Prevent gentrification in Arlandria before amazon hq2

City hopes to preserve and build affordable housing, but advocates say plan is not enough

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – Amazon’s new headquarters in Crystal City are years away, but the region is already feeling the effects: both good and bad. More than 3000 people have already been hired. It’s also about the same number of people who live nearby and fear rising rents will force them out of their homes. Elsie Portillo is one of them. She sells her own brand of street food on a strip of Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria, but locals call their community Chirilagua after a town in El Salvador.

The immigrant community of low-wage workers is in the shadow of what will soon be Amazon’s HQ2, and the tech giant’s fear is kicking in.

“It’s going to affect our community because everything is going to become more expensive and the rent goes up,” said Maria Cabrera, “We always earn the same income while others earn more. You cannot live on the same salary with a family of four. The minimum wage is already low, and that’s only making things worse. “

In May, Virginia raised its minimum wage to $ 9.50 an hour, but it remains the lowest in the region and although heads of state plan to raise the minimum to $ 15, there are still five years according to the Washington Post.

“One of the reasons we have a housing crisis is that wages have not kept up with the cost of housing,” said Helen McIlvaine, Housing Director for the City of Alexandria. McIlvaine said the city hopes to inject $ 100 million to preserve and build more affordable housing for residents of Arlandria.

“What can we do now to make sure that there are both resources in place and parameters to guide what this future development will be like and to get as much affordable housing as possible,” she explained. . Alexandria is currently planning to build 480 affordable units over the next three years at the site of the former Safeway on W. Glebe Road. 25% of the units would be considered “very affordable”. This means they would be reserved for families earning 40% of the region’s median income. According to the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation, that’s just over $ 50,000 for a family of four. Lawyers said the rate is still not high enough for families in Chirilagua, some of whom earn below the minimum wage. But McIlvaine said offering cheaper housing for low incomes would not pay off. “The challenge, at 40% of the median income in the area, the unit can actually provide enough money for it to operate,” explained McIlvaine, “But at 30% the rent isn’t even sufficient to fully exploit the unit or to contribute to the debt incurred in the construction of the development.

“Their plan that they put in place is no different from what they have done in the rest of town and we can look at what happened to the people of color, the working class, these families who have earned minimum wage, “said Evelin Urrutia Executive Director of Tenant and Workers United,” They were kicked out of town!

Advocacy group TWU is negotiating with the city to press pause and craft a stronger plan that meets the needs of low-wage workers in the area. “Implement policies that really reflect what the city says on paper,” Urrutia explained.

Residents who have been hearing these speeches for two years now are skeptical: “They just give us a treat and tell us to relax,” said Maria Cabrera.

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