Mixed-use areas may get affordable-housing rules County, seller would share profits from sale of home

November 26, 1996|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Howard County's mixed-use zones -- large developments modeled after Columbia -- may soon get new regulations requiring a Columbia-style commitment to affordable housing.

Several of the county's last major underdeveloped parcels have mixed-use zoning, which requires a combination of housing, employment centers and open space in the model of a Columbia village.

Under a proposal by the administration of County Executive Charles I. Ecker, the zones would also have townhouses that are affordable to people with moderate incomes -- about $40,000 for a family of four in the area.

The County Council began debating the proposed regulations last night. Council members were generally supportive, but a decision is likely to wait until after further discussion next month. "The real concern for the neighbors is the devaluation of the neighborhood," said Council Chairman Darrel E. Drown, an Ellicott City Republican. "It sounds like this program has a lot of safeguards."

The program would work like this: If a development has more than 2.3 homes per acre, 5 percent would have to be affordable. If there are more than 2.7 homes per acre, 10 percent of the homes would have to be affordable.

The affordable units would sell at below-market rates, but the county would use covenants to maintain partial ownership -- and would collect part of the profits when the units sell.

For example, if a family pays $90,000 for an affordable unit that ordinarily would cost $125,000 on the open market, the county would maintain ownership of $35,000 of the house. If it goes up in value, the county's value goes up proportionately.

When the family sells, the family gets back its investment and a percentage of the profit.

The county would collect $35,000 plus its percentage of the profit. That money then would be used to make the home affordable for another family.

Leonard S. Vaughan of the county Housing and Community Development Office said the program would protect values while helping families in need.

"The key is to make certain that the family's basic needs are served," Vaughan said. "But the family doesn't make a windfall profit, and the program doesn't have an overall impact on the value of the units."

There are a half-dozen mixed-use zones in the county, ranging from 40 acres to more than 700.

The Rouse Co. has proposed a mixed-use project on 525 acres near the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 216 in North Laurel. The project is dependent on a zoning change and would be about half the size of a Columbia village.

Pub Date: 11/26/96

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