Nearly two years after Fairfax County announced plans to buy Stonegate Village Apartments in Reston, residents there are still living in deteriorating housing and without badly needed programs, county housing officials said this week.
Fairfax County signed a contract with the owners to purchase Stonegate for $6.3 million last month and planned to take over the 240-unit housing complex, which is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, by the end of August. Before the county can take over the units, it must get approval from HUD.
"To our knowledge we've done everything that's required, it just seems we can't get a response from HUD," said Mary Stevens, spokeswoman for the county's housing department. "What's important are the residents; this is a period of uncertainty for them and we need to resolve the situation."
Because the county does not yet own the property, it has delayed seeking bids for work to be done at the complex. County housing officials are eager to begin the estimated $5.2 million rehabilitation of the complex.
"It's something that has already gone on for a long time and any delay at this point is just going to cause more problems," Stevens said. "Basically we can't do anything until we own the property, and at this point I don't think the owners are doing much."
I. Toni Thomas, who is manager of HUD's Washington office and is overseeing the Stonegate sale, said the date for turning over the complex to the county would be announced this week at a meeting with county housing officials and the National Housing Partnership Inc., which owns Stonegate.
"We are not aware that there is going to be a delay," Thomas said. "We would like to do it as soon as possible. We like to be expeditious in our processing. It's in everyone's best interest to get through with this."
Last spring, HUD officials who inspected Stonegate gave the property an unsatisfactory rating.
"We determined that a lot of work needed to be done, the quality standards were not to our satisfaction and we don't like that," Thomas said. Had the present owners maintained ownership, Thomas said the department would have taken adminstrative action and "pursued that very vigorously."
Stonegate Tenants Association president Pearline Hogan plans to start a petition asking HUD to speed up the process.
"I told the girls the other day we have to get the petition going," Hogan said, referring to friends at the complex who are anxious for the renewal to begin. "I mean, they haven't signed the papers releasing the property and they don't come out here and fix anything up."
Although Stonegate residents were outraged over a county proposal earlier this year to install a security fence and guarded entrance at the property, tenant leaders now say they are happy with the county's programs and the changes to come.
"From the plans they are bringing us and telling us about, it's going to be a real nice place to live once they get in and do what they are going to do," Hogan said.
In June, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the first on-site program for the complex, an alcohol and drug prevention program for teenagers and adults.
"There's a lot of people that need help and right now the places where they have to go are so far; by the time they go get on the bus, they change their mind and get off," Hogan said.
Of the delay, Fairfax County Supervisor Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) said there may be little the county can do. "The main thing is eventually Fairfax County will own it," Pennino said. "I'd like it to be sooner rather than later."