Fairfax County moves to update guidelines requiring developers to assist displaced tenants

The Wedgewood Apartments and other properties owned by the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority would be subject to the new relocation guidelines if redeveloped (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County is looking to update its guidelines for how rental and mobile home developers can assist displaced tenants for the first time in a decade.

Director of Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development Tom Fleetwood presented the proposed guidelines to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a housing committee meeting last week (Nov. 28).

“The goals are to maintain our commitments to affordable housing, to ensure that as many of our existing residents who depend on affordable housing are able to stay in it, and that we’re able to also move forward with redevelopment as we need to,” Fleetwood said.

Last updated in 2012, the Relocation Guidelines provide a plan for residential developers to follow for multi-family rental buildings or mobile homes that are going to be demolished, rehabilitated or converted.

Under the new guidelines, owners would be required to engage with the existing tenants and develop a relocation plan for them. The guidelines will also apply to all affordable housing owned, managed or funded by the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority and properties subject to the Preservation Policy adopted in March.

“Our expectation is that [the developers will] provide moving cost reimbursement and housing counseling, and that they will provide staffing to conduct these activities,” Fleetwood said. “We want the owner to create a property profile so that we understand who’s living there, what the rent rolls look like, what opportunities there are for tenants to move into units that best match their needs.”

According to Fleetwood, another goal is for every tenant who is relocated to be able to return.

“In the event all tenants are unable to return, a priority ranking system tool will help property owners prioritize those with the greatest need,” the presentation said.

For example, priority could be given to a household with children or a disabled person living in it.

Developers could also be required to make up any differences in security deposits.

“If someone has to move, and the security deposit at their new home is higher than their existing security deposit, we would expect that a developer would pay that difference,” Fleetwood said.

Tenants facing permanent and temporary relocation will receive both relocation services and reimbursement of moving costs. Those who have to permanently move would also get relocation payments or a tenant assistance fund that would provide a time-limited rental subsidy.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck questioned how the guidelines and expectations would be enforced, which he said could be one of the biggest challenges.

Fleetwood said there are plans to hire a specialist who will be in charge of monitoring relocation plans.

The county will now conduct outreach and collect feedback before releasing a revised draft of the new guidelines next April. The proposal will be submitted for the board’s final approval in June.

Image via Google Maps

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