Study: New Arenas in Alexandria Will Boost Workforce Housing

A bald man with a short white beard in a green necktie stands in front of a PowerPoint screen.
Terry Clower: Workforce housing will come ‘without the financial stress that has become too common for households in this region.’ Photo by Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

Even if Washington, D.C.’s hockey and basketball franchises never make it to the playoffs, there will be a clear winner if new arenas are constructed for them in Northern Virginia: Regional workforce housing.

The development, working its way through the Virginia legislature this month, will be led by Monumental Sports Entertainment in a public-private partnership with the City of Alexandria and the Commonwealth of Virginia. The sprawling complex will include a new state-of-the-art venue for the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals, a performing arts venue, a convention center and hotel, offices, public spaces, and new multifamily housing.

The Center for Regional Analysis (CRA) at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government released a data-driven examination of how the proposed entertainment district’s housing elements will provide much-needed workforce housing in the City of Alexandria with broader impacts on area housing markets. The study has been posted on this page.

The proposed development will include more than 5,400 residential units across three development phases that are expected to deliver between 2027 and 2036. Among the key benefits of adding these new units to the market:

Support workforce housing: Design characteristics will lower the effective rent required for the proposed units. The CRA analysis compared anticipated rent levels and the wages for middle-income occupations in Alexandria.

“The majority of units will be affordable for public safety workers, teachers, mechanics, health services technicians, supervisors for maintenance workers, other mid-level professions, and many employees of the sports and entertainment venues—without the financial stress that has become too common for households in this region,” said Terry Clower, director of the CRA.

The study notes that the housing development will contribute to city goals of inclusive and equitable housing for working families.

Housing to support the Virginia Tech Innovation campus: The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, opening in spring 2025, presents the promise of leveraging the success of the region in attracting Amazon HQ2 into a vibrant, sustainable, technology-focused eco-system. “But those students, faculty, researchers, and business collaborators who will build and grow the campus need a place to live,” said Clower. “Having nearby, walk-optional housing will help Virginia Tech grow and make the district a vibrant 24-7 community.”

Contributions to affordable housing: In addition to the construction of market-rate, workforce affordable housing, the developers of the entertainment district have committed to donate land for designated affordable housing units and contribute $20 million to Alexandria’s affordable housing fund.

Area housing market impacts: Housing construction has trailed demand in the greater Washington, D.C., region for almost 20 years. According to Clower, “The most surefire way of holding down increases in the cost of housing is to boost supply.” This relationship is shown repeatedly in the professional literature—adding market rate housing units leads to lower housing costs within the market.

“This means that the proposed market rate housing units in the entertainment district will contribute directly and indirectly to the supply of workforce affordable units in Alexandria and Arlington,” Clower said.

See the full report here.