After two years on a waiting list for public housing, 27 low-income families in Fairfax County are unpacking their belongings in new two-story town houses praised for their upscale appearance.
At the insistence of Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville), architects Taylor Garvin Associates Inc. enhanced the design of 30 lower-priced town houses on Bowman Towne Court in Reston with such details as high-quality bricks for the facades, metal shingles for the roofs, intricate wood trim, courtyards and rear parking.
There are even matching gray curtains in the windows of all the houses.
After residents of Reston, a planned community with extensive design regulations, complained a few years ago that building a public housing complex at the current site would detract from the swank new Reston Town Center development a few blocks away, Pennino decided that "if we're going to put this in the town center . . . it's going to have to be a part of the town center. It's going to be compatible.
"I didn't want people to drive by and say, 'Look at that mess, that must be subsidized housing.' "
So, after procuring the land free from Reston Land Corp., the Board of Supervisors augmented funding from the federal government by about $350,000, bringing the total cost of construction to about $2.5 million.
The 27 families will pay no more than 30 percent of annual income to rent the federally subsidized housing. Three additional units will be reserved for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board to house adults disabled by mental retardation or mental illness.
The slick appearance and desirable location of the new houses are such that a group of doctors recently sought to move their offices there. "They were very disappointed to find out it was public housing," said Mary Stevens of the county Department of Housing and Community Development.
"Public housing funds don't do much to provide more than the basic housing," Stevens said. Because the county went an extra step to enhance the architecture of the Reston town houses, "the results will benefit residents indirectly because they'll feel it is a nicer place to live."
With the completion of the Reston houses, the county now has 938 public housing units. About 3,210 families remain on the housing authority's waiting list.