Housing funds go to city, Arundel

Bonds will be issued to pay for repair of units

$90 million to 5 agencies in Md.

Baltimore, Pr. George's, Montgomery included

Annapolis

November 18, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Five Maryland public housing agencies will issue $90 million in bonds to pay for repairs to nearly 18,000 dilapidated apartments, state and local officials announced yesterday.

The money will be used by authorities in Baltimore City, Annapolis and Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George's counties to make structural repairs, and to install fire sprinklers, air conditioning and other improvements.

The five agencies pooled their financial resources with the state, allowing them to borrow against future federal funding.

The money also will let the agencies make repairs quickly instead of doing them gradually. Doing repairs quickly should keep problems from mushrooming into bigger, more expensive problems later, officials said.

"For every day and delay in maintenance, that may add 10 days in the future," said Victor L. Hoskins, secretary of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

Hoskins and other officials announced the deal at a news conference attended by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"Housing is a priority for our administration," Ehrlich said.

Officials have been working on the deal for two years, but "it was languishing" when the Ehrlich administration took over, Hoskins said.

Housing authorities in Howard County and Easton had been scheduled to participate, but they had to drop out because they hadn't finished all of their paperwork, Hoskins said.

The secretary said the state hopes to include other housing authorities in the future.

Agencies were supposed to receive funding a year ago, but it was delayed because each local agency had to have its finances reviewed by investment firms, Hoskins said. "This was a very difficult deal to do," he said.

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City received the most money: $60 million to rehabilitate 14,000 units.

Other authorities received these amounts: Annapolis, $4 million to repair 1,100 units; Anne Arundel County, $5.1 million for about 1,000 units; Prince George's County, $1.1 million for about 380 units; and Montgomery County, $2.2 million for about 1,500 units.

"This allows us to do a much more comprehensive work project at once," said Clyde Caldwell, acting executive director of Annapolis' housing authority.

About $18 million will be put in reserve accounts or be used to pay for the cost of transactions, officials said.

Despite delays, officials said they were happy. "It's Christmas," said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens.

The deal was especially valuable to smaller authorities that generally do not have enough assets to borrow large sums of money, said Roy Westlund, deputy director of the state Community Development Administration. "This allows [them] to get in there and leverage their funds in a way they usually can't," he said.

Hoskins said the repairs could be life-saving since some of the money will be used to install air conditioning. "If your house is floating at 98 degrees ... there's a problem there," he said.

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