Of the 10 bond issues on the 1990 ballot in Baltimore County, only one was rejected by voters. It was a $2.6 million ordinance that would have funded the construction of affordable housing in the county.
The result was hardly an upset. In fact, it followed a pattern in Baltimore County history. The mere mention of low-cost housing has given certain county residents the willies since at least the mid-1960s. That was when then-County Executive Spiro T. Agnew was advocating urban renewal, a concept that wary white citizens associated with housing for blacks and other minorities.
Another bond issue for affordable housing, listed as Question F, will be put before county voters on Nov. 3. If approved, the relatively meager $600,000 bond would get a threefold boost in federal matching grants, for a total of about $2.5 million.
Aware of the fear this bond issue will generate among county residents, leaders of local organizations backing Question F have mounted an information campaign to push the issue through. Officials from groups such as Associated Catholic Charities, the Home Builders Association of Maryland and the Teachers Association of Baltimore County have asserted that the approved funds would be used mostly to house responsible community members -- teachers, secretaries, police officers, firefighters, retirees -- who can't afford the average cost of a county home.
To qualify for the housing, a family of two can earn no more than $28,200, a family of four no more than $35,300. A lot of families would qualify, according to county statistics indicating a third of the households in the jurisdiction earn $35,400 or less.
Certainly these families can't cover the average cost of a county house, figured at $130,000 in 1990. A family would require an annual income of more than $54,000 to afford such a house, and statistics show only a third of local households have earnings in that range.
So a clear need exists for low-cost housing in Baltimore County. A victorious Question F would not only make life better for many county residents, it would also slow the tide of people deserting the county for more affordable housing in neighboring jurisdictions. In turn, this would improve the local tax base and polish the county's reputation as a place where people want to live and do business. We urge county voters to vote FOR Question F on Nov. 3.