Task force proposes plan to make home ownership more affordable

September 27, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

A housing task force has recommended a plan that would require developers to make a certain percentage of their new homes affordable enough so middle-class residents can purchase them.

The plan, Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU), would require developers who build more than 10 units to either price 10 percent of the units near cost or donate money to a newly created Housing Fund.

In return, the county would rezone the land, allowing developers to build 8 percent more homes to recoup their expenses so other buyers won't burden the extra costs.

A task force composed of developers, county officials and others met for more than a year to develop the plan, which is being introduced to the County Council by council member C. Vernon Gray and County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

The plan is expected to be discussed at the County Council's Oct. 19 meeting.

"Business needs many more middle management and skilled workers than it does CEOs," said Mr. Gray when he unveiled the plan Wednesday at a news conference. "The modest cost of MPDU homes will make it possible for people filling those jobs to live close to their work in Howard County."

Under the plan, developers building more than 40 units would be required to set aside 10 percent of the homes as moderate housing. Developers building between 10 to 39 homes would be able to either build moderate housing or donate a comparable amount of money to a county housing fund that buys homes and resells them at affordable prices. Developers who build less than nine homes are exempt.

"When we talk about affordable housing in Howard County today, we're not talking about housing for our poorest citizens," said Leonard S. Vaughan, county housing administrator. "We're talking about meeting the basic housing

needs for many of our middle-income citizens."

The plan targets residents who earn between $25,000 and $45,000 yearly and might not be able to afford homes at the county's average prices -- $150,000 to $200,000.

Mr. Gray said he hopes the plan would be attractive to families in which single mothers are heads of households, along with public employees living outside the county.

County officials hope that about 250 moderately priced units will be built each year, Mr. Gray said. Homes under the MPDU program would cost about $72,000 to $90,000.

Home builders and developers are looking over the plan and are concerned whether they'll be able to break even for the extra cost of building the moderately priced units, according Steven Breeden, a member of the plan development task force and vice president of the Ellicott City-based Security Development Corp.

"What we don't want to happen is what happened in other counties, where 90 percent of the buyers are paying for [the moderately priced units]. As long as we can break even, we're happy with it."

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