The Prince George's County Council this week endorsed the construction of a 222-unit housing development for elderly and handicapped persons with limited incomes.
Emerson House, built by Urban Structures and Systems Corp. of Silver Spring, will provide one-bedroom apartments for county residents on moderate and low incomes. Moderate incomes are set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 80 per cent of the average Prince George's County income, or $11,300, and low income at 50 per cent, or $7,000.
The high-rise will be built at 5999 Emerson St., St. Bladensburg, with funds from the HUD's community block grant project. Construction on the $5.5 million building will begin within six months and should be completed within nine months, according to Earl Morgan, county housing officer.
The Council's action is part of a general effort to reverse a housing shortage for the elderly and handicapped brought about by increased rents and inflation.
"Many are caught in the squeeze with inflation on one side and housing costs on the other. The Council participated in creating some of those conditions by trying to upgrade housing and limit apartments in the county," said councilman Parris Glendening.
"But we have thrown the baby out with the wash. And it has driven up the cost of housing and limited the number of apartments, so reasonable, $150-a-month rentals are impossible to find," he continued. "We have a moral responsibility to do something about this."
Federal guidelines establish the cost of the Emerson House apartments at $355 per unit. The renter must pay up to 66 per cent of his or her adjusted annual income, and federal money will make up the rest of the rent under HUD's Section-Eight regulations.
An amendment to the resolution passed by the Council requires Urban Structure to take [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Applicants from the county housing authority waiting list of elderly and handicapped. Currently there are 500 persons waiting to be placed in low-to-moderate income housing projects.
The Council also heard a wrap-up on the recent Maryland State Legislative Assembly presented by Ray Hart, the Council's intergovernmental relations officer and watchdog for the Council in Annapolis.
Hart called the session "the most acrimonious session in recent memory," and ran down the list of bills passed by the General Assembly that would affect the county's fiscal and regulatory powers.
One state bill that would create a minor financial hardhip in the county's upcoming budget year, but provide a boom to homowners, would allow a tax credit for anyone who had had more than a 15 per cent increase in the property [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in the past year, The credit could cost the county up to $913,000 in operating funds.
After the Council expressed some mixed feelings about the loss of county money, councilman Frank Gania noted that he "would get a break" because of the bill because he recently received a 42 percent assessment increase on his house in Laurel. He is the only council member eligible for the tax credit.
The coulcil also received and sent to committee two bills sponsored by County Executive Winfield M. Kelly authorizing bond sales and interproject cash borrowing on existing bond funds.
The companion bill will authorize the county executive to [PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE]