Why are long-time Columbia residents outraged by the county's plan to buy the Verona Apartments and increase the amount of low-income housing surrounding the Oakland Mills Village Center? I can explain it: 60 percent.
That's how many children at Stevens Forest Elementary School currently receive free or reduced-price lunches. The average for the entire county is only 20 percent. Next door in Talbot Springs, 47 percent of the children receive free or reduced-price lunches and 22 percent have limited English proficiency.
While our community has always been proud of its economic diversity, the trend under the Ulman administration is alarming. In 2009, 42 percent of Stevens Forest children received free or reduced meals. Now it is 60 percent. What will happen if the county, as planned, doubles the number of subsidized units in the Verona?
This puts an unfair burden on the school's excellent teachers and is a disservice to the community. Affordable housing is a good thing, but not when it's concentrated in just a few neighborhoods.
An ad-hoc committee has formed to stop this plan. We are inviting the community to attend a public meeting on Nov. 19 to air their views. The purchase of the Verona may be a done deal, but the amount of subsidized housing is not.