WESTMINSTER — State Housing and Community Development Secretary Jacqueline Rogers promised to return to Westminster with fixings for a housewarming party when the deck and patio are complete at a new state-supported group home.
Rogers was in town Monday to meet with the county commissioners about legislation she wants them to support in the General Assembly and to suggest ways to encourage development of affordable housing.
Commissioners Elmer C. Lippy and Julia W. Gouge, however, said they remain skeptical about a bill Rogers wants passed next year that would give home buyers the option of prepaying only half a year of their property taxes at settlement, instead of a year's worth.
A year's taxes could be about $1,200 and be part of the cash needed to buy a house.
The commissioners, however, are worried about the legislation affecting the county's cash flow.
"We do not believe the bill, as written, is revenue-neutral," said Steven Powell, director of management and budget for the county.
But Rogers said the bill couldbe written to include a county administrative cost that would help mitigate the delay in payment of the full tax bill.
The commissioners did appear interested in touring some housing developments in Montgomery County in which builders were given incentives to set aside a certain percentage of homes for first-time home buyers or apartments for subsidized low-in come renters.
"Without spending a penny of public money," Rogers said, Montgomery County had developers build 8,500 homes offered to first-time buyers with moderate incomes, such as schoolteachers, police and firefighters.
She said the county passed a zoning ordinance allowing builders a 20 percent boost in density in exchange for offering 12 percent of those extra units for sale at cost.
Some units are identical to higher-priced ones. Others, however, are missing some amenities, such as a garage, that can be added later by the homeowner, Rogers said.
While visiting in Westminster, Rogers also toured a shelter for homeless families on East Main Street run by Human Services Programs Inc., and a residential program for adults who have had mental or emotional illness. Both programs receive money through Rogers' office.
Main Stream, a private, non-profit agency that runs the residential program, received a low-interest mortgage of $210,000 from the state in May to buy a duplex in the Goldenrod development off Route 27.
But to keep the cost of home low,the builder didn't finish the deck and patio.
"The state and county have been involved -- now get the community (builders) involved," Rogers told Main Stream Administrative Director Michael Ball. She urged him to ask builders to donate their services to complete the deck and patio.
"After the builders are finished, I will come back, andI will bring the hamburgers and hot dogs and we'll all have a barbecue on your patio," she said to Ball and the residents.
The duplex houses six adults -- three women in one side and three men in the other -- who are recovering from mental illness and gaining skills to live independently, Ball said.
The agency is seeking another state loan for another duplex in the neighborhood.
Ball said that before getting the state loan, he used his own money to buy an apartment building in Westminster and rent space back to his agency.
Having theagency own the property, he said, is a better way to operate. It allows the agency to build equity, save money, avoid hassle over dealingwith another landlord and reduce the potential for conflicts Ball might encounter for investing his own money in the property, he said.
And having the low-interest state loan allows the agency to charge much lower rents, he said.
He declined to say what the rents and program costs are, but said the 4 percent loan from the state leaves Main Stream with a monthly mortgage payment of only $720 for both sides of the duplex.
Ball said residents pay the agency, using their income from public or private sources.
Rogers urged Ball and countyofficials who helped him acquire the state loan through the Group Home Financing Program to let local legislators know how the money has helped them.