Create opportunity zones for affordable housing

Recent attention has been given to the crisis of affordable housing in the Fredericksburg area by The Free Lance–Star and Virginia Organizing. With the announcement that Amazon is coming to Northern Virginia with its attendant 25,000-plus jobs, it is a subject that needs to be addressed sooner than later.

As referenced in the ALICE report, many families fall short of the $80k salary required in order to afford the necessities of living in the area. This includes such occupations as teacher, firefighter, EMT and police officer.

A housing trust is a step in the right direction, as indicated by other localities, and should be pursued.

Another option might be to consider the implementation of opportunity zones. This was one of the enticements that lured Amazon to Long Island City in New York. Opportunity zones provide tax breaks to developers which, in turn, create the incentive to construct affordable housing. The model can serve as a blueprint for a similar program here.

Along U.S. 1 between Stafford and Fredericksburg are numerous tracts of land for sale that are ready for development. Perhaps city council members can work with the state legislature and the governor to declare some of this acreage as opportunity zones.

This could prove to be a win-win situation. The developers will be rewarded with tax breaks, and the area can boast of an affordable environment for its local residents. Hopefully, it may even reduce the high rate of evictions.

Edmund Witalec


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