Well, my post from yesterday stirred some passions. And most of those comments happened on my Facebook page, not on this page. So I'm going to copy some of the best comments and put them here.
First, from my Oakland Mills neighbor, and HoCo Housing Commission member, Ian Kennedy:
"A few things about the deal, which as a housing commissioner I get to vote on prior to the Council's consideration of it:
1. The existing affordable housing requirement for downtown is dollars not doorknobs. Which is to say there would likely be no affordable units in downtown if we don't make a change. Some argued for a unit requirement prior to passage of the master plan (eg MIHU), but the housing fund won favor.
2. The current proposal calls for the creation of around 900 units, which would represent just over 14% of units built from the master plan (assuming full build out of the 5,500 market rate units). There are legitimate questions about whether all these units can be built, but again we've shifted the focus back to units not dollars.
No ones arguing that this is a perfect deal, but the original affordable housing component of the master plan was bad and this is an attempt to fix it. This isn't about whether HHC is good or evil or whatever, but making it about them and not the deal itself certainly isn't going to help people understand what's going on.
Finally, the link between this deal and future affordable housing in 21045 is nonexistent and creating one, as you've done, is borderline fear-mongering. If any of the potential 900 units envisioned in this proposal don't get built in downtown, they won't be shifted to our neighborhood. They just won't get built. You could easily make a case that given this deal's reliance on LIHTC and vouchers, it would decrease the likelihood of new affordable housing being built elsewhere, 21045 or otherwise.
By all means, trash the deal if you like. I'm honestly still not sure how I'll vote on it. But don't bring Oakland Mills into it."
OK then. And second, from Compass Guy himself, Bill Santos:
"There are a lot of moving parts to this proposal, and I am struggling to nail some of this down. Please pardon some restatement here such that I know we are looking at the same thing. From the article in the Baltimore Sun/Columbia Flier, I figure the following.
For the most part, we are still looking at 5500 units in downtown Columbia. Approved downtown housing is exempted. My recollection is that number about 800 units (as a side note, the units at Patuxent Square are not part of the discussion either). That leaves us with a net number of approximately 4300 units. Is that the right number?
Assuming so, the number of affordable housing units can be calculated. The article states the following: "3% to 5% of residential units in all future Howard Hughes projects..." I could see that interpreted that each project would have 3-5% affordable housing. I could also see that as meaning that 3-5% of the total will be affordable housing. Given that the aggregate number would be most conservative (meaning, least amount of units), that would yield between 129-215 units for those making 0-50% of median income, and the same number for those making 50-80% of median income. For those scoring at home, that is 258-430 units in total.
With respect to the "six new mixed income projects," in order to meet a stated goal of nearly 1000 new affordable units in downtown Columbia, that means these units would be a total 570-742 units. In addition, these units would be constructed as "mixed income" units, which means that the actual building will house more than affordable units. Based on the wording in this part of the article, it is worth asking the question, "Would these six sites be in addition to the 5500 units designated for downtown Columbia?"
In particular, if the site for one of the buildings is to be constructed on the site of a temporary fire house, it may be very, very close to MPP.
Lastly, the article states that the plan would "eliminate fees that developers now pay for each residential unit they develop in downtown Columbia." That is a huge amount of money - about $32M. It also means that the General Plan needs to be amended. That should not be taken lightly."
Wow again. This is a lot of thought.
I obtained details of the deal between HoHu and the CDHC. The only places in downtown that HoHu owns where they propose affordable housing (at 50% HoCo median) are the transit center for 60 units, and the temporary fire station site with 90 units. So 150 units on current, HoHu owned property.
Contrast please, with a total of 360 units proposed for county property (Banneker Fire Station, former Flier property, and the Library site) and 100 units at the Toby's site. Last, there is a total of 360 units proposed for future HoHu residential developments.
There you have it. A 970-unit strong oasis of affordable housing in the middle of Columbia. But like some oases, will it be a mirage and simply dissolve?
So let's clear the air on a couple things at this point. As I wrote last night's post, I remembered that group of 50-60 people who stood outside Whole Foods a couple months ago. I'm led to understand that there's momentum towards more affordable housing in Howard County, not less.
And it's under that understanding that I wrote my post yesterday, and specifically, the notion that if there isn't affordable housing in Columbia's downtown, that advocates will push for affordable housing to be elsewhere in Columbia, such as where it already exists. Where did I get that crazy notion? Well, did any of you watch this confirmation? It's from the July 20 legislative hearing of the County Council. One of the new members of the Housing Commission states that he would prefer to put MIHU units closer to where they currently exist. And if you have problems with the other link, try going here and go to about the 22 minute mark. And last, all through this process, from the charrette of damn near 10 years ago now and forward, there has been a push and pull in this little town about where to put affordable housing-- should it be spread out citywide, or placed closer to where it exists. So anyone telling me I just stirred something up to "fearmonger"-- that's not terribly flattering on you.
A point in Ian's comment that I had not considered. Which is that if the desire to build the remaining affordable housing units doesn't exist, that they won't be built. I can agree with that. But again, that's not my understanding as to what affordable housing advocates want.
What do I want? Me, personally? I want affordable housing in downtown, at least 750 units out of 5000 worth (that's 15%), and as to the other 250 units, they can be downtown, or they can be spread about Columbia and Howard County. I think to say "stick some in River Hill" is a little unrealistic. But they can be stuck pretty much wherever else in the town, except in the 21045 villages.
And in the 21045 villages, I think there ought to be a focus on reducing the number of foreclosures and vacant properties in those villages. Recall please my post from last week about this topic.
The original intent I had was to respond to Bill's and Ian's comments within the body of this post, but instead, I think it's good to leave them here. Trying to perform a service here, in which you, the loyal readers, offer their comments and obtain feedback.
I put a ton out there today, folks. If this point doesn't generate a ton of discussion, I don't know what will.
Let's be careful out there.
#ColumbiaMD #hocohousing #hohu #GGP