Friday, April 28, 2006

Pull the plug...

…on the affordable housing bill. It’s so jumbled and toothless and probably-ineffective at this point, that there’s nothing left to do but scrap it. Start over, and this time expand the focus. Housing is perhaps the most essential element of a community. Trying to address the housing situation in a vacuum – as this bill would do – is a sure way to accomplish very little.

A Howard County Council bill designed to boost affordable housing likely will drop references to a proposed "middle-income" group of families earning up to $90,000 a year while referring only to low-income eligibility.

Despite a seeming consensus on that issue, a scheduled Monday night vote on two housing bills probably will be delayed one month, council members said, so they can further consider the complex topic. The second housing bill would allow an extra 100 moderate-income units a year in the eastern county, which drew no objections.

…The primary housing bill sought to define a new middle-income category of families, but not create a program to help them buy homes. That would come later, county officials said, perhaps when the final plan for redeveloping downtown Columbia is completed.
Hoping for a program later is probably not the best way to go about this. In general, this bill is probably not the best way to go about this either.

Keep this in mind:
Including higher-income families in housing programs is designed to deal with the situation created by soaring home prices over the past five years. Advocates say a family with an income of $84,000 a year is able to qualify for a mortgage of $245,000, but that includes only 5 percent of county homes for sale.
Median income in Howard County is around $84,000. So, essentially, half the population is vying for 5 percent of the housing. And you’re telling me a couple hundred affordable units a year is going to make an impact?

Let’s forget what we’ve done and start from the beginning.

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