"New millenials who would like to come and invest in our community are looking at these homes and that rehabilitation loan fund, and by expanding that vision we encourage new, young families to come and be that next generation of pioneers embarking on the next phase of Columbia," he said.

Council member Greg Fox, a Republican who represents the western county, said the bill could help revitalize communities throughout Howard.

"Encouraging redevelopment in all areas, while limiting the stresses that the current Housing Commission's policies might place on a community, is important to the stability of the [county] as a whole," Fox said in a statement.

Housing department and commission officials were more reluctant to discuss the bill.

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According to Housing Commissioner Ian Kennedy, the commission was deciding whether to take a position on the legislation, and commissioners couldn't comment until then.

Though he declined to discuss the bill in detail, Housing Director Tom Carbo made the following statement: "The goal of poverty deconcentration is important, and we are working closely with Chairman Ball and members of the Council so that Howard County's housing policies can help meet that objective. The legislation contains viable concepts that have the potential to move us forward."

Cynthia Marshall, who as lead organizer of community advocacy group People Acting Together in Howard has worked on promoting affordable housing locally and statewide, said housing was one of the top concerns for community members.

"We know that in order to have a community that is just, we need affordable housing," she said. "If people help build and grow a community all their lives, they should be able to live there."

The council will have a public hearing on the housing bill, and other pending legislation, on May 19.