Plan targets gaps in housing

Developers would set aside units for people of low, moderate income

February 11, 2003|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Faced with a growing gap between the rich and poor, Annapolis officials introduced a plan last night to help more low- and moderate-income residents buy or rent homes.

The proposal, sponsored by Mayor Ellen O. Moyer and Alderwomen Classie Gillis Hoyle and Cynthia Carter, would require developers to set aside units to be rented or sold as "moderately priced" units or pay into a fund that would give qualifying residents homebuying or rental assistance. In exchange, developers could build higher-density projects.

Moyer said she hopes the program, if passed, will help increase home ownership in the city, which she said is low compared to the national average.

"City housing is expensive, and this provides an opportunity for people who work in the city to live closer to where they work," she said.

Moyer added that city employees are among those meant to benefit from the legislation.

Hoyle said she hoped the program would be particularly helpful in moving people out of public housing and into their own homes. Annapolis has the highest number of public housing residents per capita in the state.

"There are a large number in public housing paying as much in rent as people pay in mortgage payments," Hoyle said. "We've wanted for a long time to have some sort of housing available for low-income citizens, and I think this is the beginning."

The legislation, modeled after a Queen Anne's County program, targets those who make too much to qualify for most low-income housing assistance programs but still find it difficult to afford to live in Annapolis, said senior city planner Jacqueline Rouse.

Citywide, assessments on owner-occupied property increased an average of about 40 percent during the past three years.

Under the plan, developers of 10 units or more would be required to set aside 10 percent as "moderately priced dwelling units."

Alternatively, developers could pay 1 percent of the total market value of the project into a Housing Assistance Trust Fund - or donate land of the same value to the city.

Developers would then be given a "density bonus" of 10 percent above the maximum allowed by zoning laws.

Hoyle said the idea for the program evolved out of discussions with the developer of an apartment project planned for the former Johnson Lumber Co. site on West Street, which agreed to pay into a city housing assistance fund if it were created.

Charles F. Delavan, attorney for Union Realty Partners, said that while his client agreed to the fee, he wasn't sure how the legislation would be received by the development community.

"It's a laudable goal and something that certainly I personally am sympathetic to, and I am certain that most developers would be sensitive to," Delavan said, adding that he had not seen the specifics of the plan. "Making developers pay for it will be a little more difficult."

Under the plan, people with household incomes equal to or below the median income of the Baltimore metropolitan area would qualify. Last year, the median family income in the Baltimore area was $66,400, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the Baltimore area last year, HUD's fair market rent was $691 for a one-bedroom apartment, $844 for two bedrooms and $1,117 for three bedrooms.

Moyer said specifics on how the program would be administered, including how much would be given out to people, were being determined.

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