Fairfax County took possession of Stonegate Village Apartments in Reston last week, more than two years after county officials announced plans to buy the long-neglected low-income complex. The acquisition nearly doubles the county's affordable housing stock, according to housing department spokeswoman Mary Stevens.

County housing officials purchased Stonegate for $6.3 million from the National Housing Partnership in June. The 240-unit project was formerly subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and has been plagued by drug problems, unresponsive management and lack of social programs.

"I'm looking forward to it being a much better place to live," said Pearline Hogan, president of the Stonegate Tenants Association.

Housing officials are eager to begin the estimated $5.2 million rehabilitation of the complex and expect to seek bids for work beginning this month. Last Friday, housing officials moved a five-member property management team onto the complex, including one of the county's most experienced housing specialists, Stevens said. The county also delivered a welcoming letter to residents, along with the first of a soon-to-be monthly newsletter..

Renovations probably will begin in January and are expected to be completed in two years, Stevens said. The county plans to renovate two of Stonegate's 14 buildings at a time, and work on each building will take three to four months.

Work includes repairing or replacing major appliances and cupboards, installing new heating and air conditioning, upgrading lighting and refinishing the stucco exteriors.

The county also has planned social programs for the site, including recreational programs for children and teenagers, job counseling and training, and GED programs.

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.

Reston Association board member Thomas Wilkins, whose district includes Stonegate, said he is cautiously optimistic about the change at the complex, but added that the county should involve tenants when designing programs for the community.

Last spring, Wilkins rallied with Stonegate residents to oppose the county's plans to install a fence around the perimeter of the property, complete with a guard entrance, and criticized the county for failing to let residents know of now-shelved fence plans.

Marion Jackson, a spokesman for the tenant association, said that to date, county officials have kept residents at the complex informed of plans and that with a few exceptions, most residents "seem to be really happy" that the county is taking over. "You have an interest out there that I have not seen in many years," added Wilkins. "I want to see this work."