Affordable housing discussion gets heated

The Baltimore Sun

A proposal to create a task force to look at affordable housing in Baltimore County prompted an unusually heated exchange between two council members yesterday during a work session that ended with one legislator storming out of the meeting.

Saying county teachers, police, firefighters and young professionals are having a hard time finding houses to buy in the county, Councilman Vincent J. Gardina introduced a resolution to create a group that would look at ways to address the "scarcity of moderately priced housing" in the county.

"I don't know what the solution is," said Gardina, a Perry Hall-Towson Democrat. But he has heard from many residents that there is a problem, he said, especially as older apartment complexes and neighborhoods are redeveloped.

Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, questioned the definition of "affordable." And he asked what measures Gardina would not support.

"You can tell an election year is coming up," Gardina said.

"Why make a gratuitous comment like that?" Kamenetz said.

Several councilmen have expressed interest in running for county executive in two years, though none has formally announced his candidacy.

Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Democrat, said Dundalk offers affordable-housing options. And Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county Republican, said he thinks he could come up with a reasonable inventory of properties in the county for sale at almost any price.

A Towson pastor who testified at the work session urged the council members to consider forming a task force.

As the discussion ended, Gardina abruptly left the meeting room.

He said later that "it was Kevin being Kevin. It was 100 percent political."

Kamenetz, in an interview after the work session, said, "It was Vince being Vince. He doesn't look at the bigger picture."

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