BRAC Plan Expected to Bring 22,000 Homeowners

By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure plan, which will add workers at Fort Meade and other installations, will bring nearly 22,000 additional homeowners to eight Maryland jurisdictions, according to the state's Department of Housing and Community Development.

Nearly 85 percent of the projected 25,300 new households generated by the BRAC plan would be occupied by homeowners, and the rest would be renters, department Secretary Raymond A. Skinner said.

"The major demand will be for homeownership units," Skinner told a BRAC subcabinet created by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

According to state projections, Harford County, home to Aberdeen Proving Ground, would account for 26 percent of that housing and Anne Arundel County, home to Fort Meade, 18 percent.

Other counties projected to provide BRAC-related housing are Montgomery with 9 percent; Prince George's, 8 percent; and Howard, 7 percent. About 14 percent of the BRAC households are expected to be in Baltimore County, 10 percent in the city of Baltimore and 8 percent in Cecil County.

According to the state, about 54 percent of the units would be for high-income households making more than $75,000; 28 percent for medium-income households earning $30,000 to $75,000; and about 18 percent for lower-income households.

Skinner said some of those families might qualify for assistance through a program in which the state helps secure below-market-interest-rate mortgages for first-time buyers who meet certain income requirements. Such loans are becoming increasingly popular as subprime loans have disappeared. Skinner said Maryland helped secure 3,880 such loans in the past fiscal year, almost three times more than its previous record.

"We would like to do more mortgages," he told the subcabinet.

Skinner and the subcabinet met earlier this month with Anne Arundel officials. The subcabinet, which includes Cabinet members from transportation, planning and other areas, will serve as a clearinghouse for requests from Maryland jurisdictions vying for BRAC-related funding.

Overseen by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), the subcabinet has been meeting in communities across the state and will present a recommendation to O'Malley for a strategic statewide plan by Dec. 1.

The Pentagon's realignment plan, announced two years ago, calls for military base closures in many states, but Fort Meade stands to gain about 5,700 jobs directly and thousands more through related businesses. More than 9,000 jobs will go directly to Aberdeen Proving Ground, and additional workers will be assigned to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's.

With the realignment required by law to take effect by 2011, the subcabinet is working to address needs such as transportation, higher education and housing.

Robert C. Leib, the Anne Arundel County executive's special assistant for base realignment issues, told the subcabinet that some counties view BRAC as "a four-letter word" because of the need for infrastructure. But Anne Arundel has a different view, he said.

"It's a four-letter word that spells opportunity," Leib said.

Local jurisdictions are banding together to help the state prioritize projects. Among those under discussion are the expansion of routes 3 and 175 near Fort Meade and the proposed extension of Metro's Green Line north from Greenbelt to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

At the meeting, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold (R) said that although the county "is pleased to be a beneficiary" of BRAC, "the challenge clearly is to provide the infrastructure."

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