Crime Watch in Kendall Ridge

August 02, 1994

How is it that people earning between $18,000 and $40,000 a year can be considered criminals or magnets for criminal activity in their communities?

That is one of the suppositions made by residents of the Kendall Ridge section of Columbia, who are fighting a proposed affordable housing project in their community.

Officials of the Rouse Co. and the Enterprise Foundation want to build Streamwood, a 64-unit townhouse complex, on five acres off Snowden River Parkway in Kendall Ridge. More than half of the units would be sold to buyers earning less than $40,000 a year, the remainder rented to tenants earning at least $18,000.

The feeling among some Kendall Ridge residents is that this constitutes low-income housing, which they claim is a breeding ground for crime.

It is unsupportable to label anyone, based on income, inherently predisposed to crime. It seems to us, however, that particularly people earning up to $40,000 a year have made a career choice that should refute this type of scurrilous attack. These people are likely to be school teachers, managers, police officers, secretaries and the like.

With the high price of housing in Howard County, it is virtually impossible for those professionals to afford the type of housing being proposed unless they have the kind of assistance the Rouse Co. and the Enterprise Foundation are offering.

Critics of this development also want the public to believe that they favor affordable housing only when it is spread throughout the community and not segregated in one large project. But this is a difficult proposition, given that residents already say they fear their property values will be adversely affected by Streamwood.

Would those residents be more comfortable with building a single affordable home next door to them than they are about a whole community on separate acreage nearby? We doubt it.

The only issue of merit left to protesters is whether or not it is fair that moderately priced homes appear to be concentrated in some Columbia communities and virtually non-existent elsewhere in the county.

That is a valid point, one which Howard County's elected officials should be seriously addressing in a broader context. But they should not put a halt to this project.

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