by SCOTT McCAFFREY, Sun Gazette Newspapers Oct 20, 2020
“Building more housing has never been more critical, and the pandemic has reinforced just how important and needed this work is,” said Nina Janopaul, APAH’s CEO. “You can’t shelter at home, you can’t work from home, and you can’t go to school at home if you don’t have a home, and that’s what APAH is here to do.”
The celebration, held Oct. 14, brought together housing providers, advocates and those who benefited from their efforts. It also honored former Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his contributions in the housing and education arenas.
The COVID crisis, which hit in March, upended daily life for many in APAH’s apartment communities, and was followed almost immediately by an economic shutdown that disproportionately hit those in service industries and in other modestly compensated job categories.
Nearly one in four APAH households have been unable to pay their rent on time, and despite social-safety-net support provided by APAH and organizations like the Arlington Food Assistance Center, the number of imperiled households is growing.
“The pandemic has been difficult for all of us,” said Tina Asinugo, an APAH resident and member of the organization’s board. “The current situation is deep, it’s real and it’s heartbreaking. It is extremely stressful, and can lead to a lack of hope.”
The crisis has provided both challenges and opportunities for APAH’s resident-services team, which provides a variety of programming and support for those in the apartment communities.
“I have been blown away . . . by the amazing work that APAH is doing to provide support, to keep people safe and stable in their homes, and to continue to build urgently needed affordable homes,” said John Ziegenhein, an APAH board member and co-chair (with George Covucci) of the Oct. 14 festivities.
Among the highlights of the year: APAH broke ground in May on Terwilliger Place, a cooperative venture with American Legion Post 139 in Virginia Square that, on its completion in 2022, will provide 160 housing units – among the nearly 1,000 apartments currently or soon to be in the APAH pipeline.
“It is exciting to make these projects happen, but what is truly rewarding is knowing that every APAH apartment provides a safe, stable, affordable home,” said Carmen Romero, the organization’s vice president for real-estate development.
At the event, housing advocates also marked advances brought on by the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, which was established in 2012.
“Getting that put into place was one of my proudest accomplishments,” said Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax), who participated in a “fireside chat” dialogue with former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, APAH’s 2020 honoree.
“I can’t tell you how important affordable housing is,” McAuliffe said in response to a question from Lopez. “Affordable housing is one of the key ingredients of building a strong fabric of what we have here in the commonwealth. The key to that is giving people a stable home environment.”
“We need to do a lot more affordable housing – especially where the cost of housing is so high,” the once (and potentially future) governor said.
Created 31 years ago by a number of Arlington families, APAH has in more recent times expanded its footprint across the region while still being centered in the county. It currently owns 18 apartment communities with approximately 1,000 units.
While a final tally is not yet available, Celebrate Home had raised more than a half-million dollars in donations even prior to the Oct. 14 event.