More affordable housing headed to Gaithersburg -- Gazette.Net


Gaithersburg officials say it’s time to start talking about how to use $3 million it will receive in coming years to improve the city’s affordable housing stock.

The money could be given to an organization or private company to add or upgrade units. Or, it could be used for new construction, said Rick Nelson, director of the county’s department of Housing and Community Affairs.

On June 1, the city will receive the first payment of $1.2 million from VII Crown Farm Owner LLC, the owners of 90 vacant acres off Sam Eig Highway in Gaithersburg. The company opted to provide the cash rather than build its own affordable housing as part of a 2006 agreement that will allow 2,250 residences and 320,000 square feet of commercial space on Crown Farm.

The city also will receive $600,000 in June 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Louise Kauffmann, the city’s director of Housing and Community Development, has assembled a committee of housing experts who will meet for the next few months to discuss options; the first meeting is Tuesday. This summer, the committee will recommend to elected officials how to best spend the money.

Committee members include Lawrence Cager, a member of Nelson’s team who helps manage the county’s community housing fund, and Greg Baker with Montgomery Housing Partnership, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing in the county.

In Gaithersburg, there are two types of affordable housing. Moderately priced units are available to city residents earning between 50 percent and 80 percent of median income. Work force housing is available to residents earning between 80 percent and 120 percent of median income.

The median household income in December for the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area was $107,500, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Gaithersburg requires new developments to have a total of 15 percent affordable housing, by building 7.5 percent moderately priced units and 7.5 percent work force housing. In the county, the median price home value is $335,000, according to December 2011 data from the Maryland Association of Realtors.

Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz said although there is affordable housing in the city, the funds will help spread it more evenly. There are 47 affordable housing units in Highland Square Apartments and 10 in Amber Commons, both of which are near Frederick and Deer Park avenues. The units are full and there are not typically many vacancies; the city does not keep a waiting list.

There will be 45 additional units available soon at the Residences at Hidden Creek, north of Olde Towne at Goshen Road and Girard Street, Kauffmann said. She estimates those units will be available in the spring.

Katz said more affordable housing is needed away from Olde Town. He was not sure how the money should be spent, and is looking forward to hearing the committee’s suggestions.

The members of the Gaithersburg Coalition for Affordable Housing are excited to see the movement, said Pam Lindstrom, a member of the coalition who has been appointed to the committee. The coalition has been advocating for affordable housing in Gaithersburg for more than five years.

“I’m very interested in weighing in,” Lindstrom said. “There are all sorts of ideas for providing cutting-edge, state-of-the-art housing developments.”