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Housing Authority Referendum Goes To Board

by Ethan Rothstein — July 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm 630 0

Colonial Village apartmentsThe Arlington County Board is scheduled to approve putting an housing authority referendum on the ballot this November.

By statute, the Board must approve the referendum if 2 percent of the county’s qualified voters sign a petition. After a six-month campaign championed by the Arlington Green Party, the petition to create the authority got the necessary 2,845 signatures in June.

Approval is scheduled for the Board’s Tuesday meeting, its last meeting until September. The Board must approve the measure before it goes on its summer recess in order to meet the state-mandated deadline of August 16.

The item is not on the Board’s public agenda, which prompted a concerned email to County Board Chairman Walter Tejada from Arlington Green Party treasurer Audrey Clement earlier this week. Though Tejada assured Clement that the resolution will be brought up, she’s now worried that the county will try to influence voters into voting down the referendum, which was on the ballot but failed to pass in 2008.

At that time, a county-disseminated Q&A flyer stated that a housing authority would not produce more affordable housing, and “would only have access to the same tools and finding that the County currently uses.”

“Not only is this language non-neutral, it is false,” Clement told ARLnow.com. “Unlike the subsidies currently awarded by Arlington County to private housing corporations, a housing authority would get most of its funds not from the taxpayers but from [Department of Housing and Urban Development] guaranteed bonds issued in private capital markets.”

“In light of county government’s longstanding opposition to establishment of a housing authority, I am concerned that it will once again lobby to stop the referendum dead in its tracks by disseminating biased information about the referendum in contravention of state law,” she said.

County spokeswoman Mary Curtius said the county stands by its statements in the Q&A from 2008. The County Attorney is not aware of any legal complaint over the message.

“We reject any allegation in any way we acted improperly or illegally, then and even now,” Curtius said. “We feel that everything we said then was factual and neutral, and if we say anything this time, it will be factual and neutral.”

According to HUD’s website, there are 17 buildings that offer subsidized housing in Arlington, compared to nine in Alexandria and 42 in Fairfax County. Both of those jurisdictions have their own housing authority.

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