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Some in Fairfax Public Housing Make Six Figures

The same is true in the county's senior housing program, which includes seven independent senior living properties and two assisted living facilities. The county says the program is intended to serve low- and moderate-income seniors, but eligibility requirements vary from one property to another.

While most of the 595 households served are indeed low-income (the median is $20,001), not all fit that description. Ninety-one senior households have incomes of more than 50 percent of the area median income, and 12 have incomes of more than 80 percent of the median. The area's median income for a household of one (most seniors in the program live alone) is $66,200.

In both the rental program and the senior housing program, the county has less latitude to push families out when their incomes rise: Many of the units are funded through federal programs that prohibit income-based evictions. One tax-credit financing mechanism allows tenants to be considered low-income until their incomes exceed 140 percent of the area median, or $132,300.

There is a public policy purpose in allowing higher-income families to remain. One benefit is that such a mix creates economic diversity. And a major incentive for families to stay, said Sampson, the housing department director, is the quality of public housing in Fairfax.

In that respect, perhaps, the county is a victim of its own success.

"Public housing in Fairfax County is very nice housing," Sampson said. "You may not want to stay in public housing in some places because it's horrible. It's slums. That is not the case here."

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