Mayor Frank E. Mann has proposed that the city of Alexandria establish its own public housing program that would provide subsidized units only for long-time city residents.
"Alexandria has become the depository of all public housing needs" in the Northern Virginian area, Mann said yesterday.
Pointing to a section in the Alexandria annual report for 1976, which notes that "Alexandria has provided more than its fair share of publicly assisted housing units for the suburban jurisdiciations," Mann said. "Our primary responsibility is to the people of Alexandria, not to the people of the area, the United States, and the world."
Mann has asked the city manager to investigate whether the city - legally and financially - can operate its own local public housing program will strict residency requirements "that would assure that our own local residents would be able to have a place to live in the event they become indigent."
Such a program would enable persons who have lived in Alexandria for at least five years, to get a subsidy from the city, the mayor said.
"Lily-white Fairfax and Arlington are laughing like mad because we've got all the public housing," the mayor said. "It's an albatross - it creates problems with crime and food stamp use and job placement . . . The most valuable land in the city is occupied by non-taxpaying citizens," he said.
Mann said his proposal was prompted by complaints he has received from some longtime Alexandrians that the waiting period for public and subsidized housing is several years long. Many of the occupants of such units are newcomers to Alexandria. Mann is convinced, and he has asked the city staff to gather statistics about this. They are also studying how much such a local program would cost.
"There's something wrong with a system when our own people can't be taken care of though the number of subsidized units constructed will have doubled between 1972 and 1978," Mann said.
Alexandria has 1,034 public housing units, which are owned and operated by the autonomous Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. There also are a number of publicly-assisted housing units, and some private housing that low and moderate income residents can afford, according to the annual report.
Harland K. Heumann, Housing Authority executive director, said occupants of Alexandrias public housing units must be residents of the city at the time of application. Some persons are given preferential teatment when vacancies arise. These include servicement, persons who need to be relocated because they have been displaced by public action, and the elderly, Heumann said.
Mann said Alexandria has poured millions of dollars into housing in the city "with no guarantee" that long time residents "will ever be helped by our public housing."
In addition to a city-funded subsidy program with residency requirements, the mayor said he would like to explore whether longtime residency requirements could be made a qualification for occupying public housing.
He said such a program is not possible now because federal funds are involved and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development holds the mortgages on the public housing property. Federal regulations do not allow such requirements, he said.
But by the end of the decade, perhaps longtime residency could be required and some public housing units left vacant by turnovers could be used to help city poor, he said. Heuman said the loan on about 200 public HUD in 1982.
According to the Alexandria 1976 annual report, 25 per cent of the city's total housing units were subsidied in 1975, and that figure included only part of the city's subsidized housing projects.
Comparatively, the report showed that in 1975, 7.2 per cent of the housing units in the District were subsidized and the corresponding figures for the rest of the region were, 1.1 per cent in Fairfax County, including Falls Church and Fairfax City 0 per cent in Arlington 2.7 per cent in Loudoun County 1.5 per cent in Montgomery County 2.6 per cent in Prince George's County, and 2.15 per cent in Prince William County.
City Manager Douglas Harman said his office is looking into they mayor's request. He said he would reserve any comment until a thorough analysis has been made of the cost and legality of the proposal.
This week, the mayor sent a brief memorandum to Council members telling them of his suggestion. Council members contacted yesterday had mixed reactions.
Councilman Donald C. Casey said that he thinks the plan is "fraught with problems. I could see an enormous cost involved." Housing is an important issue to be studied, he agreed.
"But I hope citizens being squeezed don't build up false hopes," Casey added. "This may be beyond our financial capability."
Councilwoman Beverly Beidler said "it blows my mind" that the mayor can come up with a new spending program when he emphasized budget reductions during recent work sessions on the fiscal year 1978 budget.
Beidler said she has no comment on the merits of Mann's idea until she gets details. "The city already provides much housing relief," she noted.
Councilman Nicholas Colasanto said he thinks it is a good idea for the city to look into Mann's proposal.
"I don't believe in building anything for the people from Timbuktu to the detriment of people here. First and foremost, we should take care of our own people," Colasanto said.