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County to seek low-cost housing Realtors fear home buyers will be driven elsewhere


WESTMINSTER -- During a meeting Thursday with members of the Affordable Housing Committee of the Carroll County Association of Realtors, the county commissioners agreed that buying a house in the county can be an expensive venture and decided to look for ways to create affordable housing.

The group of bankers and real estate agents studied ways to provide reasonably priced homes because they were concerned that people who work in the county are forced to look elsewhere for homes.

Potential homeowners are moving to nearby Pennsylvania to build at prices that are sometimes $10,000 to $20,000 cheaper than those here, Realtors said.

"What we are working for here is a stepping stone between not having a home and being able to afford one," said Robin Frazier of Mercantile Mortgage Bank, a member of the committee. "We need something more affordable so that people can save for their second home while they are living in their first one. Theycannot save when they rent."

In addressing the myth that people who do not pay much for their homes do not take care of them, Commissioner Julia Gouge said officials should ensure that there no stigma is attached to affordable housing.

Members of the group agreed that one goal of their project

would be to provide housing that is, as Commissioner Elmer Lippy put it, "aesthetically pleasing as well as affordable." They cited communities in Montgomery County and a few in Anne Arundel as examples.

Some ideas included putting more houses on small tracts of land to create high-density subdivisions, and relaxing regulations on converting apartments to condominiums. They also said lot sizes could be reduced and streets could be narrowed to cut expenses.

But the commissioners acknowledged a number of stumbling blocks, including amending and revising county zoning and subdivision ordinances.

Building new homes near existing communities would cut the buyers' costs considerably because new sewer connections, which constitute much of the expense for a buyer, would not need to be built. However, Ms. Gouge reminded the group that zoning ordinances would probably prohibit densely packed residential developments.

The question of whether the water and sewer systems could handle more than they do now is also an issue, they agreed.

The county's towns and municipalities would have to be brought in on any decisions concerning planning and zoning amendments because each handles its own ordinances in those areas, Commissioner Donald Dell said.

The committee will work on a plan that examines each of the points mentioned and bring it to the commissioners for further consideration.

Mr. Dell said the board is looking forward to making some concrete decisions on this issue.

"We are indeed interested in seeing some type of affordable housing," he said. "We know what we want in Carroll County and

we have the expertise in the county to do it."

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