Proposed affordable housing development raises concerns

June 28, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

A nonprofit foundation that develops affordable housing has proposed a 64-townhouse development in Long Reach village, a project that has raised some concerns among village officials.

Representatives from the Enterprise Foundation and from the Rouse Co., owner of the property on which the proposed Streamwood development would be built, plan to meet with the Long Reach village board July 11 to discuss the proposal.

"You can call it affordable housing or entry-level housing, but the fact of the matter is there's not a great deal of affordable housing opportunities in this area," said Mark Burneko, manager of public relations for the Enterprise Foundation. "This is a tremendous opportunity."

But some Long Reach officials worry that the project as currently proposed would concentrate low-cost housing in one part of village.

"Our understanding is that the current approach to affordable housing is not to segregate or identify it as such to the community at-large," said Long Reach village board Chairwoman Cecilia Januszkiewicz. "This [development] is contrary to that."

The Enterprise Foundation, the prime mover in the project, which was first presented to village officials last week, is a nonprofit agency founded in 1982 by James Rouse, Columbia's developer, to create affordable housing for the poor nationwide.

The Streamwood development would be located on five acres of land east of Snowden River Parkway and north of Route 175 in the Kendall Ridge neighborhood. It would include 36 townhouses for sale to buyers with incomes of about $25,000, and 28 rental units for tenants with incomes of about $15,000, said Mr. Burneko.

Monthly mortgage payments for the two- and three-bedroom townhouses would be an estimated $650 to $750 on an $85,000 first mortgage, Mr. Burneko said. To keep monthly payments low, a portion of the equity an owner builds up in a townhouse would go to the lender upon the home's resale at market price, he said.

Rents would be about $450, said Mr. Burneko. Six of the rental townhouses each would be divided into two apartments with separate entrances and some common living spaces, such as kitchen or living room, he said.

Mr. Burneko described Streamwood as a way to give buyers such as entry-level police officers, teachers, firefighters and service industry employees who work in Howard County a better chance to own a home.

Alton J. Scavo, the Rouse Co.'s general manager of Columbia, added that the company's development subsidiary, Howard Research and Development Corp., is helping with the project because it is consistent with Columbia's ideals.

"We're trying to provide housing to those in the community who would find it virtually impossible to achieve otherwise," said Mr. Scavo, a Rouse Co. senior vice president. "Usually that's achieved through for-rent homes. In this project, a portion provides ownership opportunity. That's very, very rare and something that's exciting from our standpoint."

But Ms. Januszkiewicz expressed concern that Streamwood's affordable housing would not be dispersed throughout Kendall Ridge, a still-developing Columbia neighborhood.

She also said that Long Reach has a fair supply of affordable housing, while several other Columbia villages don't appear to have any, including Dorsey's Search, River Hill and Town Center.

"All the affordable housing shouldn't be located in designated villages," she said.

Mr. Scavo, however, said that Streamwood would be part of a comprehensive plan for Kendall Ridge that includes a variety of housing.

"Sixty-four units may seem like a small portion of the identified need, but at least it is some portion. Something's being done," Mr. Scavo said.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise Housing Corp. of Maryland, the Enterprise Foundation subsidiary developing the project, is working with the Howard County Housing Commission and the state on creative financing arrangements to keep original home mortgages low.

Leonard Vaughan, executive director of the county housing commission, said the agency, which would own the rental units, is considering lending money to the project.

Residents can comment on the project at the village board meeting at 7:30 p.m. July 11 at Stonehouse in the Long Reach Village Center.

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