A controversial plan to buy 87 low-cost apartments in an Annandale condominium complex won approval this week from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
After a long, weary day at their regular Monday meeting, the supervisors approved county purchase of the apartments in Fairfax Heritage condominiums by a 6-2 vote at midnight.
There was little discussion on the proposed purchase, which had been rejected a week earlier by the county planning commission.
Board Chairman John F. Herrity and Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale), in whose district the apartments are located, strongly objected to the board overruling the planning commission.
"I don't know of any time when the board has overruled the planning commission without at least a public hearing to get both sides of the issue," Moore said referring to about 30 residents of Fairfax Heritage who came to the meeting to speak in protest of the purchase. "I think the board acted irresponsibly by its action."
The county Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the agency responsible for increasing the county's supply of low-cost housing which arranged for puchase of the apartments, had threatened to take the case to court if the supervisors upheld the planning commission decision.
The apartments would serve county residents with average incomes of $7,000 to $8,000. They would pay an average rent of about $166 a month.
"We have been pushed around a good bit," the Rev. Gerald D. Hopkins, chairman of the housing authority, said earlier. "We have changed our numbers, accommodated car opposition in the past. We did this one by the book and we're not packing down."
Hopkins was referring to several bitter controversies over previous subsidized housing proposals made by the authority during the past seven years. The most recent is Rolling Road Estates, a development of 109 subsidized townhouses in Springfield that the supervisors finally approved this week after nine months of delay and threats from the federal government to cut $3.8 million in finding if the county refused to approve its construction.
Hopkins had called the planning commission's decision on the Annandale project unconstitutional. He said blocking the low-cost housing units violated the rights of 1,300 people on the county's public housing waiting list.
The planning commission had requested the housing authority to return with a "toned down" proposal to buy only 50 apartments in Fairfax Heritage, claiming that 87 apartments would create too large a concentration of low-cost units.
That decision reflected the sentiments of other residents in Fairfax Heritage. The complex is converting from rental apartments and townhouses to a condominium development of nine separate clusters containing 1,428 units on a 35-acre site on Americana Drive.
"They (housing authority officials) have left themselves open to buy 19 units in one of the sections and maybe crowd the remainder in the other two," said Frank Hammond, president of Oakwood Village Homeowners Association. "If we were guaranteed that the units would be more evenly dispersed, we couldn't have such a problem with it."
Oakwood Village residents say that under the housing authority plan, a concentration of low-cost housing in any one of the clusters could be larger than 15 percent. They claim that concentration would weaken effective management of the condominium.
The housing authority has already reserved 19 apartments in the complex. All the apartments, which the authority plans to buy for between $20,000 and $31,000, would be located among 579 apartments and townhouses in three of the nine separate clusters in Fairfax Heritage. The authority would own and manage the two - and the three-bedroom apartments.
Housing authority officials said no single cluster would contain more than 50 low-cost apartments, and that the 87 apartments account for 15 percent of the total in the three clusters.
"The board obviously thought that 87 units among some 1,400 (in the entire development) was not an overconcentration," said Supervisor James M. Scott (D-Providence), a long time supporter of subsidized housing in Fairfax. "When you look at Annandale, it has many fewer (low-cost) units than any other district in the county. If we are trying to provide housing, then we ought to be buying into condominium conversions."
Annandale has no low-cost housing managed by the housing authority, compared to 1,726 units in Centreville District, which has the largest number of units for county residents with low and moderate incomes. Eighty low-cost units are planned for Annandale however, in addition to the 87 in Fairfax Heritage.