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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Enterprise—The Legacy that Jim Rouse left us

When you think of Jim Rouse we naturally think of a shopping mall developer and of course of the developer of Columbia.  But to truly know the man and his values you have to learn about the Enterprise Community Partners, Inc and their work for affordable housing around the country.  It is not surprising that Rouse didn’t see his work completed with the development of Columbia and it being the “New America.”  He realized that what was happening to our urban areas was creating significant social ills that would take a terrible toll on many of our low-income citizens.  Drug addiction, crime and the breakup of the family structure was leaving many of our urban areas a “battle zone.”  He was most familiar with this in his hometown of Baltimore.

While recognizing that the decline of cities was a multi-faceted problem he decided to use his knowledge of housing and the financing of housing to address this area of the problem. However he wasn’t naïve enough to think that housing alone would be sufficient to have the impact he wanted and strongly supported the development of supportive housing that addressed the additional needs of low income persons.

How does Enterprise do it?  Finance and develop affordable housing by using the financial tools of tax credits, grants and loans. What I want to highlight today is one tool individuals can use to support the work of the Enterprise effort to create affordable housing.  The Enterprise Community Impact Note is a way that individuals can participate in the housing projects of Enterprise. Yesterday I visited one project in Baltimore that has this as one source of funding.

Miller’s Court, pictured above, is an Enterprise project that combines affordable housing for teachers in Baltimore with commercial space for educational non-profits like Teach for America.  The project was developed using the old Baltimore Can Company building that had been vacant for many years.  The rehab kept much of the original exterior and historical character but completely renovated the interior with hardwood floors, brick walls, high ceilings and new windows.  Additionally there is an exercise room, lounge areas and a privately run café.  Parking is securely provided at no cost.  Rents for the 1 and 2 bedroom apartments start around $750 for teachers and is completely rented. Most residents are young teachers with an average age of around 24.

This project had me thinking about whether Howard County needs something like this for its teachers.  The high cost of rental housing in the County is a stretch for most young teachers.  With rents in Howard County for one-bedroom apartments in the $1100 to $1200 range and family sized rentals in the $1500 to $2000 range, affordable housing targeted for public sector employees and service workers of local businesses could be a step in the right direction. 

We do have one successful development of mixed affordable rental and commercial space in the Orchard Development’s project on Route 1 in North Laurel called Patuxent Square. So maybe as the Route 1 corridor gets developed in the next few years Enterprise will be interested in looking at its home county for developing more affordable housing choices.  Something along the lines of a “Rouse House?”

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Howard County does not need a project like this for teachers. Howard's teachers are unionized, well educated and have secure jobs that pay them well. If they can't afford to live by themselves right away, perhaps they should get a roommate like the rest of us did when we were just starting out. This goes not only for teachers, but for all other productive members of the workforce as well.

The 2-3% interest paid on this community impact note is so low (especially for the level of risk), it's really more of a charitable contribution than a financial investment. In fact, the interest earned is probably less than inflation. With all the problems in the world like AIDS, cancer, climate change, etc. it almost seems silly that someone would donate money to save a freshly minted teacher the hassle of looking for a room mate.

But hey, all the power to the Enterprise Foundation if they can find people who want to donate to this fund.

duanestclair said...

While I don't disagree that Howard County teachers are underpaid in comparison to teachers in other parts of the state or country I do feel that they are underpaid in relationship to the value they bring to our community. To provide them with affordable housing is not an unreasonable way of recognizing that we value what they do for our children and community.

However I do not understand you reasoning on the Financial Impact Notes. I am not sure where you get that the interest paid is low in comparison to other CD options. I looked today and M&T is paying .85% for a 24 month CD. 2-3% is much better than that for an investment. As to the risk no investor has lost any money on the Impact Notes. You can't say that about investing in the stock market or real estate.