Work is to begin within a week on three detached, two-story homes in Jessup that represent the first attempt by the Columbia Housing Corp. to develop subsidized houses.
Builders Bob Taylor and his son, Rich, said they expect to begin work within days as they watched a crowd of Howard County officials and affordable- housing advocates break ground on the lots yesterday morning. A fourth lot at the site, along the railroad tracks off Dorsey Road in Lennox Park, is to be developed next spring by the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Carole MacPhee, director of the Columbia Housing Corp. and president of the organization's Perpetual Loan Fund, said the corporation will sell a portion of each home to qualified buyers in a shared equity arrangement, while retaining the right of first refusal to repurchase the homes when the original buyers move out.
MacPhee said her experience has been mainly as a property manager of the hundreds of subsidized rental units Columbia Housing Corp. has operated for decades in Howard County for lower-income families. Venturing into development of new homes has been stressful, she told the crowd. Developer Wayne Newsome donated one lot for the project and sold the other three at a reduced price, MacPhee said.
"This is 4 1/2 years in the making," she said, recounting how county government contributed $40,000 from federal block grant funds to pay for bringing water and sewer pipes to the Cherry Avenue site, and loaned $120,000 more in federal funds to help cut the sale price of the homes.
County officials have been very helpful, she said, as County Executive Ken Ulman and several department heads and elected officials looked on.
"We're trying to work it so that their equity will be equal to their initial investment," MacPhee said about potential buyers, adding that her corporation's employees, tenants and county employees will get first crack at the homes.
Each home will have three levels, with 1,600 square feet of finished space and an unfinished basement. That includes three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and heavy insulation and noise-resistant windows to help block aircraft and train noise. The neighborhood is under approach routes for Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
"These are plain, nice houses," said Tim Sosinski, an architect who serves on the CHC board. Reflecting on how home sizes have changed, Sosinski said his relatives thought he grew up in a mansion, even though it was less than 1,200 square feet.
Ulman told the group that the small development is an example "of finding the right place for opportunities" to provide housing working families can afford.
"These are three houses, and we have about 20,000 to go," Sosinski told the crowd, referring to the residents housing task force he co-chaired last year, which concluded that Howard County needs that many more lower-priced homes to fill the need.