Thursday, March 19, 2015

Vital Neighborhoods

The Mrs. and I are considering moving into another house.  We would very much like to remain Wilde Lake residents.  The challenge, our village’s housing stock being what it is, is that a sizable percentage of the potential options on the market could use some upgrades.  There are fantastic properties in great neighborhoods, but some home improvement investments would be required.

This is not merely the whinging of one prospective buyer.  It reflects a broader problem. Columbia’s older villages include many such properties and those sellers are at a competitive disadvantage compared to those who reside in villages and other communities with newer housing.  It makes it more difficult for sellers to move their properties, and thus creates obstacles for new families who wish to move into established neighborhoods.  This, in turn, impacts our tax base, our schools, local traffic patterns, etc…

Which is why it is unfortunate that Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman opted to hold back $2 million in funding for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.  This program is designed to help buyers make improvements in houses that need them.  By making such upgrades, property values are enhanced, which grows our tax base.  It allows sellers in older communities to compete on a more level playing field.  And it provides another mechanism to bring new life into our older villages. 

Dr. Calvin Ball, Howard County Councilman, recognized the need for such incentives to keep our neighborhoods vibrant, and worked collaboratively with the Council and previous Administration to create such a program for Howard County.

At best, Kittleman’s decision could be described as “penny wise, pound foolish.”  The reality is that this attempt at fiscal prudence, this nod in the direction of austerity, is extremely short-sighted and will end up costing Howard County far more than the $2 million dollar investment.  It is already more than $2 million.  As the Department of Housing and Community Development Director’s Report from August 2014 notes, with a $2 million dollar County appropriation, “it is anticipated that this level of funding will be sufficient to induce a private lender or lenders to contribute loan funds of as much as $20 million to the loan program.”  That is a great deal of revitalization money that has been taken off the tables of many would-be local homebuyers.  

Efforts to assist in the renewal of our established communities should not be hindered.  I believe that the funding should be restored for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.  If you believe likewise, perhaps it is time to reach out to your County Councilperson and County Executive Kittleman.  Let them know what you think.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

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