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Arlington Voters To Decide On Creating New Housing Authority

Proponents of a housing authority in Arlington say it's necessary to maintain affordable housing in the county.
Ashley Brown: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34564103@N03/4256127642/
Proponents of a housing authority in Arlington say it's necessary to maintain affordable housing in the county.

Should Arlington have the kind of housing authority that already exists in Alexandria and Fairfax County? John Reeder of the Arlington Committee to Save Affordable Housing says yes.

"A majority of people who live in Arlington are renters," says Reeder. "We need to have a better housing assistance program in Arlington, and what we've done is an abject failure even though we are spending a lot of money."

Opponents acknowledge that the county has lost thousands of market-rate units. But they say the county has worked with developers to set aside committed units of affordable housing that low-income residents can apply for. Former Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple says the public-private partnership model is working.

"Arlington has relied for years on a really, I think, genius idea of the county working with private, profit and nonprofit developers to address affordable housing in the community," says Whipple.

Arlington Green Party Chairman Steve Davis isn't so sure how genius that approach is. He says county officials won't have access to federal money if Arlington doesn't have an authority to receive it, including stimulus money that was available a few years ago.

"There could be money in the future, and there was money in the past because they weren't eligible for it because they didn't have a housing authority," says Davis. "If you don't have one you can't get the money, and who knows what the future is going to bring."

But Mary Rouleau, executive director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, says federal money is no longer available to authorities. And she doesn't expect new funding anytime soon.

"Should the government do an about face in five or 10 years, then lets have that discussion then."

County voters have already rejected similar efforts four times, but leaders of the Green Party collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot again this year. Voters will have the final say when they head to the polls on Election Day.

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