County Council member Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, says she will opposenew subsidized housing in Elkridge until other areas of the county have been explored.
Pendergrass' district ranks fourth of five council districts in the number of subsidized housing units, said Housingand Community Development Board Chairman James C. Landerkin.
"I am of the firm opinion that while the need for affordable housing in the county is critical, before Elkridge is asked to accommodate more subsidized housing, other areas of the county need to make room for their fair share," Pendergrass wrote Elkridge civic leaders in a March 14 letter.
Her comments were triggered by upcoming board of appeals hearings on the 196-unit Orchard Club apartment development, which is scheduled to open in about eight months on the west side of Green Field Road and Rowanberry Drive in Elkridge. Orchard Club will offer 100 low- and moderate-income units. No subsidized housing is planned in a second phase of Orchard Club, which would include 160 units.
Pendergrass supported subsidized housing for the first phase.
"I am writing to remind the citizens of Elkridge of that pledge and to tell you that I will not be supporting any similar requests associated with the second phase of Orchard Club," she said in her letter.
Landerkin says 124 subsidized units exist in Pendergrass' district, which stretches along the Route 1 corridor from Elkridge to north Laurel and includes a large percentage of the county's employers. He stressed that subsidized housing must be built near public transportation or jobs.
Landerkin says Elkridge is merely "catching up," not shouldering more than its share.
Three other council members represent districts that have more subsidized housing: Darrel Drown, R-2nd, Ellicott City district, 186 units; C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, east Columbia district, 500 units; and Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, west Columbia district, 400 units. The district of Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, is 99 percent rural and does not have adequate water and sewer facilitiesfor low- and moderate-income housing, Landerkin said.
Council Chairman Gray and the other council members agree affordable housing should be dispersed, though in areas with an adequate water and sewer system and accessible to schools, shops, medical facilities, religious centers and jobs.
"The last three projects have been distributed,"Gray said. "It's exactly what she's asking to be done. When dealing with affordable housing, we need to break through barriers as opposed to pitting one area against another."
Drown said he doubts affordable housing will become a divisive issue because it will be difficult for a council member to muster the three votes to kill a subsidized housing project. In addition, he said, district lines are regularly redrawn, making fights over the precise location of housing meaningless.
When Orchard Club and a 200-unit Huntington development in Columbia are completed, Pendergrass' district will rank third in the number of subsidized units, Landerkin said. Like Orchard Club, 51 percent of the Huntington units -- which Pendergrass says are three blocks from her home -- will be reserved for low- and moderate-income tenants.
Even counting the additional Huntington units, "that still makes Shane number three out of four. I'm not sure what her problem is," Landerkin said.
But Pendergrass says Landerkin is counting only subsidized units. She says her district includes most of the county'smobile homes and many small bungalows.
"They may not be subsidized, but they're affordable. He may not be looking at the whole picture," she said.
Pendergrass said her position on the Elkridge units is "consistent with the General Plan mix" and her past record.
WhenOrchard Club was proposed, Pendergrass said, she met jointly with civic leaders and developers and was told the development would be no more than 25 percent subsidized -- "a very reasonable figure," she said.
"The general plan calls for a mix of housing types," she said. Subsidizing 51 percent of the units is "more than a mix."
Non-profit developer John Brandenburg, whose Columbia Housing Corp. is a partner in the first phase of the Orchard Club development but not in thesecond phase, said the low- and moderate-income portion of the development is being built in "response to an existing need" in Elkridge. The units will be marketed to people already living there, he said.
Landerkin agrees. The people needing low- and moderate-income housing, he said, are county residents -- teachers, firefighters, children of the affluent, people living in crowded conditions.
When dealing with affordable housing, "you need to build very close to public transportation or very close to employment," Landerkin said. "Since there is no transportation, you build close to employment. There is no other place for it to go."
"There is a need all over the county, and we are beginning to address that need," Pendergrass said. "It cannot be done over night."
To qualify for moderate-income apartments,a family of four can have an income of no more than $32,400 -- 80 percent of the median income in the Baltimore area. To qualify for low-income apartments, a family of four can have an income of no more than $20,250 -- 50 percent of median income.
Economic Forum presidentJames Truby, who along with Landerkin and other civic leaders is planning a one-day countywide seminar on affordable housing, says the forum doesn't have a position on the location of subsidized housing, except that the forum is, "in general, in favor of geographic dispersal."
"Until we get a consensus on what affordable housing means and who it should serve, debates aren't going to be particularly helpful," Truby said.