Civic Engagement; Desire to Improve the Community

Alex Held celebrates with his realtor, Erin Mendenhall, at the closing of his home in Columbia Forest.

Alex Held celebrates with his realtor, Erin Mendenhall, at the closing of his home in Columbia Forest.

I’m from a small town in Kansas. I moved here in March of 2014 as an AmeriCorps VISTA working at a non-profit in Arlington called A-SPAN which helps end homelessness in the county. That was when I first learned of the affordable housing issue. I remember my first apartment in Wichita, Kansas, cost about $335 per month and included utilities. I was shocked when I saw similar apartments going for over $1500 per month here. In addition, as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I only made approximately $15,000 annually, which made finding housing very difficult. However, I managed to locate a room in D.C. temporarily for my service year.

I stayed in Arlington because there wasn’t a lot of opportunity back in Wichita, where I graduated from college. For a comparison, in 1980 Wichita was about the same size as Austin, Texas, and Des Moines, Iowa. In the last 30 years those cities have grown exponentially and have quite robust economies while Wichita has largely remained stagnant. Because of this and no real desire to move back or to move somewhere else again, I stayed. Toward the end of my service year I began looking for other employment opportunities and I landed at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce where I have been ever since and have really grown as a professional.

Alex Held’s pup, at home in Columbia Forest.

Alex Held’s pup, at home in Columbia Forest.

Because housing is so expensive in this region, I bounced around quite a bit throughout the region at temporary spots. First, I lived in D.C. Then I moved to Arlington (Douglas Park), then back to D.C in a group house, then I moved to Alexandria, then back to Arlington (Douglas Park). After I started making more money at my job, I decided to purchase so I moved to Frederick Courts in the Columbia Forest neighborhood in Arlington thanks to the help from VHDA and George Mason Mortgage, who did my financing. After moving around so much, I decided I was finally done moving.

I absolutely love my neighborhood in Arlington. Columbia Forest is diverse both economically and racially, and it offers amenities and easy access to DC as well as great commuting options. I also really love owning my condo—it’s nice finally having a place to call home.

I love this County, there are so many great things about Arlington; however, I would say what I like most is Arlington’s civic engagement and desire to improve the community at every level.

This region, and the country for that matter, need to address the issue of housing affordability, or I think it will be detrimental to our regional and national economy. I thought by joining the Arlington For Everyone campaign it would bring a face to the issue to showcase that anyone can be effected by housing affordability and that one way to ease rising rents and values is to build more housing for incomes of all levels.

Written by Alex Held