Developer honors Howard County's role cited in award sharing ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE

December 16, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

An Ellicott City developer presented County Executive Charles I. Ecker an award Monday in recognition of the county's role in financing affordable housing in Elkridge for low- and moderate-income renters.

Orchard Development Corp. received the Award of Excellence for Communities last summer from the Home Builders Association of Maryland Inc. for Orchard Club Apartments, a 196-unit complex off Old Montgomery Road. The company also received an achievement award from the association recognizing "outstanding government-assisted housing that is superior in design and livability."

But Orchard Development president L. Earl Armiger told Mr. Ecker and county housing administrator Leonard S. Vaughan that the county deserves credit for helping the affordable housing project come to fruition.

"We're proud of it, and the county should be proud," said Mr. Armiger. "The state provided most of the funding, but it couldn't have been done without county assistance."

The $14.3 million project opened in September 1991. The county lent Orchard Development $1.2 million at a reduced 5 percent interest rate through the housing office's Rental Housing Development Program. The county also provided the developer a $150,000 grant through another special rental housing program to help with other costs.

The state provided $10.7 million in tax-exempt bond money.

Forty-nine units are reserved for renters that earn 50 percent or less of the median income for Baltimore metropolitan households -- about $44,100 for a family of four. Maximum eligible income levels vary according to the size of the household. Rents for those households are restricted, ranging from $304 to $520 monthly.

Another 51 units are set aside for households earning up to 85 percent of the median income. Restricted rents for those households range from $532 to $700.

Currently, 183 of the 196 units are rented, said Mr. Armiger.

Mr. Ecker praised Mr. Armiger for "forbearance and persistence" in seeing the project through despite some public opposition. "You've been through an ordeal, really," Mr. Ecker said. "It's a good project. Anyone with lesser persistence would have thrown up their hands."

Mr. Armiger, whose company specializes in building, managing and leasing apartment buildings, said the biggest drawbacks to building affordable rental units in Howard are the high price of land, the shortage of appropriately zoned land and residents' fears.

Nearby residents are quick to accuse developers of bringing crime, drugs and other problems to their neighborhoods when projects involving affordable housing are proposed, he said. He emphasized that the Orchard Club Apartments received no subsidies except the $150,000 grant.

"It's not a government giveaway program," he said. "It's all mortgage-backed funds."

The nonprofit Columbia Housing Corp. formed a partnership with Orchard Development to coordinate the project and help manage the apartments.

Orchard Club Apartments create "diversity in culture and economics" in the eastern Howard neighborhood, said Elsie Walters of the Columbia Housing Corporation. "It's more realistic in terms of what the world is really about."

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