Pioneer City May Evict Poorer Families

Owners Want Out Of Contract To Offer Subsidized Housing

May 19, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

More than 100 families could be evicted from Pioneer City if the owners succeed in buying out of their federal contracts to provide subsidized housing.

Under the nation's new Affordable Housing Act, owners of buildings financed with low-interest government loans can seek early release from their 20-year agreements to rent to poor and moderate-income families.

Some of the 45 owners of Pioneer City, a 500-unit town house complex in Severn, have applied to buy out of their agreements with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The earliest theycould evict tenants who receive federal aid is 1993.

"It's going to devastate our program if it happens," said Sandra A. Ervin, actingexecutive director of the county Housing Authority.

Ervin pointedout that the agency already is struggling to find landlords to rent to low-income families and seniors in the Section 8 rental assistanceprogram. More than 500 people receive certificates and vouchers, buttwice as many still are waiting to get into the program.

As upscale housing developments mushroomed across Anne Arundel County, driving up land values in the last two decades, many landlords found they could charge higher rents.

A scarcity of apartments compounded the problem, creating a "real shortage of housing for low-income familiesand seniors," said Kathleen Koch, assistant planning and zoning officer, during an interview last month.

Unsubsidized apartment rents in the county have soared in recent years, with the average climbing from $292 in 1980 to $574 last year, the county Office of Planning and Zoning reported earlier this year. The number of apartments rentingfor less than $400 dropped from 1,745 in 1989 to 605 in 1990.

Low-income families who receive housing vouchers and Section 8 certificates must find a participating landlord. The county Housing Authority helps tenants by providing lists of apartment complexes and landlordswilling to receive federal rent subsidies.

Pioneer City is one ofthe larger developments renting to families on Section 8.

County Housing officials have been faulted by HUD in the past for failing touse Section 8 certificates as quickly as possible. The authority had50 unused certificates at the end of December, said Rheba Gwaltney, a spokeswoman for HUD's Baltimore office.

A HUD review last Augustfound that the agency had done a poor job in administering its Section 8 program. The number of unused certificates "still is a concern,"Gwaltney said.

More than 1,000 families and seniors are waiting for Section 8 certificates. But with few landlords willing to participate in the program, the agency spends a lot of time looking for apartments and town houses, Ervin said.

"Low-income housing is very hard to come by," she said. "We need all we can get."

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