch – three well-respected, long-term nonprofit organizations in the Northern Virginia region – will seek grants, and/or undertake fundraising activities to further reduce the purchase price of the townhomes.

What will be the impact on Church property from this affordable housing initiative?

The AHIT and our partner organizations are committed to planning this development to have limited impact on the Glebe, buildings, programs, and parking. The feasibility assessment commissioned by the Session has provided an impact assessment of the housing on our property. Further assessment and planning continue to take place as the application and development process continues. Notably, the town homes will be constructed in same Jeffersonian Architectural Style as the church.

What will be done to protect the Glebe?

The Glebe has always been an important part of our church life and our connection with the larger Fairfax community. Just as our church members do, others in the community use the Glebe for exercise and contemplative thought. The members of the nearby nursing home community, in particular, are frequent users of the Glebe. Like other open areas in the city, occasionally children and families will use the Glebe for play. In fact, much of that usage happens in the spring and summer on Sunday afternoons after FPC services. In all likelihood, residents of the townhomes will also make use of the Glebe in such ways.

However, please note that FPC has the ultimate authority to regulate use of the Glebe in a manner similar to that of the rest of the property. Further, AHIT understands that the area around the northeast corner is especially sensitive as a final burial and resting place for the ashes of deceased members of FPC. At all times, consistent with how FPC oversees that portion of the Glebe today, owners will be asked to be respectful of that sacred area. AHIT, in conjunction with FPC, will implement any additional protections to that area specifically and the Glebe in general.

Who will be responsible for liability, utility costs, and property taxes?

Habitat NOVA is responsible for insuring the property during construction. Homestretch and the future homeowners are responsible for insuring the property appropriately once they purchase the homes. The owners will pay Fairfax City real estate property taxes only on the structure.

Will the owners be allowed to sublet their properties?

No. The Habitat NOVA townhomes must be owner-occupied at all times. This stipulation will be included in the deed restrictions. Homestretch will manage the two townhomes they own subject to their guidelines which do not allow occupants to sublet their homes.

What new zoning is being requested with the development application?

The development application submitted to the City of Fairfax requested the City re-zone the property from Residential High (RH) to Planned Development – Mixed Use (PD-M). For reference, the Cameron Glen town home development adjacent to FPC is similarly zoned for PD-M.

Will the values of these homes have an impact on the value of neighboring homes?

No. Ground lease sales such as these homes will be noted as “no consideration” or “not market value” by the tax assessors to ensure that the property will not be considered as a comparable in the appraisal of any surrounding property. In short, because the owners own only the structures and not the land, the transaction will be handled the same way that a “non-arms-length” sale between a parent and a child is handled: not included for appraisal purposes and with no impact on the value of surrounding properties.

Will improvements be needed to use Presbyterian Way to allow for more traffic and use by school children walking to their bus stop?

Current plans for the affordable housing project will not require improvements to Presbyterian Way.  The vehicles from ten families represent a small fraction of the number of cars that already travel to the church on an average day.  Additionally, the proposal anticipates school-aged children will either have a bus stop in the parking lot or they will use the path to the north of the church property that joins the same path to the bus stop on Judicial Way that is used by school children from Cameron Glen.

When will the re-zoning application be submitted to the City of Fairfax?

The re-zoning application has been submitted and staff from the City of Fairfax have responded with a number of questions that Habitat staff is in the process of answering.

Will any of the homes be “group homes?”

No. All ten homes will be single-family homes. Eight will be managed by Habitat NOVA and two will be managed by Homestretch.

Isn’t Homestretch a transitional housing provider?

Homestretch provides housing for approximately 2-3 years for people in difficult circumstances (e.g. battered spouses) while coaching them in an intensive training and education curriculum to help them attain self-sufficiency.

What are the next steps?

Along with our three partner organizations, the AHIT Communications Team will continue to engage with residential and business neighbors, reaching out to the Planning Commission and City Council, working with other houses of worship and endeavoring to answer as many questions about the development as we can.  The AHIT and our partners will be working to incorporate all reasonable suggestions and ideas into our proposal.

May I view the development plans?

Yes.  The application and plans are viewable on the website for the City of Fairfax:
www.fairfaxva.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/17465/637515841519670000

How can I get involved?

Your participation, questions, involvement and engagement are welcome and encouraged!

Please contact Jerry Hopkins (jhop2020@gmail.com) and/or attend the AHIT meetings. The team usually meets on the third Wednesday of each month.

Affordable Housing Implementation Team

The team meets on the third Wednesday of every month (virtually) at 7:30 PM. At each stage of the process we are in need of people who can bring different and needed skillsets to the project. Please contact Andy Blomme (andyblomme@aol.com) or Jerry Hopkins (jhop2020@gmail.com) to participate in this exciting neighborhood mission project. Check out the Bulletin for the most recent “Did You Know” to learn more about low income families, affordable housing options, and the impact that this project will have in our community.