The Anne Arundel County Council, citing the county's rental vacancy rate, smallest in the Washington suburbs, tonight established a task force to recommend how to house low- and moderate-income families.
Currently, Anne Arundel has a one percent rental vacancy rate, attributed strictly to apartment turnover, officials said. A "comfortable" rate is about 5 percent, said Donald P. Rosenshine, county housing authority director. The average apartment dweller here spends about 50 percent of his or her net income on housing and utilities, he said.
The waiting lists for public and federally assisted housing total about 2,800, and there is a three- to four-year wait.
The newly created Anne Arundel County Housing Advisory Committee is expected to look at the county's own building requirements as well as such financial remedies as selling interest-free mortgage bonds in a program similar to one approved in Montgomery County earlier this week. In that project, the sale of bonds by the county will provide money for low-interest loans to first-time home buyers.
In looking at its own building regulations, the county may find ways to cut building costs and pass on savings to renters and home buyers, said council member Maureen Lamb (D-Annapolis), who proposed the committee.
The appointment of the 23-member committee of citizens and state and county officials was the response to calls from housing and tenant groups for the county to step in as federal housing assistance programs diminish.
"It all comes down to money," said Lamb. The county will either have to make it financially viable for builders to build low and moderate income housing or provide direct assistance to the homeless, she said.
The task force will be required to report preliminary findings by Jan. 15, with a final report by April 1.
Tonight's council meeting came to a heated conclusion when council member Edward C. Ahern (D-Pasadena) attacked County Executive James Lighthizer for cavalierly vetoing his noise ordinance outlawing loud "human noises," such as singing, on grounds that the bill was "vague." He said Lighthizer should have notified him before last week's vote on the bill to avoid embarrassment. The bill is expected to be corrected and signed by Lighthizer.