Saturday Mailbox


August 05, 2006

Revive Rochambeau for use as housing

The Rochambeau Apartments have been in the news since 2002, when the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore revealed its purchase of the building ("Rochambeau razing on hold," Aug. 3). At that time, the Archdiocese said it had no plans to tear the building down. But in 2004, the church began exploring that option and, in 2005, it applied for a demolition permit

In June of this year, the mayor approved the demolition permit, not so much on the merits of the case but because of an odd provision in federal law that suggests that religious institutions can largely do what they want with their property ("Rochambeau has to go, mayor says," June 10).

But we believe that one argument for preservation of the Rochambeau has not been stressed enough.

In a city that is increasingly pricing middle-income and young people out of affordable housing, why lose yet another building that could provide just that and, indeed, one in a prime location.

This would be far better for Baltimore than a prayer garden or a visitors' center for the Basilica, which would obviously mostly be used by tourists.

There is enough emphasis on tourism at the Inner Harbor, while many of the city's neighborhoods struggle.

And some new middle-income housing amid all the high-priced condominiums would be a refreshing change

One of the traditional missions of the Catholic Archdiocese has been to tend to the needs of the people, especially those of modest means.

How is it fulfilling that mission by catering instead to the abstract monument of the Basilica, and destroying a building that has housed, and could again house, real and wonderful local people?

Helena Hicks John Maclay Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, a member of the board of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation and a former president of Baltimore Heritage, Inc.

City must maintain its housing options

I agree with the writer of "Baltimore ought to roll out the welcome mat for yuppies" (Opinion

Commentary, July 28) that urban policy expert David Rusk's recent comment that "Baltimore would not be well served by being wall-to-wall yuppie" is both misleading and misguided.

Baltimore's housing costs are still very reasonable when compared to those in surrounding counties and many other regions of the country.

The problem is that affordable housing does not always translate into achievable housing for area families. But the recent recommendations of the city's Task Force on Inclusionary Zoning, while certainly not a cure-all, are a giant first step in addressing locally a growing national issue.

How do I know that this is a nation-wide problem?

After years of working for nonprofit housing groups in Baltimore, I recently took a job in a part of southeastern Connecticut which is deep into an achievable housing crisis it has waited too long to address.

The column notes that there are 1,200-plus home for sale for less than $140,000 in the city of Baltimore.

Congratulations. Here in Norwich, there are two.

But Baltimore does need to maintain ample achievable housing opportunities throughout the city.

And now is the time to get started, lest the city end up in a deep housing crisis that will cost millions to fix, as is the case here in southeast Connecticut.

Jeff Sattler

Norwich, Conn.

The writer is a former director of the Waverly Community Housing Program.

Pennsylvanians pay big bills for growth

In response to a recent letter about Marylanders fleeing to Pennsylvania and causing crowded roads in Northern Baltimore County, we would note that Pennsylvania does not get any benefit from this influx of transplanted Marylanders ("Ways to handle the housing crunch," letters, July 29).

On the contrary, our region's infrastructure was not prepared for all the people who have been moving here to escape the higher cost of housing and taxes in Maryland.

Our roads have never been as good as those of Maryland, and our residents are now bearing the expense of building new schools to accommodate the newcomers and their children.

Our school taxes have escalated to the point that many of the local seniors can no longer afford their homes and many younger families are struggling.

And now that there are strict building restrictions in place in Maryland, the developers are forsaking Maryland and moving into southern York County, taking their profits and moving on to leave the residents to pay for the roads and schools.

Our local municipalities do not have the authority to levy impact fees to pay for these costs. Thus the cost is recovered only through increased property taxes.

So don't blame Pennsylvania for your problems in Maryland.

The people who drive down many of your roads every day are former Marylanders who voted with their feet by moving north.

If Maryland was not such an expensive place to live, perhaps they would have stayed in Maryland instead of causing the problems Pennsylvanians now have to deal with.

Cathy Kilminster Dave Kilminster

Shrewsbury, Pa.

Regulators imperil American dream

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