Affordable housing is slowly disappearing in Arlington, and some believe that a housing authority is needed to preserve it.
When voters head to the polls in November, they will be confronted with a hotly contested race for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In addition to that, every seat in the House of Delegates will be up for election.
But voters in Arlington will see something extra, a ballot initiative asking the following question: Is there a need for the redevelopment and housing authority to be activated in Arlington County?
"The average rent in Arlington right now is only affordable to people earning $60,000 or more per year. If you are earning anything less than that, you can't afford your rent," says Audrey Clement of the Arlington Green Party.
She helped collect thousands of signatures to get the issue on the ballot. She says voters should approve the creation of a housing authority because Arlington has lost two-thirds of its affordable housing since the year 2000.
"So if you are concerned about maintaining an affordable apartment in this county, you will want a housing authority," she says.
Supporters of the authority question the county's affordable housing strategy of working with nonprofit groups and private developers to build units. They say Arlington would have more affordable housing units if the county operated them directly.
Opponents say an authority is not needed because the County Board encourages developers to set aside affordable units using money from Arlington's affordable housing investment trust fund.
"I am not at all convinced that a housing authority would be either efficient or effective," says county board member Libby Garvey. She says the county already has a strategy to protect affordable housing, and creating a new agency would only add layers of bureaucracy.
"I think it's something that we've done years ago when there was a lot of federal money for affordable housing and there's simply not that money right now," she explains.
Voters in Arlington have rejected similar initiatives in 1958, 1982 and 2008.