More Madness in Fairfax

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has devised one of the most hare-brained schemes I’ve ever heard of: spending $10 million to bail out homeowners threatened with foreclosure and help others buy vacant properties. According to Amy Gardner, who reported the story for the Washington Post, Fairfax is “one of the first communities in the country to tackle the nation’s growing mortgage crisis while also addressing the region’s increasing demand for affordable housing.”

This is folly. No, it’s worse than folly. It’s madness. Stark, raving, gibbering insanity.

“Fairfax, like the rest of the country, is facing a foreclosure crisis that’s unprecedented,” said county Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D), who proposed the idea. “The county has to use its resources and influence to try to stem the tide.”

Using funds from existing housing programs, Fairfax County will purchase 10 houses outright and provide government-backed, low-interest loans for another 190. Says Connolly in an official statement: “We will offer assistance to those at risk of losing their houses, assist first-time buyers purchase already vacant houses, and in some cases the county or its nonprofit partners will purchase a small number of houses to help stabilize distressed neighborhoods.”

A Fairfax County website asserts that the county had 4,527 foreclosures last year, and 3,518 in the first quarter of 2008. Somehow, helping 200 homeowners is supposed to “restore stability” to the housing market.

OK, that’s clearly delusional. But how about the thought that the initiative can help with affordable housing? Gardner elaborates: “One of Fairfax’s primary goals is to expand its affordable housing stock … particularly the category known as workforce housing, which is intended for such middle-income professionals as teachers, police officers and firefighters who otherwise couldn’t afford to live in one of the nation’s most affluent jurisdictions.

So, for $10 million, the county will provide financial assistance to 200 middle-class households. Where’s the money coming from? $6.3 million will from the One Penny Housing Fund, $2.075 million from existing federal HOME funds, and $2.95 million from existing FCRHA line of credit.

And what do those funds do? According to county documents, the One Penny Housing Fund was set up to… preserve affordable housing. Indeed, in 2007, the fund was credited with “preserving 1,412 units.”

House about those FCRHA (Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority) funds? Let’s see, the mission of the FCRHA is “to provide, maintain, and preserve decent and safe affordable housing for low and moderate-income families.”

Now, how about those federal HOME funds? According to a U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development website, “at least 90 percent of benefiting families must have incomes that are no more than 60 percent of the HUD-adjusted median family income for the area.”

So, Fairfax supervisors voted to take money from the One Penny program, which last year preserved 1,412 units of affordable housing, and will use it, along with additional resources, to make available 200 units of affordable housing. Only in a politician’s mind could that possibly constitute a good trade.

Furthermore, the supervisors’ action is taking funds meant for lower- to middle-income recipients and making some of it available, according to Gardner, “to first-time buyers earning as much as $75,600, or 80 percent of the area’s median income.” Sounds like Robin Hood in reverse: Take from the poor and give to the middle class.

There is one other option that Connolly and others could pursue to make housing more affordable in Fairfax County: Just stay away! Let the marketplace work. A funny thing happens when there are more houses on the market than people willing to buy them: The prices drop. By definition, when prices drop, houses become more affordable!


Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    This cannot be.

    I mean somehow..this MUST be the fault of Dillon-rule Pocahontas.

    I’ll be if we did not have the dratted Dillon Rule that it would be impossible for folks like Connolly to pull off the absurd rip offs of taxpayers.

    I suspect a trick here.

    Connolly must be grandstanding so we can get himself into the Pocahontas Power Structure.

    Yes.. that’s it.. for sure…

    That way, he’ll be out of Faifax’s hair…right?

    oops.. dang it.. he’s running for the WRONG OFFICE! Now what will NoVa do?

    Yikes.. before you know it ALL of NoVa will adopt this idea…

    woe is me.. woe is me..

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    They are crazy up there.

    And they’ve got all that money, too.

  3. Groveton Avatar

    Men of Action vs. Men of Words

    In a theme that has recurred for over two hundred years Virginia remains divided between men of action and men of words. Harkening back to the days of Jefferson and Washington, NoVA remains a bastion of action while men from other areas try to solve problems with flowery words. The recent actions by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors represents the latest salvo in this centuries old difference in philosophy. Yet each time that the actions vs. words debate unfolds it has new wrinkles. Today, in Virginia, the Democratic Party is clearly the party of action while the Republican Party is clearly the party of words. Chairman Connolly has distinguished himself and Fairfax County by acting instead of talking.

    Some have long decried Northern Virginia’s lack of affordable housing. Men of words, they whine and whimper about how unfair it all is – especially to people like teachers and policemen. The fact that Fairfax County has better schools and safer streets than their hometowns never enters into their discourse. For this to happen the “men of words” would have to take the baby-step toward action by becoming “men of facts”. Instead, they ply their electronic whimpers while “proposing” hopelessly complicated schemes which would essentially require bulldozing the exiting world to make room for their self-professed utopia. In reality, these men of words know that their proposals are unrealistic and will never happen. The “proposals” are only made so that some will think they have action-oriented tendencies. They do not. In fact, their fear of action is so profound that they will not even “propose” that their impossible ideas be applied to the places where they themselves live. No, these sedentary souls cannot take the miniscule risk that their words might turn into actions that are applied to themselves. Rather, they content themselves by giving voice to their hallucinations with great gusto. If hollow words could be sold they’d all be Bill Gates. They also immediately decry anybody who actually takes an action to solve a problem because it calls into question their “words only” philosophy of life.

    So today we have Fairfax looking at two problems that are fully upon the residents of that county – a new foreclosure crisis and an existing lack of affordable housing. Men of words would have debated the issue ad nauseum or, perhaps, proposed “counseling” for the people losing their houses (the Republican proposal). Conseling is just another form of words so the Republican perspective fits perfectly with their ongoing hatred of action of any kind. The Democrats in Fairfax County grow deaf to the Republicans’ incessant buzzing and act. Chairman Connolley takes his chances on being overridden by the moribund General Assembly and moves to buy foreclosed properties. He figures that the “special session” to solve the “transportation crisis” will keep the men and women of words in the GA too busy to bother with him. As they talk he acts. As they remain deadlocked he starts solving the problem. NoVA vs. Richmond, Washington vs. Jefferson.

    Of course, the men of words pounce on this outrageous pipsqueak operating in the hinterland beyond Richmond. How dare he take an action? Doesn’t he know that the “descendants of Pocohontas” never act unless they are forced to act by an outside force (e.g. the federal government and ending Massive Resistance). The men of words bring forth their “talk cannons” to lob round after round of half baked arguments at the presumptious Mr. Connolley.

    The men of words say that Mr. Connolley is using funds for affordable housing to attack the affordable housing problem. This, somehow, doesn’t make sense to the wordsmiths. Then, they claim that the use of affordable housing funds to improve afforable housing will deplete the funds for affordable housing and stall the momentum of the existing affordable housing programs. Beyond the tangled web of their words there is an over – arching question. Wasn’t it these very theoreticians who used whole encyclopedias full of words to complain about the failure of Fairfax County’s existing affordable housing programs? Now they splatter the internet with words carping about the defunding of the very programs they recently professed to hate. To the men of words these incongruities present scant conflict. You see, they never act so they are never confronted by the real consequences of their contradictory belief system(s). Unlike these false prophets, people like Mr. Connolley have to act. The men of action are ultimately proven either right or wrong. The men of words are never proven anything other than useless.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Gawd, Groveton.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    What Groveton said, is why they have all that money up there.

    Success is having the audacity to do the seemingly impossible, and repeating that process with gusto.

    Faced with facts and dogma, Fairfax chose to act on the facts: we have empy houses and people that need them.


  6. Groveton Avatar

    What’s the world coming to when a guy can’t take an afternoon off, quaff a few beers and launch into a blogging diatribe?

    In a county of 1.1M residents the chairman bought 10 houses (and will make loans on another 190) for $10M. He hopes this will help prevent the areas worst hit by foreclosure from becoming the suburban slums so often discussed here. He thinks the housing might be useful for teachers, policemen, firefighters. The same thought that is applied in London and countless other cities with high housing costs.

    And dozens of Republican “luminaries” react to this as if Gerry had grown horns and turned red. “Madness”, “Crazy”…

    So, I figure I get a rant too.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    you’re entitled Groveton…

    blather rants are becoming a tradition here on BR

    but hey… if we talking about thinking “big” then why not tear down each one of those homes and turn it into dense housing… ??

    you.. know.. multiply the benefit

    if we’re gonna do affordable housing.. heck.. let’s stop beating around the bush and do it.

    and a nice side benefit is the ability to tell the developers that want more density to “f” off… we don’t need no stinkin developers to do it.. we can do it ourselves .. without having to argue about proffers and impact fees and incentives and all that rot.

    We should scoop up every one of those foreclosed property – turn it into ..what was that thing Bacon was talking about.. a “form code”? you know.. make it look like a Mac Mansion but inside, it’s an 8 unit apartment.

    see.. 200 hundred homes becomes 1600 homes.. PRESTO!

    Connolly is a piker.. he belongs to the Pocahontas clan.. rather than the Obama clan..

    drink up! Here’s one to Groveton!

  8. Groveton Avatar


    It’s sooooo obvious that you don’t know diddly about Fairfax County. The supervisors would never tear down perfectly good exiting homes in order to build dense housing. They would tear down the homes and build hunting / fishing lodges for the supervisors.

    Why do you think Gerry bought 10 of the houses?

    How many Fairfax County supervisors are there?

    Connelly doesn’y belong to the Pocohontas clan or the Obama clan. More like the Gambinos.

    But he did DO something instead of sitting around. And for that I’ll always have a bit more respect for the man.

    I hope everybody has a happy and safe 4th of July. I’ll be cooling my heels on the Eastern shore of Maryland – observing human development patterns, monitoring the Bay for fish, trying to keep a safe distance from The Descendants.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Yet one more Fairfax County scam. Recall that Fairfax County was and probably still is providing subsidized housing to people with incomes of more than $100,000. Who gets these houses and loans?

    If Mr. Connolly and company were truly concerned about affordable housing how will they vote on the rezoning of the relatively affordable McLean Commons apartments as part of the Tysons Corner Comp Plan revision. Or what, if any changes, they will vote for plans to replace Pimmit Hills’ affordable single family housing with who knows what.

    Why start a new affordable housing program while approving land use changes that will likely eliminate existing affordable housing units?

    We know the answer to that questions. It’s for the big developers. The established church in Virginia.


  10. Groveton Avatar

    Pimmit Hills should be affordable single family housing.

    However, this is the cheapest house I could find in (what looks like) Pimmit Hills on Weichert.Com:


    The most expensive house Connelly is buying is $385,000.

    Affordable housing in Fairfax County <> affordable housing in Tysons Corner / McLean. I see no problem with some neighborhoods being expensive so long as there are some places that are affordable. The idea of everybody who works in Tysons Corner walking to work is a nice daydream but that’s about all. The question, in my mind, is where a policeman working out of the McLean sub-station with a wife and 3 kids can live. Reston – seems reasonable. Annandale – seems reasonable. Mt. Vernon – not reasonable. West Virginia – not reasonable.

    There should be affordable housing within a 10 mile radius of any point in Fairfax County where a county employee works. There does not need to be affordable housing everywhere.

  11. Anonymous Avatar


    Check out Long & Foster. There’s an active listing in Pimmit Hills at $349,999,FALLS-CHURCH,VA-22043.

    Also, there are three lower priced listings in Pimmit Hills that are listed as being contigent with no kick out clause.

    One of the biggest problems in Pimmit Hills and elsewhere in Fairfax County are the out-of-control real estate taxes.

    As I said earlier, one more Fairfax County scam!


  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    hard to believe that Groveton would go off to a place without internet access ..

    I mean Bacon went away.. and you can tell that it was not a fun deal when his motel did not have access…


  13. Groveton Avatar

    My internet access is being denied by my wife rather than any technology deficit. She has the ridiculous belief that I should be able to spend two days with blogging or e-mail. I told her that I’ll need bring my non-Blackberry cell phone for emergencies. Hopefully, she has not heard about Twitter yet.

  14. Groveton Avatar

    TMT –

    A dry Bombay Sapphire martini says there will not be a legitimate hint of scam over these purchases.

    Payable at the Tysons Corner Morton’s on January 3, 2009 – 6 months from today.

    If we start driving now we’ll probably get through Tysons traffic by then.

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    that could have been the problem with John Smith and Company.

    They never knew the joys of a good gin.

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton — I better leave no later than Halloween!

    Perhaps, I’m too cynical about Fairfax County government, but then again, I’ve been observing it from a close vantage point for several years now. Somewhere, somehow, somebody who made a big campaign contribution will benefit from this real estate proposal, much more than anyone with only a moderate income.

    A number of people have asked me whether I think this is lawful under the Dillon Rule. Who knows, someone might try to find out!

    Happy Independence Day all!


Leave a Reply