Fairfax County has not received any applications from homeowners who want to construct apartments within their homes for elderly or handicapped persons since the county approved the controversial plan last March.
"It doesn't indicate there is no need for these units," Providence District Supervisor James M. Scott said this week. "It takes some time for the people to learn about this. In another year I imagine the applications will come in."
County officials say they expect the number of inquiries and applications to pick up now that the county is offering low-interest loans to help eligible homeowners to construct the accessory units, often referred to as granny flats.
The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority is offering loans of up to $15,000 at 9.99 percent interest under the Home Improvement Loan Program. Virginia H. Johnson, authority spokesman, said the loans are offered only to residents of certain county neighborhoods who have incomes within the authority's guidelines. She said the accessory units also must meet stringent county construction guidelines.
Fairfax supervisors approved the plan in March, despite opposition from some county residents who feared that the apartments would bring down property values in traditional single-family-home neighborhoods. Supervisors said the units would provide lower cost housing for elderly and handicapped county residents.
Johnson said an elderly homeowner might derive extra income from a unit, or a handicapped landlord might rent the accessory unit to a young person who would perform chores in exchange for lower rent.
Under the new accessory-unit ordinance, a disabled person or a person over 62 years of age must live in either the primary or the accessory unit, and one of the dwelling units must be owner-occupied. A unit also must have a separate entrance and cannot have more than two bedrooms.
Under the Home Improvement Loan Program, private bank funds are lent to eligible homeowners at below-market interest rates to upgrade private homes, Johnson said., Deferred second trusts are also available to provide financing for families with lower incomes, thereby encouraging the preservation of older neighborhoods.
The areas of Fairfax County in which homeowners are eligible for low-interest loans are the conservation areas of Huntington, Lincoln-Lewis-Vannoy, Chapel Acres, Burgundy Village, Gum Springs, Fairhaven, and James Lee, she said. Other areas eligible for loans include Mount Olive, Zion Drive, Lorton, Herndon, the City of Fairfax, Clifton and the Falls Church and Route One Corridor Rehabilitation Districts.
To be eligible for the below-market loans, a family's gross annual income cannot exceed limits ranging from $31,150 a year for a single person to $55,625 a year for a family of eight, she said.
"I think if we give this more time, these units will provide a real service to the county," said Scott.