Donation to target lack of affordable housing

Rouse-linked group getting $5 million gift

March 14, 2007|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Sun reporter

Enterprise Community Partners, a Columbia-based nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable housing, is launching an initiative aimed at easing the Baltimore-Washington region's scarcity of homes within reach of working families.

Enterprise, an offspring of Columbia founder James W. Rouse and his wife, Patricia, is scheduled to announce today that it has received a $5 million gift, part of which it will use to start a $100 million Maryland Regional Workforce Housing Fund.

The rest of the gift will be used to finance other efforts to provide more affordable housing in the Atlanta area and nationwide.

The gift comes from J. Ronald Terwilliger, chairman and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Trammell Crow Residential, the nation's leading builder of apartments and condominiums. "I just decided it's time to step up, both financially and personally, to try and make a difference in providing more affordable work force housing," said Terwilliger, who also is vice chairman of Habitat for Humanity International. He said that the lack of financial incentives and restrictive local zoning laws have kept developers from building more affordable housing.

Enterprise executives say they will use $2 million of Terwilliger's gift as "start-up capital" for the Maryland work force housing fund, which will also try to stimulate housing projects in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia.

The fund would provide financing, including low-interest loans for land acquisition and construction, to mixed-income, mixed-use, transit-oriented or other developments that include housing affordable to teachers, police, fire personnel and other middle-class families.

"We want to show creative ways that people can solve this problem," said Bart Harvey, chairman of Enterprise. Harvey said the Maryland work force housing fund is inspired by a similar initiative in California.

Enterprise plans to use $1 million of Terwilliger's gift as seed money for a $30 million fund to help buy land in the Atlanta metropolitan area for affordable housing development. Terwilliger said he has served on the Atlanta mayor's task force on affordable housing.

Some of the developer's gift also would be directed toward Enterprise's "Community Loan Fund," which has lent $158 million nationwide for affordable housing and community development.

Harvey said the nonprofit, formerly known as the Enterprise Foundation, hopes to leverage its $5 million gift with investments from major financial institutions and pension funds.

A leading Baltimore-area affordable housing advocate said the Enterprise initiative ought to help stimulate developers to produce more affordable housing in the region, though much more - including public financing and changes in government policies and zoning - are needed to solve the problem.

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