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One of the issues that comes into play when trying to figure out how to get more affordable housing for Carroll County’s young families or seniors is agreeing on a definition. Some hear “affordable housing” and immediately think low-income, Section 8 housing. So we’re glad to hear the new community group being created to discuss housing issues and advise the Board of County Commissioners understands that.

“We always hear about ‘affordable housing’ or ‘workforce housing,’ ” Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, who will serve as liaison to the group, told us. “We need a good working definition of affordable and workforce housing for Carroll County. What does it mean, how can we achieve it? That’s what I am looking for as a starting product from the committee.”

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We like Bryan Lyburn’s definition. The executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Carroll County, who got the ball rolling for this housing group, told us: “For me, it’s one job, one salary, equals one home. If you get a job doing something in our community, you should be able to afford housing with that income and we should have it for you. If you make a million dollars a year, we need to have a $4 million house for you, but if you make $13 an hour, we need to have a house for you, too.”

Indeed. It is shocking that so many of the law enforcement officers who protect the schools, the streets, the businesses, the people of Carroll County live elsewhere. For example, according to Lyburn and confirmed by Sheriff Jim DeWees, out of 273 individuals working for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, 43.5% of them live outside of Carroll County with 101 of them commuting from Pennsylvania. Nothing can be done locally about Pennsylvania being a more retirement-friendly state than Maryland, but those not nearing retirement age should be able to live where they work. Ditto for teachers. And health care workers.

Lyburn hopes to get all the stakeholders involved in housing in Carroll together early next year.

“This advisory work group can bring people together, from for-profit, nonprofit, developers, builders, real estate agents, social services, everybody, and help provide some guidance to the county around housing,” Lyburn told us. “Hopefully we will come off that summit with some direction and a leadership team and start work in 2020.”

The group intends to look at all aspects of housing, including affordable apartments to rent for young people first entering the workforce, as well as retired seniors with fixed incomes between $12,000 and $20,000 per year.

“A salary of 30-couple — you shouldn’t spend more than third of your income on housing, so $10,000 a year,” he said. “You live around here, what’s a $1,000 a month rental look like? You can get a one-bedroom. If you look around you might find something cool. They are hard to find, that’s the trick. There’s just not enough of it.”

Frazier has been talking about the importance of affordable housing in Carroll since at least the state of the county address in 2017 and as recently as an October commissioners meeting when he argued for the county to waive impact fees for a proposed apartment building in Westminster. He said that day the only “affordable housing” he could think of in Carroll County were homes built by Habitat for Humanity.

“One of my main things is to keep the young people of Carroll County in Carroll County," Frazier told us. “My daughter, her and her fiance, they purchased a house in Littlestown [Pennsylvania]. Why? Because they could get a single-family home for a cheaper price than they can get a townhouse in Carroll County.”

We’re not sure what this group can do to change that, but getting the right people together to talk about affordable housing in Carroll is worthwhile. Defining it is the first step.

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