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Median home prices in Fairfax County, Virginia are out of reach for many low- and moderate-income households. The 2007 median market value of owned homes in Fairfax County, Virginia was $536,162, and the average rental complex rent in 2007 was $1,317. Essential county employees, such as firefighters, police, and teachers, are unable to buy or rent a home near their workplace, forcing them to commute long distances. To create and preserve affordable housing for its workforce, Fairfax County has adopted a number of programs and initiatives. This article focuses on one such unique program, known as the Magnet Housing Program.

Magnet Housing Program

Fairfax County adopted the Affordable Dwelling Unit Program (ADU) in 1990 to increase the supply of for-sale and rental housing units affordable to low- and moderate-income residents. The program requires developers of projects, comprised of 50 or more units, subject to rezoning, special exception, site plan or subdivision approval, to set aside a certain percentage of units for households earning no more than 70 percent of the area median income. The program includes density bonus provisions of up to 20 percent. More importantly, under the provisions of the ADU ordinance, the FCRHA has the right to purchase up to one-third of the for-sale affordable units within a development.

The Magnet Housing Program provides affordable short-term rental housing to eligible county workers in locations close to employment centers. The program is operated by the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) and the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development. The FCRHA purchases multifamily housing units set aside under the county’s Affordable Dwelling Unit Program, and rents them at affordable rates to new recruits and trainees within the Fairfax County Departments of Fire and Rescue, Police, Sheriff’s Office, Government Human Resources, County Public Schools, and Inova Health Services. FCRHA partners with each of these employers, who market the rental units to their workforce.

The program was started in July 2004 when the FCRHA purchased 10 units at Westcott Ridge Condominiums in Fairfax County. Prior to purchasing the units, the FCRHA had entered into an agreement with the Fire and Rescue Department to offer the units to department trainees. Since then, the award-winning program has been expanded to include 49 units in 6 communities. The county plans to add more properties and partner with other employers in the future.

Eligibility requirements for the program are based on minimum and maximum household income limits for each of the properties. Rents for the units range from $800 for a 1-bedroom unit to $1,050 for 3- and 4-bedroom units. Employees can rent these units for a maximum period of two years, with the exception of County Public School employees, who can remain in the units as long as their household income is below the maximum income limit.

Legato Corner Condominiums in Fairfax, Virginia — one of the six rental communities that are part of Magnet Housing Program.


Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation with a median household income of over $105,000. However, many moderate-income workers in the county cannot afford to live where they work, due to the high housing costs. Fairfax County has adopted an innovative approach to providing affordable housing for these workers. The Magnet Housing Program not only benefits vital employees, such as firefighters, teachers, and nurses, but also provides county employers with an incentive to attract entry-level workers to fill critical jobs.

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