Herndon Candidates Forum: Question 2
Focus on Fairfax is proud to present this online candidate forum, with each candidate answering three questions from Washington Post Reporter Bill Turque.
Question 2: Should the crackdown on overcrowded housing be augmented by some kind of effort to find affordable housing for those who are being forced from these homes?
Mayoral Candidate Steve J. DeBenedittis: Virginia is a "Dillon Rule" state - that is: Herndon has only the authority specifically granted to it by the Virginia legislature. Provision of affordable housing is outside of our Town charter and not authorized to towns by the state legislature. When an overcrowded house is abated the occupants are not "forced from their home." They are leaving a situation that is unhealthy and unsafe for them as well as detrimental for the neighborhood. Those who profit from creating overcrowded boarding houses are not giving the occupants homes; they are exploiting people for their own personal gain.
Mayoral Candidate Michael L. O'Reilly: In Virginia, Towns are part of the Counties in which they are located. The Counties provide the social services, schools and fire and rescue services. The tremendous increase in the cost of housing has truly created a problem for our teachers, police officers and other service related workers who would like to live in the communities in which they work. I fully support the Fairfax County program of setting aside one cent of the real estate tax to fund the preservation of affordable work force housing. The Town works cooperatively with Dranesville Supervisor Joan DuBois and Board Chairman Gerry Connolly.
Town Council Candidate Carol A. Bruce: The Town has traditionally encouraged developers who have eliminated low-cost housing in the redevelopment process to assist displaced residents in finding new, affordable housing-as was the case, several years ago when the Herndon Courts apartments were demolished in order to build townhouse-style rental units. However, the Town has no responsibility and no authority to locate or provide affordable housing to anyone, including persons displaced from overcrowded dwelling units. Fairfax County has programs in place to help persons who are in need of housing assistance.
Town Council Candidate Dennis D. Husch: The Town Charter provides no authority for the Town to spend Herndon Taxpayer funds on affordable housing. That is the County's and State's responsibility. What the Town can do is to designate in its Comprehensive Plan residential areas in Town where affordable housing could be established. The Comprehensive Plan would be an item at a public hearing and I am sure that all of the residents in any area designated for affordable housing would bitterly complain. It is not likely to happen in Herndon.
Town Council Candidate Connie Haines Hutchinson: Obviously, housing prices in this area are out of reach for low and even moderate income families, but providing affordable housing is a responsibility of the County, not the Town. The town's effort to combat overcrowding should include a study of who is doing the overcrowding, why they are doing it, and how they are able to buy or rent housing to accommodate more people than the law will allow; in order to successfully resolve the issue.
Town Council Candidate David A. Kirby: By law, the Town of Herndon cannot provide "Social Services" to its community. There are County, State, and Federal services available for those who need housing. There is a wealth of information on Affordable housing in Virginia at the HUD Web site, http://www.hud.gov/local/index.cfm?state=va.
Town Council Candidate Steven D. Mitchell: We have enacted tougher ordinances and increased resources to address overcrowding. I will continue to support our staff and provide the resources necessary to investigate overcrowding and compliance with the Zoning Ordinances. Providing affordable housing and work force housing are programs to be carried out by Fairfax County. The Town's charter prevents the Town from providing social services. I will encourage all applicants who redevelop their properties to work closely with the County to relocate their displaced tenants.
Town Council Candidate J. Harlon Reece: We do not displace occupants unless it can be established that the overcrowded house represents a violation of our zoning ordinance. In such cases, the town has no obligation or authority to provide affordable housing for those involved. In combating overcrowding, our focus must be on the preservation of our residential neighborhoods and a concern for the health and safety of residents in overcrowded homes. These are fundamental responsibilities of our town government. While I understand that the lack of affordable housing in our area is a legitimate concern, providing a housing referral service is outside of the town's charter.
Town Council Candidate Jorge Rochac: I believe that the Town council must look out for all the requirements of all the residents of our town; however, I believe that, even though affordable housing could become an urgent need in our community, it is beyond the scope of our town government to find direct solutions to the problem.
Town Council Candidate William B. Tirrell: I think you mean 'low-income housing. Low-income housing and affordable housing are NOT the same thing. Affordable housing addresses the teachers, police force, firefighters, etc., whereas overcrowding generally is the case for those who can only afford 'low-income' housing. Fairfax County, and not Herndon, is responsible under the laws of the Commonwealth for low-income housing. That said, the Town should lobby the county to fulfill its responsibility to provide low-income housing for Herndon residents eligible for it. Meanwhile, the intensity with which the Town addresses - and closes down - overcrowded housing and brings unscrupulous landlords to court must increase.
Town Council Candidate Charlie D. Waddell: Yes. There are a number of not-for-profit community development housing assistance programs available, such as the Nehemiah Program. These programs provide grants and down payment assistance to qualifying families in an attempt to facilitate the availability of affordable housing.
I would propose that the Town grant tax relief for families participating in qualified housing assistance programs. I would encourage local builders to participate in these housing assistance programs. I would further suggest that the Town entertain special incentives, such as granting a slightly higher density to developers participating in this program.