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Friday, March 18, 2011

Is Affordable Housing in Howard County an Oxymoron?

One of the realities we all experience in Howard County is the high cost of housing. People moving here from most other places are shocked at the prices of housing. There may have been a time when builders were offering “starter” homes with 1500 square feet but that time has long since past. For many of us it has meant that as our children grew up and moved out of the house they looked to other counties (or even other states) to buy a house or rent. Howard County didn’t offer housing that was affordable for a young person just starting their careers.

For employers not offering high wages the ability to hire County residents is limited. Foreigners on work permits fill many of the low paying jobs. These workers many times share housing to make it affordable.

Information from a recent Community Action Council report indicated that “in Howard County, there are 1,096 Housing Choice Vouchers that are distributed and there are 4,300 families on waiting list to receive Housing Choice Voucher. About 2,578 families are residing in homes that are either subsidized or accept voucher. In total there are 18,592 rental units in Howard County of which 1,480 are subsidized. It is important to note that 540 of the 1,480 are owned or managed by the Housing Commission.”

For County residents making the median income over $100,000 and those receiving housing vouchers affording to live in Howard County is possible but that leaves out a large number of people not in one of these two groups.

So what are some answers to creating more affordable housing? An effort to grant higher zoning density to developers in return for having some of the housing units below market rate is one avenue. Another alternative involves local governments building affordable housing on County owned land at below market rate. This was Howard County’s approach with Guilford Gardens and now being proposed for Hilltop.

I want to pass on some information I received on the Annual Howard County Housing Fair. On April 9th, Over 40 exhibitors and educators alike will be on hand to pass along the “why” and “how” to live in Howard County. Real estate companies, mortgage brokers, housing specialists and county personnel will be in attendance. Everything from the mortgage process, to finding the right community, to the nuts and bolts of the home buying process will be covered.

Here is some more information on the fair:
- <> (General information)
- <> (Exhibitors at the fair)
- <> (Information on Come to Howard County)
The fair is also being held in conjunction with the quarterly Moderate Income Housing Unit (MIHU) Housing Lottery. This program is a Howard County Government program that provides houses (both for sale and rentals) at affordable costs for moderate income families.
More information on the Housing Lottery can be found at:
- <>
- <>


indigo_tide said...

As expensive as it is to buy a home in Howard County, it is also prohibitively expensive to simply rent in Howard County. It's hard to find a 1 bedroom for 1,000 a month, which is not a good amount when you bring home less than 2k a month as it is.

duanestclair said...

Unfortunately most young people in the County rent rooms in a shared living situation. The rents for those rooms are in the 600-700 dollar range.