Alexandria's Landlord Tenant Relations Board recommended last week changes in eviction procedures that would provide low-income families with funds to move and store valuable possessions for up to three months.

The proposal is part of an effort to meet the needs of the nearly 425 people evicted annually from rental units in Alexandria and is based in part on successful programs in the District of Columbia and Montgomery County.

But the Board's recommendations were met with only lukewarm support this week from Vice Mayor James P. Moran, who said the proposal would have to be changed significantly before it would appeal to either him or the City Council.

When a tenant is evicted, under current regulations, the notice is served by a deputy from the Sheriff's office who acts in behalf of the court. The landlord is required to move the tenant's possessions out onto the public right-of-way, a cost incurred by the landlords.

Under the Landlord Tenant Relations Board's recommendations, though, the landlord would no longer have to pay those costs if the evicted tenant qualified as low-income. Instead, the Board is proposing the city use a combination of federal Community Development Block Grant funds and private donations to pay for the costs of having the tenant's goods moved into a storage facility, have them stored for 90 days, and then moved to a new location.

Mark Looney, supervisor of the city's Landlord Tenant Relations Office, said a six-month pilot program was estimated to cost $18,000 and if approved would possibly be implemented next winter.

If the program was successful, Looney said, the Board would try to find a non-profit charity in the city to collect private, tax-deductible donations to supplement federal funds as an on-going funding base, although Looney could not say which federal program would be tapped. The federal funds proposed to support the six-month pilot would come from the emergency jobs bill legislation, which allows some funds to be spent on support services for the unemployed.

But there is some concern on the part of the City Council that Alexandria taxpayers could ultimately get caught paying for the program.

"I don't want much city taxpayer money going towards moving and storage of goods," said Moran. "The Landlord Tenant Board has done an excellent job, but I think the plan we ultimately come up with will focus on providing counseling for low-income tenants along with perhaps some money for moving and storage to be matched, on a 50-50 basis, with money provided by the tenant."

Moran called for changes to the city's eviction procedures earlier this spring after hearing of cases in Alexandria where evicted tenants had valuable goods stolen from them when they were put out on the street.

"We had a Korean family that had trouble reading the legal notices they received and did not understand they were being evicted," said Moran. "The father had just put their life savings into a new television set but when they were put out someone picked it up and walked off with it. It's wrong to have someone become homeless and destitute at the same time."

As proposed, the program would provide counseling for low-income tenants facing eviction and provide them with funds for moving and storage of goods, but only once in a year. If the goods were not claimed in 90 days, they would be given to a local charity to be distributed to the needy.

While other metropolitan Washington jurisdictions have tried storing goods for evicted people before, the only successful programs have been in the District and Montgomery County where there are limits to how long goods can be stored and counseling offered to help tenants solve long-term housing problems.

Steve Mollett, a tenant representative and chairman of the Landlord Tenant Board, said he believed the counseling is crucial to the success of the program and argued that it would not be necessary to tap into city funds. The private sector will pick up at least half the annual costs of the program, said Mollett, particularly the landlords who will save money under the proposed changes.

"If they can get a tax break on their contribution there will be motivation for them," said Mollett.

Don Slatton, executive vice president of the Apartment and Office Building Association, however, warned that the proposal not be interpreted to lock landlords into contributions.

"It is not the landlord's responsibility to pay for moving and storage of personal possessions of someone being evicted, just as it is not the responsibility of a Giant or Safeway store to feed all those who cannot feed themselves," said Slatton. "It is a community problem and the whole community should respond."

How the community will respond to the Landlord Tenant Board's recommendations may determine how many changes the City Council makes before adopting the new rules. A public hearing is scheduled for June 18, and members of the Board are meeting with landlords and tenant groups to drum up support for the program. it would not be necessary to tap into city funds. The private sector will pick up at least half the annual costs of the program, said Mollett, particularly the landlords who will save money under the proposed changes.

"If they can get a tax break on their contribution there will be motivation for them," said Mollett.

Don Slatton, executive vice president of the Apartment and Office Building Association, however, warned that the proposal not be interpreted to lock landlords into contributions.

"It is not the landlord's responsibility to pay for moving and storage of personal possessions of someone being evicted, just as it is not the responsibility of a Giant or Safeway store to feed all those who cannot feed themselves," said Slatton. "It is a community problem and the whole community should respond."

How the community will respond to the Landlord Tenant Board's recommendations may determine how many changes the City Council makes before adopting the new rules.

A public hearing is scheduled for June 18, and members of the Board are meeting with landlords and tenant groups to drum up support for the program.