Howard County Executive Calvin Ball promoted a program Tuesday that will provide rental subsidies in downtown Columbia for families of limited financial means.
The Live Where You Work program will give rental subsidies to Howard County General Hospital employees who qualify as living in low- and moderate-income families. The subsidies will be given for a maximum of three years and are designed so recipients will not spend more than 30% of their income on rent. The subsidies, paid for by the hospital and the Columbia Downtown Housing Corp., will be paid directly to eligible landlords in downtown Columbia.
Under the 2016 developer rights agreement, Howard Research and Development, which is an affiliate of the Rouse Company, is required to provide a minimum of nearly $7.8 million to the Columbia Downtown Housing Corp. to support home ownership and the program. The hospital has set aside $30,000 in its current budget for the initiative and received a $10,000 grant from Wells Fargo, said David Nitkin, a spokesman for the hospital.
The hospital “will begin transferring money once participants are selected in the next two months, and we learn what apartments they select,” he said in an email. Nitkin said the hospital estimates there will be five participants in the first year of the program.
Howard County General Hospital is the first business in the program and employees can attend county-sponsored home-ownership seminars to prepare them for permanent housing, a news release said.
The housing corporation plans to seek other businesses for the program.
Pat Sylvester, chair of the Columbia Downtown Housing Corp. board of directors, said in a statement the program “will provide a variety of benefits, including environmental benefits from reduced commuting to reduced stress for the caregivers in our community."
The CDHC’s formation was approved by the County Council in 2012, and it serves as a nonprofit watchdog with the purpose to make affordable housing available to low- and moderate-income people.
The CDHC’s program will "help us create the full spectrum of affordability as we continue to ensure downtown Columbia lives up to our collective vision. This program is a tremendous example of what we can accomplish when we work together to dream and discover new solutions to community challenges,” Ball said in a statement.
The initiative, formalized in a 2016 developer rights agreement, gives 83 affordable units split between home ownership and the program.
The developer rights agreement also stipulates 900 affordable housing units be available in downtown Columbia. The Howard County Council voted to approve the agreement under former County Executive Allan Kittleman.
In February 2010, the County Council voted to approve the a long-term plan for downtown Columbia to become the “urban center” of Howard. The plan, which is largely being carried out by the HRD, includes new development with 5,500 dwellings, 640 hotel rooms, 4.3 million square feet of office space and 1.25 million square feet of retail use, according to county records.