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Moderator / Gold Bullet member
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Unbelievable.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/29/AR2007092901614_pf.html

I particularly like this comment: "Officials also say that to turn families out would punish them for attaining self-sufficiency."
Typical gummit doublespeak.

SlimTim

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Some in Fairfax Public Housing Make Six Figures

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 30, 2007; A01



Hundreds of families living in housing subsidized by Fairfax County taxpayers exceed income caps designed to ensure that only the neediest receive assistance, a review of county records shows.

In the most extreme cases, Fairfax is underwriting rents for families making well into six figures: One household getting help makes more than $216,000 a year; another, $184,000. Dozens of others -- making $60,000, $70,000, $90,000 -- exceed eligibility caps. And they do so with the tacit approval of county housing administrators, who do little to encourage occupants to move on when their fortunes improve.

These tenants live in housing intended for families at the bottom of the county's economic spectrum. They are in the federally subsidized public housing program, the Fairfax rental program and the county's senior housing program. The county's Department of Housing and Community Development will spend about $4.5 million this year running these programs.

The fact that higher-income families choose to remain in subsidized housing illustrates the critical lack of affordable housing in Fairfax, named the nation's most affluent county last month by the Census Bureau. The median new-home price in the region's largest jurisdiction is $960,000, and the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,306, according to county data.

The incomes also reflect, critics say, a disconnect between county practices and its housing policies, which aim in most cases to help families making less than half of Fairfax's median annual household income of $94,500 for a family of four. Fairfax leaders have long put affordable housing at the tops of their priority lists: Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) helped establish an initiative in 2005 to funnel more than $20 million a year toward the preservation of lower-cost housing.

But that mission should not include subsidizing the rents of families making more than $100,000 a year, Connolly said.

"Clearly this housing was not designed for that," he said. "It's good that these folks have reached a point where they are now successful in their income level. But they need to move into market-rate housing and allow these units to be used for the people they are intended to benefit."

County housing officials emphasize -- and a review of county and federal housing rules confirms -- that they have broken no rules by letting tenants remain after their incomes rise. They say every household met eligibility caps when they entered the program. Officials also say that to turn families out would punish them for attaining self-sufficiency. And they note -- correctly, according to records -- that most tenants in the county's housing programs have low incomes.

"We are definitely fulfilling our mission here," said Paula C. Sampson, director of the housing department. "You have to look at all the numbers. The vast majority of the people we are serving are very low income."

Still, some housing experts say even a smattering of such high incomes is unheard of in most subsidized housing nationwide. This is particularly true of public housing, a program regulated and funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and intended for the country's poorest families.

While many housing agencies allow families to stay after their incomes surpass initial eligibility requirements, many also impose income ceilings that require tenants to seek market-rate housing after their earnings cross a particular threshold.

HUD has allowed agencies to impose such a threshold for more than five years. The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority adopted a policy last month to begin doing so. And its new ceiling is the area's median income -- $94,500 for a family of four -- meaning families fairly high up the economic ladder will be able to remain in taxpayer-funded housing.

"It certainly doesn't sound like someone making $200,000 should be living in public housing," said Saul N. Ramirez Jr., executive director of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. "Their rents should be going up accordingly. If they're making more money, the proportion of that income that they're paying should go up, too."

In Fairfax's public housing program, the median income of the 1,057 households served is $16,404, just under the federal poverty level for a family of three. Twenty-five families make nothing at all. Three hundred make less than $10,000.

But records show that the highest annual household income in Fairfax public housing is $216,325. The next is $136,957, then $112,500, then $105,603 and so on. All told, 111 households -- about 10 percent -- make more than half of the area's median income. Twenty-five households make more than 80 percent of the median income, and 11 households make more than the median income itself.

Citing privacy reasons, housing officials would not provide specific information about families in subsidized housing, including where they live. Sampson did say that the household with the $216,000 income includes a mother and her two sons who recently graduated from college and began working.

"Maybe it's time for the boys to leave the nest and go off on their own," Sampson said. She said her agency encourages homeownership among families with rising incomes, but she was unable to offer data showing how many families have made the jump.

Most tenants are concentrated in county-owned apartment complexes scattered across Fairfax, such as Tavenner Lane in Alexandria, West Glade in Reston and Hopkins Glen in Falls Church. Others are in townhouses or apartments in otherwise market-rate communities.

Jaafar Belahoussine, 24, is one of those tenants. An automotive student at Northern Virginia Community College, Belahoussine lives with his parents in the Tavenner Lane public housing complex in the Alexandria section of the county. His parents work at a nearby Target, making $6 and $7 an hour, respectively. They pay about $900 in monthly rent for their three-bedroom apartment.

"We always thought that if you make more, you are supposed to leave," he said. "And I think that's what you're supposed to do."

Montgomery County public housing has its share of higher-income tenants, too: 37 households out of 1,160 make more than 80 percent of the median income, according to HUD. But none reach the heights they do in Fairfax; 13 households in Montgomery public housing exceed $75,000 a year, compared with 25 in Fairfax. Prince George's County reports no households making more than 80 percent of the median income, and Alexandria reports seven, according to HUD. Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties do not operate public housing complexes.

Nationwide, the numbers are proportionally lower than Fairfax's. According to HUD data, less than 2 percent of households across the country make more than 80 percent of the median income.

Public housing is one of several subsidized housing programs operated by the Fairfax housing authority. But the story is the same in the Fairfax rental program, which makes apartments and townhouses available at below-market rates to 1,190 households. The program serves one family making $184,376 a year, another making $145,349 and another making $140,962, county records show. In all, it serves 397 households that make more than 50 percent of the county's overall median income and 166 households making more than 80 percent of that sum. Twenty-eight households make more than the median income.

As with public housing, the county rental program allows families to remain long after they can afford to pay market rates for housing.

The same is true in the county's senior housing program, which includes seven independent senior living properties and two assisted living facilities. The county says the program is intended to serve low- and moderate-income seniors, but eligibility requirements vary from one property to another.

While most of the 595 households served are indeed low-income (the median is $20,001), not all fit that description. Ninety-one senior households have incomes of more than 50 percent of the area median income, and 12 have incomes of more than 80 percent of the median. The area's median income for a household of one (most seniors in the program live alone) is $66,200.

In both the rental program and the senior housing program, the county has less latitude to push families out when their incomes rise: Many of the units are funded through federal programs that prohibit income-based evictions. One tax-credit financing mechanism allows tenants to be considered low-income until their incomes exceed 140 percent of the area median, or $132,300.

There is a public policy purpose in allowing higher-income families to remain. One benefit is that such a mix creates economic diversity. And a major incentive for families to stay, said Sampson, the housing department director, is the quality of public housing in Fairfax.

In that respect, perhaps, the county is a victim of its own success.

"Public housing in Fairfax County is very nice housing," Sampson said. "You may not want to stay in public housing in some places because it's horrible. It's slums. That is not the case here."
 

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Diamond Bullet Member/Moderator
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Make it nice and people never leave. Have some rats and a few roaches and you get sued.
 

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Diamond with Oak Clusters Bullet Member
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I think I need to go and apply and get some of the free stuff.
 

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They need to change the needs test to reflect an actual poverty level not a local "median" income level... we lived in a one bedroom apt with kitchenette and 1 full bath catecorner from the Hart Senate building next to the Supreme Court and paid $3K per month and thought it was a bargain!
 

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I almost wouldnt blame you Charlie. I mean after all, we pay for it!!!

On a side note, first post on this new forum!
 

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Diamond with Oak Clusters Bullet Member
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Welcome, Baba.
 

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In Fairfax County, VA, having only a low six figure income will definitely put you in the impoverished class.
 
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