ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced the expansion of the Live Where You Work (LWYW) program, committing $500,000 in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding allowing an additional 20 workers to have access to affordable housing. This critical public-private partnership with the Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation (CDHC) provides needed rental subsides for low- and moderate-income families to live in Downtown Columbia and is designed so recipients will not spend more than 30% of their income on rent. Photos of the event can be found here.
The Residences at Vantage Point (RVP), a retirement community, is the latest employer to join the Live Where You Work program, allowing selected employees to qualify for rental subsidies for up to three years and take part in County-sponsored home ownership seminars to prepare them for permanent housing options. To be eligible for the program, an employee’s income may not exceed 60 percent of the Howard County area median income, which is approximately $72,000 a year.
The current participants in our Live Where You Work program are essential health care heroes, and we are thrilled they are reaping the benefits at this most important time. Now is the time to take this program to the next level. We know that a community is healthier and happier when its members live and work close by. It’s better for our environment, for their families and for the economy.
The program originally launched in 2019 with Howard County General Hospital as the flagship employer. The CDHC shared the cost of rental assistance with employers to enable low-income workers to live near their work, saving on transportation and housing costs.
Due to fiscal constraints of the pandemic, businesses found it difficult to take advantage of the program, which could be a significant employee benefit to help with hiring and retention. Under the expansion, the ARP funding will be used to cover the costs of the employer’s subsidy.
Ball added, “As Downtown Columbia continues its recovery from the COVID-19 downturn, our government will do all it can to help businesses and residents. We want our downtown businesses and workforce to know – this program is for you.”
County Executive Ball released an updated Housing Opportunities Master Plan last year, the first in nearly a decade. The report found that just 9% of housing in Howard County is affordable to households making less than $72,000 a year; and most for-sale housing in Howard County is not available to households making less $145,000 per year.
“LWYW is an innovative public-private partnership that supports both employers and employees who are critical to our community’s vitality and strength,” said CDHC Chair Pat Sylvester. “CDHC is proud to be a creator and funder of LWYW and will continue to work proactively with its partners to implement the Downtown Affordable Housing Plan.”
“Residences at Vantage Point is pleased to support the innovative Live Where You Work program,” said Residences at Vantage Point Executive Director Heather Funk. “It helps us recruit and keep excellent employees who find it more affordable and better for their families if they live close to their jobs.”
“Living in this area has allowed me easier access to work and other great opportunities in the community,” said RVP employee and program participant Andrea Randall. “The program has allowed me to reestablish myself without the fear of rising housing prices and it has made a huge difference in my life”
"We have been providing administrative support for the LWYW program for 3 years and are excited to support this program expansion to help even more employees rent apartments at affordable prices so they can live and work in downtown Columbia," said Department of Housing and Community Development Director Kelly Cimino.
Employers interested in participating in the Live Where You Work program should contact the Department of Housing and Community Development at 410-313-6316 for more information.