The state has included $3.5 million in its proposed capital budget to buy the Bloomsbury Square housing project in Annapolis, government sources said Friday.
State officials will unveil the budget at a briefing today. The legislature must approve the money to buy the development.
State officials have wanted to buy Bloomsbury Square for two decades, but Harold Greene, executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority, said his agency was in no hurry to sell the 51-unit development.
"They could put $10.5 million in there and it doesn't mean we would sell it," Greene said. He said the Housing Authority would consider selling Bloomsbury Square only if it resulted in home ownership for some public housing residents and if tenants approved of the sale.
The state last tried to buy Bloomsbury Square in 1987. That effort ended in a federal lawsuit and a judge's order that 21 units be renovated. The renovations cost more than $2 million and were completed last year.
Tenants alleged in the lawsuit that closing the city's only downtown project would lead to more city housing segregation.
Last year, the state began negotiating again with the Housing Authority to buy Bloomsbury Square, which is considered a model public housing development.
Under U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines, the city would have to replace the 51 units if the project wassold. Greene said he met with HUD officials last week to talk about guidelines for any sale.
"We want to offer people single-family homes," Greene said. "That's our goal in anything we do. Multi-family housing is not the answer in Annapolis. We have people paying enough rent to pay a mortgage. If we got them into single-family homes, we would free up apartments at the same time."
Housing Authority officials have met with residents to talk about plans for the project. Greene said tenants will have to approve any deal, under an agreement that resulted from the 1987 lawsuit.
"We plan to get the facts up on the table and let the tenants make their choice," Greene said.
Theproject is located between the House Office Building and St. John'sCollege. Greene said the state hopes to raze Bloomsbury Square to expand the office building and build a parking garage.
Greene said the 50-year-old development faces an uncertain future. "We don't know what the condition of that place will be in five or 10 years," he said. "If we could build a better property, we would sell it."
Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, a longtime advocate for Bloomsbury Square residents, said any proposal to sell the property will be closely scrutinized.
"It's the best public housing development in the cityof Annapolis, and indeed in the state of Maryland," Snowden said. "It's the one public housing development that truly works. It's racially integrated, and it meets every objective that public housing was designed to do.
"It gives low-income people a chance to live in safe, decent, sanitary housing and it doesn't isolate them," he said. "It's the only public housing development in the heart of Annapolis, andit affords low-income people identical services that the most affluent citizens of Annapolis have."