The Falls Church City Council last week deferred action on a proposal that would allow homeowners to rent portions of their homes, referring the proposal back to the Planning Commission for more work.

If passed, the "accessory dwellings ordinance" would allow homeowners to rent apartments in their homes as long as the units have separate kitchens, baths and entrances and are not larger than the unrented section of the house.

A number of public hearings have been held since the ordinance was first introduced last summer, but critics and supporters again argued at last week's meeting that more study was needed.

Supporters say it would benefit low-income and elderly people who cannot afford to buy homes in Falls Church, while critics fear it would threaten the city's residential quality.

Planning Commission Chairman Brian O'Connor, a strong supporter of the proposal, said he is still optimistic the council eventually will approve the proposal. "I'd be surprised if it didn't pass," he said.

The council will reconsider the ordinance Feb. 28.

In other action, the City Council endorsed an application for tax-exempt status for Hope In Northern Virginia Inc., a nonprofit corporation providing emergency care and counseling to pregnant women.

If the application is approved by the Virginia General Assembly -- the final step in the process -- Hope Inc. would be exempted from paying more than $1,400 in city real-estate taxes.

The council also passed an ordinane requiring cats 6 months old or older to be immunized against rabies. The ordinance is permanent and goes into effect tomorrow.