The Senate acceptance of an amendment by Sen. Harry Byrd (I-Va.) to the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act has guaranteed Arlington County elegibility for up to $2 million in direct federal funding next year to finance local community development programs.
Under the current definition of an urban county, eligibility for automatic grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is based on a population of 200,000. Arlington County previously did not meet the population criteria.
Instead the county was entitled to discretionary grant money, which amounted to approximately $300,000 last year. Discretionary money is that left over after the automatic grants are allocated.
Bryd's amendment modified the definition of an urban county to include any county which has a population of 100,000 persons and a density of at least 5,000 persons per square mile.
"It's much too early to say exactly what the money will be used for," said Joan Linderman, community development coordinator for Arlington County.
Linderman indicated that among other things the funds would be used for upgrading low and middle income neighborhoods, land purchases, street paving, and improved recreational facilities. HUD stipulates the money may not be used to replace or supplement regular county expenditures.
"Arlington has approximately 157,000 persons within its 25 square miles," said Rep. Joseph Fisher (D-Va.), who introduced the bill in the House. "The denseness of settlement is more like that of a city than the usual stereotype of a sprawling suburban county."
The county can not apply for the funds until October, according to Sarah Underwood, director of community planning and development in the D.C. area of HUD. Following the application, the county must conduct public hearings to determine what will be done with the money.
"At this point we review the application and what they plan on using the funds for," says Underwood. "We have to be sure they are meeting our criteria before we approve the money."
Underwood said did she not forsee any problem with Arlington's forthcoming application. "They obviously need the money and assuming all their plans revolve around low and moderate income areas, there will be no problem with HUD approval."
Currently, in the D.C. metropolitan area, the District, the city of Alexandria, and the counties of Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George's are all receiving federal funding through the Housing and Community Development Act.