1. Actually lives in Northern Virginia
2. Actually lived in a rent subsidized property for almost two years
The economic issues with Northern Virginia at the moment is one where there is significant individuals in the upper middle to upper class and in the lower classes, with a significantly lower portion of solidly middle class individuals. In Fairfax specifically, you're getting an extremely affluent population that are some of the richest in the country; indeed I believe 3 of the top 5 richest counties in the country are located in the DC Metro area. The cost of living, not to mention traffic, are some of the worst in the country.
Areas like Alexandria, Ballston, Vienna, and others are built up locations with a largely affluent population that desires a certain level of quality in the life around them. You can't put in a motel 6 next to a Mariott and get a similar aesthetic quality nor attract similar individuals.
These rent subsidized housing in most of these areas are typically similar in build, design, and amenities as the other apartment complexes nearby. In reality, many times they're actually twin developments where a singular development company will create two separate properties that are attached and share some of the public amenities (such as the pool) but one property is rent subsidized and one is not. This is actually the case for the one I was living in. These rent subsidized housing typically are $200 to $300 cheaper than the alternative. For reference, in Northern Virginia outside of the actual Metro Area (say near Dulles Airport) that’s paying $1100 for a two bedroom without anywhere close to the design layout you described instead of paying $1300. As you move into the Metro area, say in the Ballston area of Arlington, you’re looking at perhaps $1500 instead of $1750.
The goal of these kind of houses is to allow for entry level individuals, and your people who are having to staff the various lower end jobs that the largely affluent population is going to require, to be able to potentially afford housing in the location of their employment to help out with the horrendous traffic congestion while at the same time not significantly lowering the aesthetics of the neighboring area or attracting a far lower class of people.
You’re not seeing these apartments being rented to people at 1/4th or even ˝ the price that an equivalent non-subsidized unit is being rented to because it’s not the point and the neighboring people wouldn’t allow for it. That’s the recipe to create your typical “public housing projects” that most people think of when it comes to subsidized housing. It’s simply not the case in most of Northern Virginia, where it’s used more as a means of providing slightly more affordable housing to those who are just getting started in the area.
These are not "poor" people living in $1500 apartments, they likely your middle class entry level individuals first going out on their own in the city that are occupying them at a slightly lower price than equivilent housing near by. The only exception to this would be people who are wrongfully and illegally occupying the rooms and committing fraud against the government by having significantly more people living and paying for the apartment then is on the contract which is terms for eviction.
The outrage over this is a bit misplaced, and would be at least slightly more understandable if it was dealing with the situation from a realistic view point of what is actually happening rather than a sensationalized notion based off stereotypes of these types of housing in other locations.