Affordable housing pushed for seniors Baltimore company building apartments in Ellicott City

September 08, 1998|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

After Gloria Sewell retired a few years ago from her 19-year job as a Howard County courthouse clerk, she was looking forward to a new life.

But these days, the 67-year-old Ellicott City woman spends much of her time worrying about how she will be able to come up with enough money to meet her monthly rent.

"When you add up my rent plus my utilities, it's just too much," said Sewell, who lives in the Normandy Woods apartments in Ellicott City. "I just can't afford to pay so much while living on Social Security."

Over the years, many Howard County senior citizens have increasingly found themselves in a similar situation -- unable to find enough affordable housing in the county that meets their needs.

A Baltimore development firm agrees and has stepped up its effort to build and manage affordable independent living facilities throughout the county.

Shelter Development, which has built five apartment buildings for the elderly in the area -- two in Columbia, two in Laurel and one in Elkridge -- has begun building an 81-unit apartment building in Ellicott City. It is to open in May.

Designed for seniors like Sewell who are living on a moderate income, the apartment building -- which will be named Park View at Ellicott City -- will be open to seniors who are at least age 62 and whose annual income falls between $14,000 and $26,000.

"We are aware that there is a tremendous need for affordable housing for senior citizens in Ellicott City," said Jeffrey K. Hettleman, vice president of Shelter Development.

"There is a large and growing population over the age of 62, many of whose incomes have declined since retirement."

Last year, 22,000 senior citizens, older than age 60, lived in Howard County and, by 2020, the senior population is expected to be 73,500.

With county help, Shelter Development will cut the regular market rate for apartments like these by almost $500.

"Many of these apartments would go for twice as much," said Hettleman, who noted that the monthly rent for most one-bedroom apartments in the building will cost about $440, not including utilities, and about $510 for most two-bedroom apartments.

The county bought the land for the building for $300,000 and is leasing it to Shelter Development for $1 a year. The company also is receiving a property-tax deferral, relieving it of taxes in exchange for a commitment to keep the property affordable and exclusively for senior citizens, said Leonard Vaughn, executive director of the Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development.

"Our main goal is to try to provide senior citizens in Howard County with affordable apartments," said Vaughn.

The four-story L-shaped building, under construction in the 8700 block of Ridge Road, a few miles from the historic district, will have 71 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom apartments. The building will have an elevator and feature several large common areas, including a multipurpose community room, a laundry room, lounge areas, patio and courtyard.

Shelter Development and one of the project's supporters -- St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City -- also will provide services and programming in the apartment building, said the Rev. William Shiflet, senior pastor at St. John's. "We want to be able to reach out to the seniors in our community," he said.

"I am interested in this apartment building," said Sewell, who has been contemplating moving from the Normandy Woods apartments for more than a year, where she pays almost $600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.

"I think it would be nice to live with people you have things in common" with, she said. "Right now, I am the only senior citizen living in my building. It is not a building designed for senior citizens."

Hettleman said the building is likely to appeal to other senior citizens in the area.

"I am looking forward to moving into my own apartment," said Ruth Henderson, 75, who lives in Ellicott City with her son and daughter-in-law and their three children.

"I love my kids, but I need my own space. I miss my own independence," said Henderson, who sold her home two years ago and moved in with her son and his family after her husband died.

A previous proposal for housing the elderly in Ellicott City failed. Three years ago, Derek McDaniels, president of D. A. McDaniels Real Estate Development, proposed to build and manage a 12-unit affordable apartment building near the old post office in historic Ellicott City.

But his plan was rejected after merchants aggressively argued against it.

"It was horrible," said Sewell, recalling a community meeting about the proposed site. "They [merchants] said that if senior citizens lived here, we would get drunk at night and smash out the windows."

But many merchants said that they were opposed to placing an apartment building near shops, and feared loss of business.

McDaniels hasn't called it quits. He is working with the Howard County Housing Department to identify an alternative site in Ellicott City to build additional housing for the elderly.

Seniors say that the apartment building under way on Ridge Road is a step in the right direction.

"Maybe someone is finally looking out for us after all," said Ellicott City resident Velva Howard, 72.

Shelter Development is accepting names to be placed on a waiting list for an apartment at Park View at Ellicott City. Information: 410-962-0595.

Pub Date: 9/08/98

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