Grants to help buyers of homes

Md. funds are to aid some awaiting loan OKs

County gets more than $200,000

Relocation study slated for the U.S. 1 corridor

Howard County

December 18, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Howard County will use more than $200,000 in state Community Legacy funds to help future low- and moderate-income county homebuyers and to investigate the relocation needs of residents and businesses in the U.S. 1 corridor.

The local awards, announced this week, are part of a statewide total of nearly $9 million in Community Legacy grants to promote vibrant communities in declining neighborhoods. The program was launched by Gov. Parris N. Glendening in 2001 as part of his Smart Growth strategy.

In Howard, the quasi-governmental housing commission will use a $200,000 grant to guarantee the purchase price of homes for buyers waiting for approvals from state or federal insured loan programs, said Leonard S. Vaughan, the county housing director. Vaughn also is the commission's executive director.

He said that some low- to moderate-income buyers who are eligible for lower interest rates offered by these programs are at a disadvantage because they must make arrangements contingent on approval of the loans. Sellers are more likely to choose someone who can close right away.

"It's just not competitive in the market because of the time factor," Vaughan said. "Sellers are just not taking on contingencies."

With the new program, the commission will guarantee the price of the home or acquire the home until the loan comes through, Vaughan said. Depending on the turnover, he hopes to assist 15 to 24 homeowners a year.

"We'll make the loans to allow people to use the money from state programs," he said.

The Departments of Planning and Zoning, Citizen Services and Housing and Community Development will use a $28,500 grant to conduct a relocation study of the residents and businesses along U.S. 1, said Steve Lafferty, deputy planning director.

The departments recognized that revitalization of the corridor between Interstate 95 and the Anne Arundel County border would displace some residential and commercial tenants as land uses change, Lafferty said.

For example, owners of Aladdin Village mobile home park in Elkridge and Ev-Mar Mobile Village in Savage have submitted applications for zoning changes through the county's comprehensive rezoning process, potentially uprooting more than 250 homes. As the land values increase, others could follow, Vaughan said.

"Within five years, I'm sure there are going to be additional concerns," he said.

Through the study, officials hope to determine the needs and options for displaced residents. One goal is "trying to retain most of those people as Howard County residents," Vaughan said.

Lafferty said the departments, using the information from the study, will develop incentives or strategies to assist some of the businesses along U.S. 1.

"If they provide some services or goods that people need, we want to keep them on the corridor," he said.

Lafferty said he expected the report to be completed by the end of next year or early 2005.

The grants were distributed Tuesday at a festive State House ceremony. Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and Secretary of Housing and Community Development Victor L. Hoskins awarded about 50 boxes wrapped in bright green and red paper to local officials to symbolize what Steele called the "sugar plums" being doled out.

Brian McLaughlin, an assistant state housing secretary, said $30 million worth of requests for the $8.9 million were available. He said the money the state awarded will result in about $90 million in development spending because of matching money from private, federal and local government sources.

In most cases, the state was providing less than half of the money for the project, McLaughlin said.

Vaughan said he expects that the study and the purchase program would require as much as an equal match from other grant programs or administrative money.

Sun staff writer Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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