Many organizations have the best of intentions when they first set out to produce low-cost housing, but they quickly find themselves unprepared to deal with architects, inspectors, contractors, subcontractors, attorneys, lenders and other players in residential development.
Knowing the development process and how to manage it is the purpose of a training series sponsored by the Maryland Community Assistance Administration. Five courses have been set up for non-profit organizations, local governments and public housing authorities who need professional know-how to get their housing projects off the ground.
Jacqueline H. Rogers, secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, launched Wednesday's session on the basics of getting an affordable housing development off the ground by praising community involvement in the process.
"We believe that community-based organizations who sponsor the development of housing in their communities need to be a very major player in the housing. We have discovered that neighborhoods welcome housing sponsored by neighbors," Ms. Rogers said.
She also pointed out that conventional funding sources are no longer as forthcoming in financing low-cost housing.
"What we have now is a nickel from here and a dime from there and a quarter from somewhere else. All of which adds up to be at least 15 cents short of what you really need to get the job done. Which means that you need to reach deep into your community to find resources or shortcuts," said Ms. Rogers.
The Housing Development Advisory Service, a service within the Community Assistance Administration, plans to make this year's lectures the first of an annual series, according to Gary Shah, manager.
The session on Wednesday was an over view of the development process.
Roger Jones, vice president of training for the Development Training Institute, a consulting firm based in Baltimore, conducted the seminar at the Towson Sheraton. The class reviewed methods to determine housing needs, how to conduct market studies, locate development sites, prepare financial statements, secure development grants and loans, and how to manage or sell a property.
"We're not encouraging people to become developers," Mr. Shah pointed out. "We want people to have the sophistication to be able to borrow talent," an allusion to finding experts to do a job rather than doing it yourself.
A primary goal of the meetings, Mr. Shah said, is to direct people to funding sources. "People look at the state as the only place for funding. We're really funding of the last resort."
"If it's a good deal, there are a lot of lending sources. There is more money available than good projects."
Mr. Shah admitted that it is a difficult time for the building industry. "The banks have not been as kind to us. There are folks who can't buy market housing. . . . The need is there."
Mr. Jones, whose firm conducts training courses in community economic development across the country, said government housing programs are beginning to be created for the low- and very-low-income families who can't afford homes costing $40,000 $50,000.
Some Maryland counties are also beginning to supply money for housing.
"Over half of Maryland's counties  are now contributing their own local dollars to help housing get produced in their communities. That's a radical change from three years ago," Ms. Rogers said.
Future sessions in the series will include a course on real estate financing on Oct. 22 and 23. After that will be construction management on Nov. 13 and 14, and property management on Feb. 19 and 20. All classes will be held at the Towson Sheraton Hotel.
The fifth session will be individualized for the boards and staffs of a particular non-profit organization to help them effectively use their boards and communities, and to better plan and monitor their housing projects.
For registration information, call Gary Shah at 974-2718.