Housing Hypocrisy in Howard

May 06, 1991

In some corners of Howard County, it seems, affordable housing is pushing up against a wall of elitism. Consider Democratic county council member Shane Pendergrass' opposition to new subsidized housing in Elkridge.

"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," Ms. Pendergrass wrote Elkridge civic leaders in a March 14 letter.

The tone of Ms. Pendergrass' missive is curious given the fact that Elkridge has less subsidized housing than any of the county's five council districts save one.

All told, her district accounts for 124 of the county's several thousand subsidized housing units. It seems to us that Elkridge is not being overburdened but merely catching up with its neighbors.

To this, Ms. Pendergrass hastens to point out that her district includes most of the county's mobile homes and many small bungalows. "They may not be subsidized but they're affordable," she notes.

This kind of talk is deeply disturbing in a county that professes commitment to affordable housing. The units in question, about 25 percent of 400 going up in Elkridge and nearby Huntington, are precisely what the county needs to house entry-level and middle-income workers such as police officers, teachers and service employees.

These units, expected to rent for $500 to $600 a month, hardly qualify as public housing. They merely represent a small step toward housing diversity in a county that has come to symbolize affluence. Howard politicos have long paid lip service to affordable housing as a critical cog in economic development efforts. Convincing developers to build low-income housing in a high-priced market like Howard is tough enough without unwarranted opposition from local legislators.

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