The Department of Planning already has a hunch that Carroll County is short on rental housing, but hopes a new study to be done by a hired consultant will give more information on what government can do about it.

The commissioned study will cover two areas -- the availability of rental housing for all income levels and the need for a Revolving Assistance Loan Fund to help owners improve their property, said Steven Horn, a planner in the department.

The loan fund for rehabilitation is available through the state, but the county must show with the study that it is needed here, Horn said.

No consultant has been hired yet. Horn expects bids to arrive Jan. 7.

Criteria for choosing the consultant will include the price and the swiftness with which the survey can be done, Horn said. However, he said the study couldn't be done before the spring, the earliest time 1990 U.S.

Census figures will be available.

"We want it as soon as possible, but we're aware a study of this scope will take a long time," Horn said.

The Department of Planning and the Bureau of Housing and Community Development both had money set aside in their 1990-1991 budgets for this study, Horn said. The two county departments are putting up $35,000 between them, plus up to $10,000 more from state grants.

Despite a hiring freeze and cost-cutting measures, the county has decided to hire a consultant to do the study because its scope will be so broad, Horn said.

"We just don't have the staff or the time to devote to it," Horn said, adding that larger counties such as Frederick and Baltimore also had to hire consultants to do similar housing studies.

Over the spring and summer, a task force on affordable housing, appointed by the County Commissioners, drew up a list of 63 recommendations the county and municipalities should act on.

The commissioners implemented some requests, such as creating a housing authority and grant-writing position and developing a seminar for landlords.

But the task force also recommended the county and towns create incentives for landlords and builders to offer more rental housing.

Horn said the study asks consultants to describe what incentives would work best, such as zoning land for apartments, and even donating land owned by the county to help a landlord keep rents low.

Specifically, the county study will include:

* A determination of the need for additional rental housing, for people above, at and below the median income level of the county.

* The range of existing rental costs for all kinds of apartments, town houses and detached houses.

* A description of existing substandard housing, including utilities, accessibility to handicapped people, lead paint and aesthetics.

* A recommendation on how to start a Revolving Assistance Loan Fund and a list of county, private and public financial resources to match state money.

Horn said the county also can use the data from the study to let the state know of the need for using buildings at the Springfield Hospital Center for transitional housing. The state has offered to help the county set up such a program at now-abandoned buildings at the Sykesville hospital, but wants to see some figures about who and how many people need it.

Transitional housing helps ease people from emergency shelters into permanent housing, and is usually paired with job training and other services designed to help people remain independent.

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