Fairfax County, like much of metropolitan Washington, D.C., is facing an affordable housing shortage. The Housing and Community Development Office (HCDO) of the Fairfax County government sees the issue as one that the whole community can, and should, address together. To encourage and facilitate that community involvement, HCDO joined forces with the George Mason University School of Business Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship. Together, they brought leaders in the regional housing industry and students together on March 11 for a “2020 Housing Challenge.” Eric Maribojoc, executive director of the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship at George Mason, noted that HCDO was excited about the educational component of the event and wanted it held at Mason’s Fairfax Campus so that it was easily accessible to both students and the wider community.
Tom Fleetwood, director of Fairfax County’s Housing and Community Development Office, spoke to the gathering about the vision his office has—building at least 5,000 new affordable housing units to the county over the next 15 years—and the three main challenges to reaching that goal. Communicating with the public, he said, is the first challenge. To reach the goal, he pointed out, non-traditional partners should be involved, and engaging them requires a strong communications strategy.
Successfully developing community partnerships is the second challenge.
The third is strengthening incentives for houses of worship to provide affordable housing—and then offering expertise to help them follow-through.
Besides hosting the event, the School of Business had several faculty members and students attend and participate. Students from the master of science real estate development program even presented a case study and the school’s dean, Maury Peiperl, was a featured speaker. With nearly 200 attendees, the 2020 Housing Challenge, or “Housing Hackathon,” not only showcased the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of the School of Business, but also inspired out-of-the box ideas that will help the county meet and exceed their affordable housing goals.