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Judge Throws Out Housing Authority Lawsuit

By Ethan Rothstein

Monday - 11/4/2013, 12:00pm  ET

The Swansen ApartmentsAn affordable housing advocacy group sued Arlington County on Friday over its flyer about the redevelopment and housing authority referendum on the ballot tomorrow, but a judge quickly dismissed the lawsuit.

As it has in previous years, the county distributed a “frequently asked questions” flyer to inform residents before voting on the ballot. Members of the Arlington Committee to Save Affordable Housing filed the lawsuit on Friday to protest the flyer, with treasurer John Reeder — who filed the suit on behalf of the committee — calling it “a biased fact sheet with bogus data slanted against  the housing authority, and misleading voters.”

Judge William Newman dismissed the suit without opinion the same day, prompting Reeder to send out a press release denouncing his decision. Newman is a former member of the Arlington County Board, whose members oppose the formation of a housing authority.

The last time the referendum was on the ballot in 2008, the county distributed a similar flyer which also drew criticism, notably from the Arlington Green Party, of which Reeder is a member. The county has stood by that flyer and stands by this year’s version.

“Judge Newman’s action speaks for itself regarding the merits of the lawsuit on the housing referendum,” County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac said in an email. “It is within Judge Newman’s discretion to take the action that he took … The County put out a factual set of questions and answers, with neutral information about the referendum.”

The referendum, if passed, would create an independent housing authority, appointed by the County Board, focused on eliminating and redeveloping “blighted areas,” and promote the availability of affordable housing.

Currently, the county handles affordable housing through its Housing Committee and draws funds from local taxes, developer contributions, federal and state grants and other affordable housing programs. The county says in its flyer that the authority would have access to the same or similar funding sources.