With a crowd of first-time homebuyers cheering him on, County Executive Robert R. Neall pledged Monday night to initiate new programs to make housing more affordable.
The executive scored with housing advocates by promising to help families squeezed by the county's high home prices and soaring rents.
"Affordable housing is one of the main priorities for the Neall administration today," Neall told several dozen new homeowners and state officials at a block party in Severn.
The county was celebrating the completion of the Riviera Heights subdivision, an affordable neighborhood created by moving 14 homes from a noise zone near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. After touring one of the ranch homes, Neall said he hoped to develop similar communities.
His comments were hailed yesterday by housing advocates, including Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, and the Anne Arundel Affordable Housing Coalition, an ad hoc citizens group.
Neall outlined several programs to lower the price of county hous
ing, including mortgage assistance and low-interest settlement loans.
The executive also said he supports giving developers "density bonuses" to build affordable housing. The measure, which allows developers to build more units than zoning laws normally allow in exchange for lower-priced homes, was one of eight proposed last fall by an affordable-housing task force headed by Lamb.
"I'm delighted to hear that he's moving ahead with it," Lamb said of Neall's remarks. "I'm very, very pleased that affordable housing is one of his priorities."
The councilwoman has suggested avoiding enclaves of lower-priced homes by giving density bonusesto homeowners and developers building on five acres or less.
"This way, we could scatter affordable housing around the county," she said.
County officials will meet with a group of developers today tomap out strategies for other density bonus programs, said Kathleen Koch, an assistant planning and zoning officer who heads community development.
This fall, the county plans to offer more aid to first-time buyers who earn average incomes or less,Koch said.
Neall has boosted the county's Housing Trust Fund from $500,000 to $600,000 to offer low-interest settlement loans. First-time buyers can avoid exhausting their savings by borrowing the settlement costs.
The county also is sponsoring a series of free seminars for new homebuyers in September. Bank officials and real estate agents will explain to buyerswhat mortgage financing is available, what loan applications are like and what to expect at the settlement table.
Anne Arundel County just received $7.5 million to offer low-interest mortgages to first-time buyers. Families earning $28,000 or less can qualify for mortgages at a 7.75 percent interest rate. Those earning up to $40,000 pay a slightly higher interest rate.