By the time Patricia McGrady settled into the DC area in 1974, she had already lived at 19 addresses across the country. By the time she retired in 2004, she had worked at 23 jobs, from university dean to ski resort clerk to train stewardess on the California Zephyr.
“I like to try different things and places,” McGrady explained. “I was always self-supporting, but I would go places without a job and crash on a friend’s couch until I found a job and my own place.”
McGrady intended Washington, DC to be just another stop on her journey until she moved here and discovered she loved living in the Nation’s Capital and that she had finally grown tired of what she calls the peripatetic life. She found a position developing group homes for adults with developmental disabilities and moved into an apartment in Arlington’s historic Buckingham Village. McGrady also lived in an apartment in Colonial Village before buying a two-bedroom co-op unit on Lee Highway, where she lived for 25 years.
Meanwhile, as McGrady put down personal and professional roots in Arlington, she also became an advocate for affordable housing.
Because she was passionate about affordable housing as a civil right, McGrady took a part-time job with the County, relocating tenants displaced by redevelopment while she went back to school to pursue certified public accounting credentials. “I already had a master’s degree in higher education, but I realized I was 45 years old and didn’t have a hard skill to support me in my old age.” So she took accounting courses at Northern Virginia Community College, got her C.P.A., and worked as an accountant for a variety of companies, finishing her career working with Paradigm Companies, a real estate development and management company. Working with Paradigm underscored McGrady’s commitment to affordable housing, as Paradigm was committed to helping to increase the number of affordable units in Arlington.
In fact, Paradigm built the 15-story Parc Rosslyn, a beautiful new building developed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, where McGrady now lives. The Parc Rosslyn includes 238 units, of which 137 are market-rate apartments, and 101 are designated affordable. Its views of DC are postcard-worthy. McGrady’s path to the Parc Rosslyn started when she decided in 2010 that she was tired of the maintenance problems that come with home ownership, and wanted to sell her unit, and move to a rental in Arlington. At that point she made a surprising discovery. “Now I was one of the people who couldn’t afford to rent in Arlington. Having no pension, and living on Social Security and savings, I was now eligible for affordable housing. That’s when I put myself on the waiting list for the Parc Rosslyn, and three years ago, I moved here. It was especially sweet, because I had twice testified in favor of first, purchasing the property, and later, redeveloping it.”
Currently, one of McGrady’s projects is trying to set up a real-time computer program for publicizing affordable vacancies in Arlington. “The County puts out a list of vacancies, but it isn’t live online or updated immediately. I’m working to help people find out where the affordable units are when they need it.”
Even at 80, McGrady is tireless in her efforts to advocate for an affordable and inclusive Arlington; she serves on APAH’s Board of Directors. “I was an advocate for 35 years, on the County’s housing commission for 10 years, and chair of the Arlington Community Housing Finance Corporation.”