East side fears Baltimore County: What goes around comes around for leaders who stoked angst over housing.

March 30, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF Dundalk rightly complain that their long-neglected community needs an infusion of resources, yet they spurned a Florida company's offer to spend $28 million to renovate a decaying waterfront apartment complex called Hidden Cove. The reason: The community's longstanding and, in this case, overblown fear of federally subsidized housing.

Even Baltimore County Councilman Lou DePazzo, who once led east side opposition to federal housing programs, believes the lost opportunity was a good one.

Right now, Hidden Cove, while not a slum property, is too dilapidated to pass a federal housing inspection. That means it cannot accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

Without changes, it could devolve into the very eyesore residents say they dread. Yet the community opted for the status quo because the Florida company's plans include the possibility of some Section 8 tenants. To qualify for tax credits and tax-free bonds, without which the developer could not have afforded the renovations, he would have had to abide by rules requiring that some units be reserved for low- and moderate-income residents and that he accept tenants on Section 8 assistance.

In all likelihood, these rules would not have made Hidden Cove predominantly subsidized, if for no other reason than that Section 8 funds are in short supply.

Also, the developer's contract included screening of tenants, a requirement that they be employed and annual inspections.

Nonetheless, residents' minds were closed. Indeed, the east side has a concentration of subsidized housing; federal oversight of Section 8 properties over the years has left much to be desired.

It's unlikely Hidden Cove will be bought by someone who could afford a market-rate renovation. Other developers probably would need federal incentives, too. Perhaps next time, eastern Baltimore County residents will be more open to the possibilities for this important property.

Pub Date: 3/30/98

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