New housing in Westport

Our view: Planned affordable housing shows city commitment

August 05, 2008

When Mayor Sheila Dixon took office, she acknowledged the need for more affordable housing for police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers and other middle-class workers. City efforts to include affordable housing in a waterfront residential-commercial complex proposed for Westport show Mrs. Dixon is serious about addressing the need. Are 200 units enough? No, but City Hall's commitment on the Westport project is a reasonable attempt to marry the need with a new city law that requires developers who receive public assistance to set aside some units as affordable housing.

The requirement under the inclusionary housing law is 20 percent of a project that receives city funding. As reported by The Sun's John Fritze this week, the Turner Development Group will receive about $90 million in city aid to offset the cost of infrastructure for its $1.4 billion residential-retail development on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco in Westport. As part of the deal, the city also will subsidize the cost of building 200 units of affordable housing on the site.

While housing advocates applaud the administration's commitment, they say the affordable-housing component falls short of what the new law would require. City officials say the project isn't subject to the law.

This difference of opinion shouldn't jeopardize the inclusion of affordable housing in the project. At the same time, city officials should explain the sizable public investment in the project and say how much they expect it to generate in new taxes and revenue for Baltimore.

Improving the Westport waterfront will draw new residents to the community and improve the neighborhood for those living there now.

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