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Fairfax County is considering using developer contributions to further expand affordable housing options, particularly in transit centers.

The proposal builds on a concept pioneered in Tysons Corner, where the developers of commercial properties near the four new Metro stations are expected to contribute $3 per square foot to the county’s housing trust fund.

However, some supervisors expressed concern that such fees could hamper commercial development in other parts of the county.

The so-called “3-2-1” concept developed by county staff would encourage $3 per square foot contributions from commercial development in areas within a quarter-mile of a transit station, $2 per square foot for properties between a quarter and half mile, and $1 per square foot for any other commercial development.

It would apply only to rezoning cases that include an increase in density, said Marianne Gardner, director of the planning division of the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning.

Property owners could also take multiple years to pay the fee, for example paying 25 cents per square foot per year, Gardner said.

The Housing Trust Fund would focus on creating affordable housing in the $3 and $2 per square foot tier areas, under the proposal. Affordable housing options would be targeted at people making less than 80 percent of area median income, or about $80,000 for a family of four.

Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), a critic of the county’s approach to affordable housing, said there are plenty of market rate housing options for people of that income level.

“We don’t need to put rent control units in place when the private sector is meeting the need,” he said.

Fred Selden, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, said that from an economic development standpoint, companies are now looking to locate in transit centers that offer a mix of housing options.

Given that the first new apartment building in Tysons has rents starting at $1,900 per month for an efficiency, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large) said the county needs to take steps to ensure that people of all incomes can live in these communities.

“Not everybody makes the highest income level,” she said. “They’re not all CEOs, but we would like them to be able to live close to where they work.”

Board members also asked county staff to look into the cumulative effect of the variety of fees, taxes and voluntary contributions the county is extracting from new development in Tysons.

“We have to acknowledge that is a part of the $1,900 rent,” said Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully). “That’s not all just going in the developer’s pocket. We’re creating that.”

Others expressed concern about implementing even the $1 fee in areas of the county that are struggling to attract new commercial development, like the Route 1 corridor.

“The greatest need in some of my revitalization communities is not affordable housing, it’s commercial growth,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee).

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com