Arlington voters will decide Tuesday whether to create a county redevelopment and housing authority, an issue that has raised accusations that such an agency could bring the county its first public housing projects.
Supporters and opponents of the proposal have been campaigning vigorously since last summer when a group called the Committee to Preserve Affordable Housing collected 200 signatures for the proposal, twice the number needed to place the issue on the ballot.
Proponents, led by Del. James F. Almand (D), contend that the authority would help preserve and expand Arlington's supply of low- and moderate-income housing and would be largely used to rehabilitate aging apartments to prevent their demolition or conversion to condominiums.
Some opponents, including County Board member Walter Frankland, see the authority as what Frankland calls "the first step toward public housing" in Arlington. A member of the board's Republican majority, Frankland says the referendum is "in effect a power play" by Arlington's Democratic General Assembly delegation.
"They can't control the County Board," he said, so the legislators have supported formation of a costly, independent county bureaucracy that Frankland says largely would be regulated by state, instead of local, laws.
"There is not one single person in Arlington advocating public housing," said Dennis M. Hottell, cochairman of the proauthority group. "This is being used as a scare tactic by the opponents."
The authority supporters contend the County Board, which would have prior approval of any of the authority's projects, could enter a contractual agreement with the authority that could bar public housing. The proponents also reject charges that the housing agency would be costly and say that the current county housing staff could work for the authority.
Twenty-eight Virginia jurisdictions have such authorities, including Alexandria and Fairfax County. The Arlington authority, whose members would be appointed by the County Board, would be empowered to sell revenue bonds to finance its various programs.
The proposal has the support of the League of Women Voters, the county's Democratic Committee, the two Democrats on the County Board, the Arlington Civic Federation and the county's housing advisory commission, among others. It is opposed by the county's Republican Committee, the Arlington Taxpayers' Alliance and the county's tenant-landlord commission, among others.