Community leaders in the new town of Reston, which in the early 1970s actively sought subsidized housing for low-income families now claim the housing has brought with it unexpected social and economic problems and say they want no more.
"If we continue to bring low-cost housing into Reston, we'll ruin a good thing. The community just cannot absorb any more," Fairfax County Supervisor Martha Pennino (D-Centerville) told the Board of Supervisors yesterday.
After listening to Pennino, the board voted unanimously against construction of an apartment complex that would have brought 42 more subsidized apartments to the Hunters Woods area of Reston, where there are already 490 subsidized units.
Reston, widely considered a town populated by affluent young professionals, has more subsidized housing than any similar sized community in Fairfax County, according to the county's Department of Housing and Community Development.
With nearly 1,100 subsidized units, according to Peter McCandless, a Reston spokesman, the town has approximately one-fourth of all the subsidized housing in the county. Nearly one out of 10 housing units in Reston is subsidized, McCandless said.
The people who have come into Reston to live in subsidized housing, according to Pennino, have placed too great a strain on the "time and energy" of the others who live there.
"There are those in Reston who feel they can no longer be their brother's keeper. Heaven help us if the do-gooders forget their own kids and their own problems," Pennino said.
Unlike earlier votes by the board against publicly subsidized housing in Fairfax, yesterday's decision was supported by the county housing agency and by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The section of Reston where the South Lakes Garden Apartments was scheduled to be built now has an "overconcentration" of public housing, said Deirdre Coyne of the county housing agency.
"The addition of South Lakes apartments will establish the character of the neighborhood as subsidized and will not provide an expanded range of housing opportunities for lower income families," the housing agency had advised the county board.
Community leaders in Reston yesterday echoed Pennino's and the housing agency's statements about the overconcentration of subsidized housing in Reston.
"I think it is overdue," said Dianna Hausly, former president of the Reston Community Association. "There has been much subsidized housing too quickly.
"The original concept in the master plan calling for a mix of housing was a good one. However, the problem got to be high-density housing that was too concentrated. Added to that were problems about the lack of facilities and amenities. Everytime we asked for subsidies, it was getting more and more difficult."
Sue Ericson, who heads the tenant association at Fox Mill Apartments, a subsidized complex that was the site of cashed between police and some residents three years ago, said what the supervisors did "should have been done quite a while ago . . . I think we've got our share of subsidized housing."
She said subsidized housing "should never be grouped together like it has been in Reston - never."
In the late 1960s, when Reston was populated with what Hausly called "pioneering idealists," many residents welcomed bringing a mix of housing to their then largely high-income new town.
Some of these high-income residents fought actively to bring subsidized housing to their community, which some critics had called a "golden ghetto."
But as the pioneering idealists began to be outnumbered by more conventional suburbanites and problems grew at the projects that were built so close together, a reactionist in.
The first major opposition occurred when the county's housing office sought to build more than 100 subsidized units in the middle of the Gold Course Island cluster.
Critics - some of whom had been the original advocates of a housing mix in Reston - charged that the project was too large, that it clashed with the surrounding cluster and that there was no provision for services, such as day care, that would be required by residents of the subsidized project.
The Reston Community Association ultimately endorsed the project, but only after a debate that left the board badly split - an indication that the community was rethinking its attitude toward what kind of housing mix it wanted.
Despite pressure from within the community, Gulf-Reston, until recently the developer of the new town, steadfastly refused to be responsible for providing day-care and other services that low-income residents might need. That responsibility, former Gulf-Reston president William Magness said, was the community's and the county's.
As a result, necessary services were slow in coming, when they came at all. Only in the last few years has the county, under prodding from Supervisor Pennino, begun to provide some of them.
The disturbances at Fox Mill, some Reston leaders said, underline the problem of poor management - what happens when there is no one to deal with troublesome tenants. After the disturbances, the complex got new management that promised to take a firmer hand.