The Arlington County Board placed on the Nov. 2 ballot yesterday a referendum on whether the county should create an independent housing authority to finance development of low- and moderate-income housing in the county.

The authority would have the power to issue tax-exempt revenue bonds or public housing bonds, with Arlington having no obligation to pay off the debts, according to a county staff report.

The authority would focus on financing renovation of housing for low- and moderate-income people, using project revenues to pay off bonds, according to state Del. James Almand, a leading advocate of the proposal. The authority could provide funds to help people purchase single-family homes, but would not undertake commercial or public housing projects, Almand said.

"The housing problem is maintaining the existing housing stock for low- and moderate-income people," said Almand.

Arlington County Taxpayers Association President Jack Torbut argued against the proposal. "Once it begins, it is out of citizen control," he said. Torbut feared the authority could build unwanted public housing projects in Arlington in the future.

Yesterday's action came after supporters of the authority submitted petitions containing enough signatures to require the board to place the measure on the ballot. A similar referendum was defeated by Arlington voters in 1958.

The authority would be governed by five to nine commissioners appointed by the Arlington County Board for staggered four-year terms, and would be required to submit any action "to acquire land or take other steps to initiate additional housing" to the County Board for approval, according to a county staff report.

In other action, the board:

* Ruled out a real estate tax cut for the October collection, after it received a fiscal review projecting that surplus funds would be nearly eaten up by a shortfall in future real estate tax revenues. The board ordered a report on a hiring freeze of county positions left vacant over six months and on reclassification of county employes, a move that reflected concern over possible budget cutbacks.

* Prohibited a rooftop sign for the east side of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Crystal City that the National Capital Planning Commission had attacked as having an "adverse visual impact" on the George Washington Memorial Parkway and National Airport. The board approved a large "Hyatt Regency" sign for the hotel's north face.

* Unanimously approved compromise land use plans for commercial development near the Virginia Square Metro stop in the heart of Arlington that would allow more intensive development there.