Affordable Housing Seen As Foundation

October 31, 1990|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

A county task force recommended a package of development incentives, zoning changes and subsidies yesterday to encourage home builders to reserve 10 percent of their projects for affordable housing.

The task force, which reported to outgoing County Executive O. James Lighthizer, looked for ways to expand home ownership for working-class county residents.

If the supply of moderately priced homes is allowed to dwindle, the county's economic vitality will be threatened, said task force member Milton Horn, president of Mandrin Construction.

"It's important to realize that affordable housing is to serve our service industry, our police and teachers and firefighters and our children as they come out of school," he said.

With land costs soaring and wealthier people moving to the county, the task force reported that moderately priced housing was squeezed out of the market from 1985 to 1989. The percentage of housing units priced under $100,000 during the past five years dropped from about 69 percent of all sales to 30 percent.

The median price of housing in Anne Arundel County climbed 46 percent (from $82,932 to $121,217) between 1985 and 1989, while growth in median family income lagged behind at 25 percent (from $35,935 to $45,072).

County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, who led the task force, said expanding home ownership opportunities would also make it easier for low-income renters to move from subsidized and public housing.

"When they reach an income where they can actually move out, you've got to have the units they can move into to make room for all the people on the waiting lists," she said.

To encourage small-scale affordable housing throughout the county, the task force advised offering builders a 20-percent zoning density bonus in return for devoting two to five acres for units priced below the maximum eligible for state mortgage subsidy programs. This incentive would allow a developer to build six units per acre in an area otherwise zoned for five units.

A second change in zoning law would legalize and encourage development of "accessory housing" -- rental units within single-family homes. Zoning in most of the county currently prohibits home owners from renting to borders but the practice is especially popular with seniors who seek to turn a profit after their children have moved.

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