The Fairfax County housing authority is scheduled to consider the proposed Circle Woods subsidized housing project at a meeting beginning at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The day was in error in Saturday's Virginia Real Estate section.
In an attempt to diffuse the volatile Circle Woods issue, Supervisor James Scott has asked the Fairfax County housing authority to change several aspects of the proposed project, which housing commissioners are scheduled to vote on Tuesday.
But ironically the action has thrust the Providence District Democrat into yet another battle with Circle Woods homeowners, as residents angrily criticized Scott for releasing the proposal to reporters instead of to them. Homeowners spokesman Beverly Magida called it "underhanded" and "not very courteous." Scott countered that he had tried to arrange a meeting to discuss the proposals, but that the Circle Woods homeowners refused to attend. He added that he had mailed a copy of the proposal to the residents. Magida said homeowners refused to attend because they felt the same issues would be reiterated and nothing would be accomplished.
"I regret very much that this issue, which is of great concern to the residents of Circle Woods, has generated more heat than light," Scott said.
Circle Woods is a town house development situated east of Fairfax Circle between Lee Highway and Interstate 66. As part of the rezoning application in 1976, the original developer offered land for subsidized housing units. However the second developer never informed potential buyers that a project was slated for the complex. Many of those homeowners are upset, and they have been working to get the project killed or dramatically altered.
They are particularly angry at Scott, who represents the development, because he refused to lobby to get the project killed. The homeowners turned to Republican Board Chairman John Herrity to champion their cause.
The homeowners met with the housing authority commissioners last month to voice their complaints. The commissioners said they would consider proposed changes and would vote on the proposals at Tuesday's meeting.
Scott has asked the county Redevelopment and Housing Authority to reduce the number of public housing units from 21 to 17, scatter them throughout the complex rather than cluster them in a corner of the development, and change the project from rental to cooperative ownership.
The latter change would require approval from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which Scott said he would seek.
The homeowners repeatedly have criticized the housing authority's Circle Woods plan because it isolates the public housing units, a configuration they say would create tension. Magida said that residents would prefer the scattering suggested by Scott.
However Magida was less than impressed with the cooperative-ownership proposal, which she said "is no different than subsidized housing." Under cooperative ownership, the housing authority would continue to subsidize the units, but would turn over management to the public housing residents, according to Scott. The same income qualifications would apply--ranging from $17,500 for a family of three to $21,900 for a family of six.
Recently a few supervisors have suggested privately that the best way to calm the situation is to turn the project into a "Moderate Income Direct Sales" project, a program designed to help middle-income families buy homes. Such a move would guarantee that a higher-income group would occupy the town houses, and is supported by Circle Woods homeowners.