Plan calls for cheaper housing

Bill would bring more moderately priced homes

`They can't afford to live here'

Annapolis

April 12, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Moderate-income residents who are unable to afford homes in Annapolis might get a chance if the city council passes legislation tonight requiring developers of new projects to set aside less-pricey houses and apartments.

In a city where the median home price is nearly $245,000, backers of the measure say it could change Annapolis' demographics by attracting more moderate-income residents.

"This could be one of the most important legacies of this council," Alderman Josh Cohen said.

Such agreements are becoming more common in the Baltimore area. Montgomery and Howard counties already have similar laws, and some Anne Arundel County leaders are considering a bill that would require moderate-priced housing in future developments.

The Annapolis proposal would require developers building communities with 10 or more units to set aside homes for those with moderate incomes - defined as a household that makes 80 percent of the median income for the Baltimore area.

New rental developments would have to set aside 6 percent of their homes for moderate-income residents, and developments meant for sale would have to designate 12 percent of their units.

Developers could instead apply to the city's director of planning and zoning to make a contribution to a city-run homeownership plan, which would be used to purchase land or buildings, provide settlement expenses, purchase rental housing for conversion to homeownership, and cover other related costs.

The fee would be 2 percent of the total construction cost. Or developers could donate land, if the city approves.

With the city largely built out, the bill should help some of its lower-income residents, many of whom live in public housing, find permanent homes in the city, said Alderwoman Cynthia Abney Carter, one of the bill's co-sponsors.

"I think if we were able to start [putting] families in areas that could give them more self-esteem, it would be a good thing," she said.

Alderwoman Classie Gillis Hoyle, another of the bill's co-sponsors, said she hoped such homes could attract the city's teachers, firefighters and police officers. "On the salaries we pay those people, they can't afford to live here," she said.

Dallas Lister, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1926, which represents most of the city's nearly 100 firefighters, said they and other city employees support such a bill. He estimated that only five to seven firefighters live in Annapolis.

"We just can't afford it," he said. "We have to travel 40, 50 miles to find homes we can afford."

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