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by Judith Hruz
County Executive Marc Elrich stood across the street from a new apartment building that will provide 49 affordable units in downtown Rockville to celebrate a record year of financing under the county’s Housing Initiative Fund and make a commitment to continue to meet or exceed those efforts each year.
At a press conference on July 24, Elrich (D) said the Housing Initiative Fund (HIF) invested $103.7 million in Fiscal Year 2019 to preserve or create a total of 3,254 housing units, 1,982 of which are affordable housing units, at 22 multi-family properties – 12 existing apartment buildings and 10 new rental developments – around Montgomery County.
Several of those housing communities, including Friends House in Sandy Spring and Willow Manor at Fair Hill Farm on Georgia Avenue in Olney, are in the greater Olney area, but the housing units span all of Montgomery, from Damascus to Silver Spring and from the eastern part of the county to the western part of the county.
It is the highest level of financing in the fund’s 30-year history.
Elrich said the county wants to celebrate the funding milestone and “renew our commitment” to continue funding affordable housing.
The county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) attributes this year’s record level of financing to the following:
The agency’s focusing on preserving market rate affordable housing, especially properties that come through the Right of First Refusal;
Several new construction projects closed – interest rates are good now; and
Preservation of existing affordable housing – several Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties became available through the Right of First Refusal.
“Our focus on preserving existing housing while adding new units produced 3,254 apartments and 61 percent of them are affordable.” Elrich says in a prepared statement. “I believe that the county should continue leveraging its assets to maximize our impact on affordable housing. We must be creative and find solutions that generate more affordable housing and find the best opportunities to work with developers to address this very challenging problem. Today is an example of how government can play a role in addressing the issue.”
The HIF receives revenue from a variety of sources, including loan repayments and 2.5 percent of the county’s property tax revenue.
The Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) amplifies the impact of HIF funds by combining them with other local, state and federal resources to renovate distressed properties, preserve affordability of units, fund new construction and create housing for residents with special needs as well as mixed-income communities, according to the county.
Affordable units offer rents to people with incomes between 30 percent and 60 percent of Montgomery County’s Area Median Income (AMI). For a family of four, 30 percent AMI amounts to $36,390 annually and 60 percent of AMI is $72,780 annually.
DHCA collaborated with for-profit developers — Stratford Capital, The Orlo Fund, RST Development and the Conifer Group — and nonprofits — Housing Opportunities Commission, Montgomery Housing Partnership and Victory Housing.
The project on Monroe Place in downtown Rockville is known as Main Street and will include a total of 70 units. One-quarter of the units will be made available for people with special needs.
The count’s portion of the project is $2.5 million in HIF financing.
At the press conference, County Councilmen Gabe Albornoz (D-At large) and Hans Riemer (D-At large) stressed the importance of a strong middle class.
“Housing is a key to our middle class,” Albornoz said.
He added that during his campaign for County Council, the “primary concern” discussed by county residents was being able to afford housing, whether it was seniors, growing families or young professionals.
Riemer said affordable housing is critical because “we are losing our middleman, our economic heart.”
He said the county has been trying to reach the $100 million mark in financing for several years and it is now critical to make it to that goal again next year.
For a complete list of projects, visit www2.montgomerycountymd.gov.
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