Exclusion in housing project OK HUD official says plans to leave out middle class don't require U.S. review

July 26, 1996|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

After concern was expressed this week about Baltimore's plans not to include middle-income people in replacement housing for the Lexington Terrace high-rise housing project, a federal housing official now says those plans are fine.

Alex Sachs, a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said yesterday that the plans represent no change from the city's original application for a $22.9 million federal grant, so there's no need for a federal review.

"We were reassured [by city housing officials] that the plan as proposed in September is the plan" they're using now, said Sachs.

Christopher Hornig, deputy assistant secretary for public and Indian housing, told The Sun Monday that he was concerned that the housing authority might be changing its proposed economic and social mix of residents without notifying federal officials. Hornig was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Lexington Terrace's five high-rises are to be demolished at 10 a.m. tomorrow, and the replacement community mostly of rowhouses is to begin rising by March, with the first units to be completed by September 1998.

City housing officials did drop plans to include a $4.7 million apartment building for University of Maryland Medical System students and staff at the Lexington Terrace site at the urging of federal officials, according to the city's grant application submitted in September.

That application said a HUD review panel "didn't think there was a market for that type of development at this [Lexington Terrace] site."

Yesterday, Sachs said federal officials were worried about getting financing for the construction of the apartment building because the $22.9 million grant could not be used for a building that would not contain public housing residents.

The 48-unit building was replaced with for-sale houses financed through the federal Nehemiah housing program for "families whose incomes are at or below 80 percent of the area median income," according to the plan.

A family of four in the Baltimore metropolitan area may have a maximum annual income of about $34,000 to qualify, according to the plan.

Under the Nehemiah program, homebuyers would make a $500 to $1,000 down payment and have monthly mortgage payments of $300 to $350, said City Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III.

Each apartment for medical system staff and students would have rented for $800 per month, the plan said.

In spring 1995, city housing officials had said the students and staff would help shore up the replacement Lexington Terrace development.

The Clinton administration, in initiating a transformation of public housing, supports mixing incomes in replacement public housing developments to avoid a concentration of very poor people -- a factor officials say that led to the failure of high-rise public housing structures built in the 1950s and 1960s.

In Baltimore, housing officials decided to include a mix of low- and moderate-income people at Lexington Terrace, but not middle-income, Henson said.

The medical system is across Martin Luther King Boulevard from the Lexington Terrace site.

The new development -- a mix of 303 rowhouses, a 100-unit high-rise for the elderly, a day care center and a business center -- is a venture of the city, Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse, Mid-City Financial Corp. and Edgewood Management Co., known for building and managing low-income housing. The rowhouses will be rental and for-sale units.

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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