December 25, 2005

THE ISSUE -- Howard County Executive James N. Robey wants to have "affordable housing" as a part of urbanizing Columbia's Town Center. Between 2,000 and 5,000 living units are expected to be built over the next several decades, including a high-rise that will feature prices from $500,000 to more than $1 million per unit. What do you feel is the right mix of housing stock?

Adequate supply of housing is a must

Clearly the county needs adequate provision of "affordable housing" for those who wish to be homeowners. If a policeman, fireman, EMT or teacher cannot afford it, then it is an oxymoron. Although I do not agree with some jurisdictions' mandate for socially engineered mixing of affordable and high-end in the same cul-de-sac, to be a complete community and attract the very best of all professions, we must ensure adequate quantity and quality, market-driven housing is available in desirable locales. Town Center is no exception.

In fact, I see it as critically important that high-end properties be available, as well, to attract those who can afford it and wish to live in an urbanized setting.

Adequate housing isn't enough. We cannot let the quality of life, driven by good schools, protection and infrastructure, be an afterthought. Those making millions on the development and construction must be made to contribute to the defraying of these costs in a significant way.

Curt Rasmussen


Town Center needs affordable housing

Town Center must have substantial affordable housing. Otherwise the heart of Columbia will be a plutocracy, contradicting Jim Rouse's vision of an inclusive community. [General Growth Properties] ... can afford to provide at least 10 percent moderate- and 10 percent middle-income housing. This is because GGP's profit will be enormous; it bought the land cheaply in the 1960s and now may be allowed a massive increase in density, as high as 5,000 units under the pending master plan instead of the 1,800 it requested or the 100 allowed by current zoning regulations.

Bridget Mugane

Howard County Citizens Association


Affordable housing should stay that way[James] Rouse was visionary and practical when he planned Columbia, knowing it takes all types of employment and all levels of skill and income to build and support a cohesive community. Affordable housing near every town center, from apartments to townhouses to modular homes, mixed in with standard single-family homes, was one of the basic tenets of the design, so people could live near where they worked and vice versa.

The accomplishment of that objective has eroded with skyrocketing housing costs; I believe it is essential when adding new housing units downtown, with ready access to transit and other services, to reserve at least 15 to 20 percent of all units for affordable housing. Units could be smaller, less luxurious, but they should be integrated with all other units, with limits on resale inflation (as part of the initial contract) to ensure that units remain affordable to future buyers.

School teachers, police officers, service workers and other valued contributors to "our" way of living should be able to afford to live among "us."

Deborah Matherly


We want your opinions


Howard County Executive James N. Robey is being urged to veto a bill sponsored by east Columbia Councilman David A. Rakes that would ban smoking in new bars and restaurants but allow it in places where it now exists, until a change of ownership. The council has tabled Robey's bill, which would ban smoking completely in public places and is scheduled to vote on Rakes' bill Jan. 3.

If the County Council approves Rakes' bill, should Robey veto it?


Send e-mail responses by tomorrow to howard.speakout@baltsun.com. A selection of responses will be published Sunday. Please keep your responses short and include your name, address and telephone number. Addresses and phone numbers will not be published.

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