Affordable-housing achievements take center stage at Arlington fete – Arlington Connection – October 9, 2017

APAH salutes former County Board member Mary Hynes

See the original Arlington Connection story here.

Love enticed Afaf Belmahi to give up a career as a lawyer in Morocco and move to Northern Virginia, where her growing family initially found itself living in an Alexandria apartment, where they had to carry their oldest son (born with physical infirmities) and his wheelchair up and down staircases multiple times per day.

Belmahi, her husband and their children (now numbering three) found a new lease on life when they move to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s (APAH) Arlington Mill Residences apartment complex, and, more recently, into a three-bedroom apartment at APAH’s The Springs, a 104-unit apartment building in Ballston.

The couple’s two sons now attend nearby Barrett Elementary School; they and their younger sister are taking advantage of the resident services that APAH offers those who live in its apartments.

“I’m so glad to be a part of the Arlington community,” Belmahi said at APAH’s annual Celebrate Home fund-raiser, held Oct. 5 at the Clarendon Ballroom.

“My family and I feel so lucky,” Belmahi said. “Emigrating to the U.S. was hard. Because of APAH, my family is stable, happy and healthy.”

The Oct. 5 festivities, chaired by Rita Bamberger of the Holladay Group, raised $510,000, said John Milliken, who chairs APAH’s board of directors.

“We’re talking about homes, affordable homes. APAH is proud to play a small, but we think, a significant part,” Milliken told the gathering. “APAH’s work . . . is only possible because of your generosity.”

At the event – which brought in most of the 350 who had R.S.V.P.’d –  former Arlington County Board member Mary Hynes was honored for her efforts in support of housing and other social-safety-net programs in the community.

Hynes “has made and continues to make a huge contribution,” said County Board Chairman Jay Fisette. “The way she approaches it is by doing what she thinks is right. She’s kind of got that Minnesota down-home charm.”

Fisette called affordable housing the moral imperative of our time in local governance. He singled out Hynes’s leadership in crafting an update to the Affordable Housing Master Plan, a multi-year effort that ultimately received unanimous County Board and near-unanimous community backing.

“The honor doesn’t belong only to me,” said Hynes, who served on the County Board from 2008-15 after 12 years on the School Board. “Success . . . is only possible with collaboration.”

“Why should a community invest its local dollars in affordable housing?” Hynes asked. “Why should we care? We collectively came to understand that Arlington needs affordable housing. It roots people in our community.”

In her remarks, Hynes said Virginia localities needs to seek additional powers from the state government to address housing issues, and also be inventive and innovative with what already is allowed under state law.

“The work is not done,” she said. “We’re going to need more tools, we’re going to need more creativity.”

In recent months, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has broken ground on Gilliam Place, which will bring 173 units of affordable housing to a Columbia Pike parcel that previously was home to Arlington Presbyterian Church. Construction on the 229-unit Columbia Grove apartment project, also in the Columbia Pike corridor, is half complete, and a funding package is being assembled to redevelop the Queens Court apartment complex in Rosslyn into a 12-story, 249-unit complex.

At the Oct. 5 event, APAH president Nina Janopaul said the organization also was ramping up its efforts to serve residents through the Community Progress Makers Fund of the Citi Foundation. The local organization last year was awarded $500,000 as part of a $20 million national effort to find new ways of tackling social-safety-net issues.

“We’re excited to be working on that,” Janopaul said. “I hope we’re going to be embraced by the community.”

Major sponsors of the evening’s events included AvalonBay Communities, Bozzuto and JBG Smith.