2 Rouse groups grilled over proposed housing


It was an unlikely comparison -- and one that illustrated the depth of community suspicion -- about a proposed affordable housing development in Long Reach.

At a public meeting on the proposed 64-townhouse Kendall Ridge project Monday night, an audience member warned that the Enterprise Foundation's plan would produce a culturally and economically segregated enclave in the neighborhood.

"And aren't you just creating another Sandtown?" said the man, referring to an Enterprise Foundation venture to transform the deteriorated community in West Baltimore.

The concern that the proposed development for low- to moderate-income residents would disrupt the fabric of the neighborhood was echoed by many of those who attended the packed Long Reach community meeting Monday night.

For three hours, about 125 Long Reach village residents aimed critical questions and comments at Rouse Co. and Enterprise Foundation officials about Streamwood, which would include 36 townhouses for sale and 28 for rent at below-market rates.

The two Columbia-based organizations are working together to provide the land for the venture and to arrange financing from several sources, including the Howard County Housing Commission.

The townhouses for sale are aimed at those with annual incomes of about $25,000 to $40,000 and would have a mortgage of about $85,000. The rental units are intended for those with annual incomes of about $18,000 to $25,000.

Yesterday, officials from Rouse and the Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit agency founded by James Rouse to produce affordable housing, said that they will consider changes because of residents' concerns about such things as traffic patterns and apartment management.

But they remain committed to pursuing the development on the 5-acre site east of Snowden River Parkway and north of Route 175.

"We are very committed to building affordable housing. We think we do it well and it creates a positive impact in the community," said Mark Sissman, president of Enterprise Construction Co., a subsidiary of the Enterprise Foundation. "To the extent we can make the development better by listening to feedback, we're going to do that."

At Monday's meeting, residents expressed concerns about who would be eligible to buy the units; whether a single access road and parking would be adequate; the potential for overcrowding in four-bedroom "shared living" rental units; how the rentals would be managed; effects on property values; and the prevalence of affordable housing in Long Reach, compared with other Columbia villages.

Cecilia Januszkiewicz, Long Reach village board chairwoman, said it would be wrong to conclude that Kendall Ridge residents are "elitist" or that the community is "exclusive." The developing community has a wide range of housing types already, she added.

"People are not opposed to affordable housing. They moved there knowing there was affordable housing," Ms. Januszkiewicz said. "It's a question of equity. How fair is it to add affordable housing to Long Reach but hold other villages harmless from having affordable housing?"

For example, Joseph H. Necker Jr., a Rouse Co. vice president, told the audience Monday that Dorsey's Search village has no designated affordable housing.

While Streamwood wouldn't look anything like the old, urban Sandtown neighborhood, Mr. Sissman said, Enterprise Foundation would have similar goals for the two communities -- creating ownership opportunities for young, first-time home buyers and fostering a sense of investment in the community.

"To think [Streamwood homeowners] would be any less responsible and eager to see their assets appreciated than other homeowners, I don't think that's correct," Mr. Sissman said. "We're talking about selling houses to bankable people with good credit who happen to earn less than it takes to buy a house in Columbia."

Several residents argued Monday that affordable housing units shouldn't be concentrated in one development.

But Mr. Sissman contended that spreading affordable units throughout a community is impractical for the foundation.

But Ms. Januszkiewicz said she believes that The Rouse Co., which is developing more than 1,000 housing units on land it owns in Kendall Ridge, could find a way to do it.

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