Condominium conversions in Fairfax County have not created serious housing problems for county residents, a citizens task force reported this week to the County Board of Supervisors.
In contrast to other parts of the Washington are, where problems with condominium conversions have led to numerous changes in local laws, the task force recommended few legislative changes to the county's existing housing policy.
At present, Virginia and Fairfax County laws provide little recourse to tenants who oppose a planned conversion of their building.
The report concluded, "It was felt that restrictive legislation (similar to that of other areas) is not warranted by present housing market conditions in Fairfax County . . . The disruption of market dynamics should be justified only under emergency conditions, which the Task Force feels are not applicable at this time."
The task force reported that 11 percent -- or more than 5,100 units -- of the county's rental stock was converted to condominiums between 1970 and 1979. These figures rank the county fifth behind the District, Montgomery County, Arlington County and Prince George's County in terms of the number of units converted.
The report acknowledged that conversions could deplete the amount of rental housing available to low- and moderate-income families. It noted, however, that certain benefits could accrue -- increased tax revenues, revitilization of older buildings and an increase in moderately priced housing for residents squeezed out of the conventional housing market.
Currently, the cost of a single-family home in Fairfax is about $93,100. Using an interest rates of 12 3/4 percent, the task force found that an annual income of $40,000 would be necessary to finance the purchase of a house. By comparision, an average condominium costs $46,600 and would required an annual income of $23,000.
The board loved the report.Laurel after laurel was heaped upon the commission, heavily dominated by persons with ties to the real estate industry. c
"I believe in the free enterprise system," said Chairman John F. Herrity referring to the commission's lack of restrictive recommendations. "I congratulate you on a job well done."
"It was well worth waiting for," said Springfield Supervisor Marie B. Travesky. "Now, we just need those new boys in Congress to change some of the federal laws."
The federal laws Travesky mentioned were those reducing tax breaks for apartment building owners.
During the task force presentation, only one dissent was voiced.
"I am convinced that we are in a situation now where, because of a combination of economic factors, we are in jeopardly of not only being unable to meet the needs of our low-income residents, but also those of moderate income," warned James M. sCott, Providence supervisor. "We are fast approaching the day when many residents will be paying more than the standard 25 percent of their income for housing.
"In the absence of some additional aid for tenants, an increased depreciation allowance for apartment owners (as recommended by the task force) is not going to help very much."
The report recommends providing counseling services for tenants faced with conversion and encourages developers to offer voluntarily services to help displaced tenants, but advises against legislated concessions for tenants.
In particular, the report recommends that these provisions not be mandated by law: requiring developers to extend leases for the elderly and handicapped, to allow tenant asociations first right of refusal to purchase a building and to provide money to help relocate.
The report will be sent to the board staff for consideration.