Advocating for Affordable Housing

Rev. Michelle Matthews
January 24, 2024
Yesterday, I waited for 2 1/2 hours in-person in-person, with other advocates from Kingstowne and Provision Church, to speak in favor of two Franconia District proposed projects addressing affordable housing, but more specifically for the current Franconia Governmental Center being re-allocated and re-zoned for affordable housing.

After rescheduling as a call-in speaker and leaving for another evening meeting, I was finally able to speak around 10:40pm on speaker phone, and I offered the following words on behalf of the Kingstowne Communion:

"Good evening, my name is Michelle Matthews, and I am the pastor of the Kingstowne Communion, a United Methodist church that gathers for worship on Sunday mornings at Hayfield Secondary School, because we know well what it's like to be a mobile non-profit working for the common good in an area, where we - and most small businesses, too - will never be able to afford a week-round lease.

We have come to consider this a gift, still being able to serve the community to which we've been called through community use. But reality, residentially, is far different for many in our area, who serve and resource and work in our community but are priced out of living in it.

Of course, the issue of affordable housing isn't a new crisis in our area or nationwide; and much like other aspects of American life, it's one that those of us who know not the experience of it would like to avoid. But we can't. Because like other public health concerns, affordable housing is not the only concern to ensure that people have secure housing.

To quote Lauryn Hill: “Everything is everything;" it is all interconnected. What happens when a teenager who attends, say, Hayfield High School is unable to get a comfortable, good night’s rest before having to take on the next day, or take a test the next day? Who suffers when housing authorities across the country neglect and villainize the tenants, or maybe even tonight the advocates, of government projects? When low-income families must pay rent that equates to more than 30% of their income to provide their children with homes in safer neighborhoods, how can anyone expect them to afford reliable healthcare? These questions, we know, aren't rhetorical, and the answers are uncomfortable.

Like I said, I'm the pastor of a United Methodist church in the Franconia District, where currently at least two new housing developments are being proposed, each including opportunities for affordable housing in the Kingstowne and Franconia areas that do not currently exist; and I wonder, as one person of faith, on behalf of a faith community, if there might be other people of faith here tonight?

When conversations of affordable housing are had among people of faith, I tend to reflect on our friend Jesus who lived a nomadic way of life, but who found shelter in the homes of those who welcomed him, in the communities that made room for him.

And so I ask: how do we enact change? How do we provide for our neighbor? How do we work toward the common good of our community? How do we live as Jesus taught: not as the keepers of our own ways of life and securers of our own home values, but rather as  our brother's keeper, sister's keeper, neighbor's keeper?

How? We do so by advocating for any and all projects and proposals for affordable housing, standing for just and equitable residential opportunities, and standing with those who have been and are priced out.

For this reason, I ask you to please vote yes on the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan amendment to allow the Topgolf site to be redeveloped into townhomes, with at least 18 slated to be sold at  ~$250,000; and to please vote yes to allow the transfer of the Franconia Governmental Center property to be developed into affordable housing."

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