ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball released the completed Housing Opportunities Master Plan (HOMP) and announced new affordable housing initiatives for the County. Ball included $5 million towards the establishment of a Housing Opportunities Trust Fund in his proposed FY 2022 operating budget to fund various HOMP initiatives, which are all aligned with the HOMP. Photos can be found here.
Howard County is experiencing a very high demand for housing that outpaces the supply of available housing, which disproportionately impacts lower income households. Currently, just 9 percent of housing in Howard County is affordable to households making less than 60 percent of area median income, or approximately $70,000 per year for a family of four. In addition, most for-sale housing in Howard County is not available to households making less than 120 percent of area median income, or approximately $145,000 per year.
It is so critical that we expand opportunities for homeownership and help more families realize their American dream. We know that living in a diverse community with a full spectrum of housing affordability and opportunity benefits all of us, and a commitment to that full spectrum of housing opportunities will help us build a county that reflects our values for current and future generations. Today, we’re thrilled to unveil the completed Housing Opportunities Master Plan, and the next big steps we’re taking to make sure that our community is accessible and affordable for more people who want to call Howard County home.
Since its creation in October 2019, the Housing Opportunities Task Force conducted 22 meetings with public input, hosted five community meetings, three environmental justice outreach discussions, and conducted two surveys that yielded 2,600 responses from the public.
The Housing Opportunities Master Plan or H.O.M.P. identifies three overarching strategies Howard County can employ to improve housing opportunities, including:
- Revising land use, planning, and zoning regulations to improve the availability, accessibility, affordability, and diversity of housing;
- Supporting housing stability through the improvement of existing policies and programs and the creation of new ones; AND
- Addressing both housing and infrastructure needs in Howard County to ensure that neither form of demand eclipses the other.
“The pandemic forces us to confront the realities of homelessness in our communities. I am proud to partner with Howard County and the members of the Howard County legislative delegation on affordable housing options for all, especially the most vulnerable among us,” said Congressman Kweisi Mfume.
“Affordable housing is a cornerstone of an equitable and fair community,” said Maryland Senator Guy Guzzone. “The State Delegation is committed to supporting projects like Patuxent Commons and bringing more similar opportunities to Howard County.”
“There are so many that depend on affordable housing to be able to come here to Howard County, and we want folks who work here, play here and serve our residents to also have the opportunity to live here, so this plan is incredibly important,” said Maryland Senator Clarence Lam. “This pandemic has shown how important housing is, many people have struggled to retain housing, but we also want to make and expand housing opportunities as well.”
“This is a report about our values as a community and asking ourselves what kind of community we want to be,” said Maryland Delegate Jessica Feldmark. “We want to be an inclusive and accessible community. Now the hard work is getting there, and that’s why I’m so thankful to the task force for the hard work put into finding specific recommendations to help us achieve that vision. A project like Patuxent Commons really embodies that vision, to have diversity of all ages, income levels, and abilities living together in a supportive community that enhances quality of life for everyone, that is really a great illustration of what we can do.”
“In April 2021, the median home sale in Howard County was $500,000, and the median rent was over $1,700. For so many families, that means living in Howard County is simply out of reach,” said Councilwoman Christiana Rigby. “Our housing policies have significant impacts on the future of our community, and I am thrilled that this Master Plan lays out a strong framework for more equitable, inclusive, and welcoming housing opportunities in Howard County.”
The Housing Opportunities Trust Fund in Ball’s proposed budget is a critical tool to carry out the recommendations from the HOMP, and will allow for the investment in four key areas:
- Improving home ownership opportunities
- Increase funding to support prospective homebuyers through the Settlement Down payment Loan Program.
- Provide funding to facilitate the award of all new units and resales for Moderate Income Housing Units (MIHU).
- Investments in starting new homebuyer education classes and expanding existing classes will improve residents’ access to education, provide support to existing homeowners, and open the rental unit pipeline.
- Facilitate rental unit conversions to homeownership by providing funding to support outreach and marketing to targeted communities with high rates of renter-occupied home ownership units.
- Providing ongoing and new forms of rental assistance
- With CAREs Act funding, keeping 760 renters in their homes and preventing foreclosure for 17 homeowners.
- Invest in rental subsidies to make more rental units affordable for severely rent burdened seniors and persons with disabilities.
- Providing rehab assistance to help keep people in their homes
- Provide flexible loans and grants to support modifications, rehabilitations, improvements, accessibility, and energy upgrades.
- And supporting developments that serve populations in need
- Such as developments like Patuxent Commons; of its planned 76 total units, 19 will be for persons with disabilities; 30 for seniors; and 27 for families.
“I appreciate the County Executive's commitment to the Housing Opportunities Master Plan and am grateful to the task force members that shared their time and expertise to complete this important initiative,” said Housing and Community Development Director Kelly Cimino. “I look forward to working with the interagency task force advisory group on recommendations in the plan to improve equity and access to housing opportunities for residents of all income levels.”
"At the kickoff meeting for the plan in October 2019, the County Executive said he wanted the Housing Opportunities Master Plan to serve as the model for the country,” said Housing Opportunities Task Force Co-Chair Bill McCormack. “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the task force members and county staff, and input from the community, I can assure him that it will."
“If you are of moderate income and looking to buy a home in Howard County but aren’t quite sure how you will realize the dream, this program is just for you,” said MIHU recipient January Falcone. “If you are thinking about it, you should do it.”