Ellicott Terrace Apartments, a low- and moderate-income housing complex dogged by financial problems, is seeking county, state and federal funds to keep up with its renovation and operating costs.
Howard County officials say preservation of the privately owned, 60-unit complex near Ellicott City's historic district is vital to the county's push for more affordable housing.
"We want to preserve affordable housing," said Leonard Vaughan, executive director of the county's Department of Housing Community Development. "We don't want to see [Ellicott Terrace] close. It's not going to close."
Toward that end, the county has agreed to match up to 10 percent of anything the state contributes toward the $200,000 in renovations needed at the 23-year-old complex, which is owned by the nonprofit Columbia Housing Corp.
The Howard County Housing Commission, a nonprofit agency overseen by the county, also has approved the allocation of up to eight Section 8 certificates to Ellicott Terrace. Section 8 guarantees rent payments with federal money.
But housing officials say they still don't know when -- or if -- the rental and renovation assistance will come through.
In the meantime, conditions have become uncomfortable for some residents. They complain of leaky ceilings, kitchen cabinets that fall off the walls, problems with flooring and worn carpet.
Some residents say Columbia Housing Corp. has long promised repairs, but has yet to deliver.
"They said, 'We're going to do this and we're going to do that,' but they didn't do nothing," said Mary Adcock, who has lived at the complex for a year and a half.
The Columbia Housing Corp., which also owns and manages two other Howard County apartment complexes, bases the rent at Ellicott Terrace on income. Monthly rents do not exceed $560 for a two-bedroom. All but five of the complex's 60 units are two-bedroom.
But according the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, "fair market rents" for two-bedroom apartments in Howard can be expected to range from $656 to $833 per month, depending on the location.
Columbia Housing Corp. officials say Ellicott Terrace's rents, designed for low- to moderate-income families, are not sufficient to keep up with maintenance costs and property taxes.
The complex, which has 157 residents, "has to run on its own. It is not subsidized," said Elsie Walters, executive director of Columbia Housing Corp. "Because of that, it has had limited resources to prevent it from becoming a distressed property, so we went to the county and to the state."
Ms. Walters said Columbia Housing Corp., which has owned the complex since 1987, is making repairs with its own funds, while awaiting government assistance. Work includes replacing cabinets, carpeting and appliances.
"Everybody really wants to make this a really upstanding property," Ms. Walters said.
Bessie Custer, who has lived at Ellicott Terrace since it opened, say she's never had problems at the complex. "I haven't had none whatsoever," she said.
But Myrtle Gilbert, a four-year resident of the complex, might not stay long enough to see the needed repairs in her apartment.
"I'm thinking about moving," Ms. Gilbert. "They're going to lose a lot of tenants around here."