Racism, she said, "plays a part" in that fear. Ms. Stierhoff also said the county's reluctance goes back to residents' long held attitudes against housing for the poor.
Consequently, until 1981, federal rent subsidies in the county were administered by a private real estate agent. There is still no public housing in the county, and no local housing authority.
In its submission to HUD, the county discussed several possible new actions, but Mr. Welsh said it's not clear if any will be adopted. These options include suggesting that the county might create a housing authority and offer developers incentives for building lower priced housing.
Mr. Welsh also plans to convene a citizens' committee on housing this summer. Though all of these ideas have been proposed under previous county administrations, none have been adopted.
The county is helping in a few new efforts to house the homeless and poor, however. A joint, county-state-federal effort to create 23 units of transitional housing for homeless families at Rosewood Hospital Center in Owings Mills is under way, and there is a plan to build 53 more subsidized homes for low-income people in Towson's historic black enclave east of York Road. In addition, the county has used federal block grant funds to help subsidize rehabilitation of hundreds of old, run-down county apartments and guarantee their continued use by low-income renters.
The housing problem in Baltimore County, as elsewhere, is growing, however, as reflected in a doubling of the local waiting list for federal Section 8 and housing vouchers. In 1987 when the new county Community Development agency was formed, the list was 3,000. It is now 6,775. The typical waiting period is 18 to 36 months, said Mr. Welsh. Currently, 3,556 county families are living with the aid of those federal rent subsidies.
Because of the county's increased use of federal and state programs, its bureaucracy for administering them is growing too. The County Council recently approved a new lease for the housing office in Towson to allow it to expand from its current 6,000 square feet to 11,494 square feet. The county's housing rehabilitation office has also been assigned larger quarters starting July 1. Despite a two-year hiring freeze and the ravages of the recession, the housing office's staff has grown to 44 from 27 in 1987.
BALTIMORE COUNTY HOUSING AT A GLANCE
* The average price of a house in 1990: $130,000.
* With 5 percent down, a family would need an income of $54,636 a year to afford such a house.
* Estimates were that in 1989, only 32 percent of county families had annual incomes over $50,000.
Of estimated 268,280 households:
* 43,240 families had incomes between $32,400 and $38,475 -- classified as moderate income.
* 39,000 families had incomes between $20,250 and $32,400 -- classified as low income.
* 47,000 families had incomes under $20,250 -- classified as very low income.
* 15,348 of those very low-income families earned under $13,000 a year and could not afford more than $300 a month for rent.
* More than 15,000 county families were paying more than they could afford for shelter, or were doubling up with friends or relatives.