The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors yesterday delayed more than $470,000 in funds for its housing authority in response to a continuing dispute over the sale of some West Springfield land once planned for public housing.
The board, in a wider battle with the politically embattled authority over control of housing policy, also voted to require it to seek board approval before it spends more money from the revolving fund that financed the West Springfield purchase last year. Authority officials immediately questioned the board's legal power over that fund.
The semi-independent authority, after fierce neighborhood opposition and pressure from the nine-member board agreed to sell the 11.5-acre Coventry site, where it had hoped to build 30 single-family homes as a public housing project. The supervisors learned in closed session yesterday, however, that the authority wants to require the land's buyer to pledge that one-fifth of the homes eventually built there go to low or middle income families.
"Nobody would develop under a covenant like that," said board chairman John F. Herrity. He and a majority of the board want to put the estimated $450,000 value of the land toward the purchase of lower cost apartments in Annandale Terrace, which is being converted to condominiums.
The hold on the authority's mid-year budget requests, while unlikely to have significant impact on housing operations anytime soon, reflects the board's desire to exert closer control over the authority, which is chartered by the state but receives much of its funding from county taxes. The supervisors want the authority to spend more money helping low-income tenants threatened by condominum conversion and less on construction in more affluent neighborhoods.
Mary Egan, deputy director of housing, declined to comment on the Coventry dispute, because she said the authority has discussed it only in closed session. She said the fund that provided the $445,000 purchase price for the 11.5 acres--and which the supervisors now want to control--consists of fee collection and other funds not appropriated by the board.
"I think there's a real legal question and I'd have to defer comment until I talk to our attorneys," Egan said. "Those are funds controlled by the authority."