Much of the controversy over the Arlington Housing Corp.'s proposal to buy and renovate the Westover Apartments focuses on plans to provide federal Section 8 rent subsidies to eligible low-income tenants. The complex, which opened in 1940, was built with the aid of Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance to help provide low-cost housing.

Based on an unofficial survey of current Westover tenants' incomes, 82 of the complex's 152 households are eligible for Section 8 grants, which run for 15 years. Although there is no federal cap on the number of households that can be subsidized, Virginia law states that no more than 25 percent -- or 38 Westover households -- can be set aside for low-income tenants under the tax-exempt financing AHC plans to use.

The state law, however, exempts current tenants from being counted in that cap. So AHC plans to use two different kinds of Section 8 grants to let current low-income tenants stay. One category of grants is permanently attached to the units, and the other is a "portable" grant that goes with tenants if they move. There is a maximum of 25 permanent grants available to the county, so 57 portable ones also will be used. As those people move, the number of households eligible for the grants will revert to 25 percent.