Construction begins on apartments for elderly in need of low-rent housing


Senior citizens in Howard County soon will have a $3.7 million apartment complex that comes packaged with a highly sought amenity -- low rent.

Residents will pay 30 percent of their total income, or a minimum of $240 a month, at the 60-unit apartment complex being built by the Howard County Housing Commission, a nonprofit agency overseen by the county.

Construction of the mostly one-bedroom apartments began earlier this month on the site off Guilford Road about a half-mile west of U.S. 1 in Jessup. The apartments are expected to open by next summer.

The apartment complex is the housing commission's first project intended for seniors. County officials said the complex is needed to meet a growing demand for affordable housing for seniors.

Howard's senior population -- now about 20,500 residents -- is expected to increase by more than 25 percent by 2000, according to statistics from the state Office of Planning. And the 8.1 percent poverty rate among the county's seniors is the highest of all age groups, according the 1990 census, the U.S. Census Bureau's latest statistics.

"The demand [for affordable senior housing] will be outstripping the supply for a couple more generations," said Dr. Deborah Lewis, the county Office on Aging's senior assisted-living pTC coordinator for housing. "There's no doubt about that."

Over the past five years, housing officials have been working to create more affordable housing throughout the county for low-income residents of all ages.

Howard County -- where the median household income tops $60,000 a year -- has the lowest rate of poverty in the state, but it has some of the highest housing costs. And many residents can't afford those prices.

Standard one-bedroom apartment rents in Howard County start at about $500 a month. The average single-family home costs about $180,000.

Low-income residents who can't afford those prices have turned to the government for assistance and have been told they'll have to wait three years before they reach the top of a waiting list for the federally subsidized housing program, Section 8.

Seniors are among those who have the most difficulty finding affordable housing because they have limited income. County officials said the new apartment complex should help alleviate that problem.

"These apartments are targeted toward seniors on fixed incomes," said Robert Mulderig, assistant director of the county's Office of Housing and Community Development. "We have no doubt there's a need for this."

The apartments are designed for seniors who don't need day care and nursing assistance. There will, however, be some support services such as a medical plan. Dr. Lewis of the Office on Aging said details about the support services are still being worked out.

The Housing Commission is accepting applications for the new apartments.

To apply, call the county Office of Housing and Community Development at 313-6320.

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