A 76-unit affordable housing project in Columbia that will support people living with disabilities has been unanimously approved by the Howard County Council.
Developed by Mission First Housing Group, the project calls for a 76-unit affordable apartment complex on a wooded lot at the northeast corner of Cedar Lane and Freetown Road in Hickory Ridge in Columbia. Nineteen of the units would be set aside for people living with disabilities.
The complex, dubbed Patuxent Commons, was officially approved during a County Council meeting April 4 following approval of a special financial agreement and growth ordinance waiver.
The council approved a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement, a mechanism used by local governments and developers to allow projects to be approved when they otherwise may not be able to based on costs. The agreements provide the developer with financial relief in the form of waived local property taxes for a specified period.
The project also qualifies for a special affordable housing exemption from the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The APFO is an ordinance designed to direct growth to areas where adequate infrastructure, such as roads and schools, exists or will exist.
“We were gratified and encouraged by the unanimous show of support by the council,” said Mark Dunham, a consultant for the Howard County Autism Society. “The vote was a victory, not only for Patuxent Commons but for the cause of inclusive, affordable housing in Howard County and beyond.”
Construction is expected to begin early next year and be completed and accepting residents in 2024.
During a council legislative session March 21, the project received strong community support from county residents, disability advocates, local housing developers and elected leaders.
Theresa Ballinger, an advocate representing the Howard County Autism Society, urged the council during the meeting to “lead the way” in setting a groundbreaking example to support people living with disabilities.
“We’re asking you to help lead a movement because nothing less than a movement is needed to create real change,” Ballinger said at the session.
The next steps for Patuxent Commons include site construction adjacent to the Hickory Ridge Village Center. The developer is working with the Howard County Autism Society to create the complex.
Elizabeth Everhart, senior director for Mission First Housing Group, is thrilled by the project’s unanimous approval.
“We believe Patuxent Commons could be a model for providing housing for adults with disabilities,” Everhart said. “The council took the words of Theresa Ballinger to heart and chose to lead the way by providing the necessary approvals for the project to proceed,” Everhart said. “We have been heartened by the community support for the project, and I think it really aligns with the vision of Columbia as an inclusive community.”
Dunham said adults with disabilities, older adults and families will benefit from the council’s belief in the project’s innovative concept.
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“Our advocates made a persuasive case that this is exactly the kind of housing that belongs in Howard County and the council agreed,” Dunham said. “We’re excited to move forward with the architectural and program design necessary to ensure it achieves its full potential.”
Council member Christiana Rigby, a Democrat who represents Columbia in District 3, called the Patuxent Commons approval “wonderful” and said she hopes it sends a strong message of support for inclusive housing across the country.
“I think it will benefit the community in many ways,” Rigby said. “One is the actual units themselves that will help toward having housing options available for people with disabilities, as well as seniors all in a walkable location. The other important piece is having a community-created solution that is going to be built and realized [that] goes into inspiring more people to come together and solve problems in their own community.”