The first housing development in the Lansdowne in many years has an unusual feature of providing its tenants with an opportunity to own their homes after 15 years.
But area residents voiced the usual concerns about increased traffic, overcrowded schools and an accelerated decline in the value of their community as a result of that development during Wednesday evening's community input meeting at the Lansdowne Library.
The meeting was hosted by representatives from Enterprise Homes and Pax-Edwards, co-developers of Hollins Station, a project that will add 54 two- and three-story townhouses on 6 acres of Hollins Ferry Road, less than a mile from the Baltimore Beltway exit at Hollins Ferry.
More than 40 area residents attended the evening meeting, with many voicing concerns that tenants for the new development would receive vouchers from the federal government to help pay their rent, popularly known as Section 8.
Ned Howe, a representative from Enterprise Housing, explained that much of the financing for Hollins Station comes from tax credits and that tenants would still be responsible for paying their rent. They would also have to pass a screening process that includes a criminal background check, credit check and a minimum income level.
"Section 8 is a subsidy provided by the government to the landlord so the tenant only has to pay up to 30 percent of their income in rent and the government picks up the rest," he said.
He said tax credits for Hollins Station are paid up front to the developer, reducing the amount of money the developer has to finance in order to build the project.
"That enables the rent to be significantly lower," he said.
Rent will range from $850 to $1,050, said Jeff Paxson of Pax-Edwards.
Howe said residents who remain for 15 years will be able to buy their units, with a small percentage of their rent during those 15 years being set aside in an escrow account to help with closing costs when they buy.
"We're trying to attract homeowners," he said, noting membership in a residents association and community service will be required of tenants.
Under the rules of the tax credits, the units cannot be sold for the first 15 years and Enterprise will remain involved until all the units are sold, Howe said.
The development will have a full-time manager on site and a full-time employee responsible for maintenance of the grounds, he said.
According to an earlier presentation to the community, the two-story townhouses will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, while the three-story models will have an additional bedroom, half-bath and garage.
"What we are building here is a market-rate townhouse that you would have to sell at $250,000 to $300,000 in another area to support the costs that go into them," Howe said.
He said that in order to receive the tax credits for providing affordable housing, the project's target tenants are households making 60 percent of the Area Median Income. For a family of four, for example, that would mean about $55,000, he said.
The impact of adding more than 100 more students to the area's schools worried several residents.
According to the Baltimore County Public Schools website, however, Riverview Elementary School's enrollment is 75 students under its capacity. Lansdowne Middle School has an enrollment of 674 and a capacity of 954, according to the website, and Lansdowne High School has an enrollment of 1,218 and a capacity of 1,420.
Many at the 2-hour meeting worried about the traffic jams on Hollins Ferry Road and Kessler Road, especially when Riverview Elementary students were arriving in the morning and departing in the afternoon.
They asked if the developers could aid their efforts in making Ryerson Circle a one-way street to help traffic flow in the area.
Howe said the developers are widening Hollins Ferry Road in the area to help the traffic flow. He said the developers are also having sidewalks installed along the project's frontage in the 4300 block of Hollins Ferry and shelters will be installed at the bus stops in the area.
"I don't have a problem with the developers," said Harold Goodman, a resident of Ryerson Circle for 37 years, after the meeting. "I have a problem with what the development may bring."