County agrees to buy Tall Trees, subsidize residents


With the Baltimore County Council approving the purchase of 19 aging east-side apartment buildings last night, officials are offering rent subsidies of at least $5,250 to many families who will soon be displaced.

The County Council agreed to buy nearly a fifth of the 105 buildings that comprise the Villages of Tall Trees in Essex for $2.4 million with negotiations continuing to purchase the remainder. The county intends to raze the World War II-era brick buildings for park space, and is developing more sweeping plans for an upscale waterfront village nearby.

As demolition plans proceed, county housing and social services workers are preparing to help with the relocation of about 2,000 tenants -- some of whom have lived in the complex for more than two decades and pay less than $350 a month for one-bedroom apartments.

Starting today, officials will meet with tenants in buildings about to be purchased to outline available county and state benefits. Meetings for residents in the 19 buildings on Doolittle Road, Rickenbacker Road and Old Eastern Avenue have been scheduled at 6: 30 p.m. today and tomorrow at Mars Estates Elementary School, 1500 Homberg Ave.

Landlords with available apartments will attend the meetings. While their rents are likely to be higher than what residents are now paying, many residents will be eligible for subsidies under state law or a new county program, said Mary Harvey of the county Office of Community Conservation.

State law provides that tenants be offered payments of up to $5,250 over 42 months if the rent at a comparable apartment is higher than what they are now paying. The law also allows for moving expenses and utility connections.

But the county is offering an alternate benefit that could be worth more. If families meet certain low-income limits ($12,650 for one person; $14,450 for two people; $18,100 for a family of four), the county will pay the difference between the old rent and the new rent until the family is granted a federal Section 8 housing voucher. The voucher would allow them to stay permanently in the more expensive apartment. The waiting list for such vouchers is two to three years, Harvey said.

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