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Towson leaders react to city buying county homes for public housing

Towson leaders react to city buying county homes for public housing
Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a Republican who plans to introduce legislation requiring advance notice when Baltimore public housing residents are going to move to suburban houses financed with government subsidies in the 2016 General Assembly, joined other officials in questioning why city officials weren't doing more to find houses in stable city neighborhoods. (File photo by Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

Some community leaders in the Towson area are also questioning the wisdom of Baltimore City officials sending public housing residents to live in Baltimore County without alerting the county government. This, after The Sun reported that over the past eight years, the city housing authority spent $19 million to finance the purchase of 46 houses in four surrounding counties — including 30 in Baltimore County — to serve as public housing for Baltimore residents.

"Of course, they should have [alerted county residents]," said Pat France, of Knollwood-Donnybrook, who is active in the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations (GTCCA) and Towson Citizens on Patrol. "The city did what it thought best, but I think they should have told them." "Surprises are not fun, especially when it comes to government."

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France said she personally would have liked to have known.

"It's my county," she said. "That's the way I look at it."

Frank Kaufmann, who represents the GTCCA as a delegate from the Stoneridge community off Fairmount Avenue, also had misgivings.

"I can understand what they're (city officials) trying to do for their people. They need to see change in their environment. But I also know the mindset of the people who would receive these people, and I understand how they feel too. There's no room for backroom surreptition. Is that even a word! Government is supposed to be open."

Kaufmann, 85, said he also thinks keeping it secret hinders county officials such as Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, in doing their jobs.

"I think it hurts Dave's creditability when he's not in the loop," Kaufmann said.

Marks himself has been critical of the city's decision, telling The Sun earlier this month, "It's being done in a subterranean manner."

And he told the Towson Times, "It's a controversial issue. There are people who resent that they work hard trying to make ends meet and here are these people getting (housing) vouchers."

"The problem is, there's no one policing" people who live in public housing, said Mike Ertel, president of the GTCCA. He said some houses are prone to noise and litter and that in 2010, when he ran for the County Council, he spoke with a woman in Hillendale, a first-time homeowner, who told him a house next door to her was "overrun" with tenants and constantly had trash on its front lawn.

Ertel too believes the city should have told the county of its intentions. "They absolutely did it on purpose. Why would they advertise that when they know a percentage of these houses have problems?"

But not everyone was upset.

"People get bent out of shape. I can understand how some people could feel that way," said Paul Hartman, past GTCCA president and current vice president of the Aigburth Manor Association of Towson. But he said he doesn't think notification by the city was necessary for so few public housing residents being placed in the county.

"I think there are more important things to worry about," Hartman said. "If there were 10,000 people moving to Towson, that would be different."

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