The Howard County Council took the following actions at its July 2 meeting. For more information, call 992-2001.

HOUSING COMMISSION -- The council voted 5 to 0 to create a seven-member county housing commission to administer low-income housing programs in the county. Council members dismissed some residents' criticisms that such a commission will wield too much power, saying the council will have authority over the commission.

The Howard County Housing Commission will oversee the spending of $3.3 million worth of state and county funds earmarked for the creation of an additional 100 low- and moderate-income housing units in the county. Those new units will include the 24-unit Allfa Pines complex in Ellicott City, former luxury town houses that are being converted into low-income housing at a cost of $1.6 million.

The commission also will oversee 400 existing low-income housing units in various parts of the county. It will have the authority to sell bonds and to acquire any real estate given to the county as a gift.

At a recent public hearing, some residents criticized a provision in the bill that they contended would give the new commission the right to condemn and appropriate private land for future housing projects. The commission can only recommend land acquisitions or condemnations, and the council will ultimately approve or reject such recommendations, Council member Angela Beltram said.

Other residents and county and state officials say formation of the commission is overdue. Over the next 20 years, an additional 22,000 new low- and moderate-income jobs will be created in the county, said Jim Landerkin, chairman of the Howard County Community Development Board. While those jobs will create a need for a total of 5,300 low- to moderate-income housing units, the county, based on its current plans, would only have about half that many units 20 years from now, according to Landerkin.

As a result, "We're going to have fewer low-income workers in the county, which means fewer employers will be locating here, causing a static tax base," he said.

The commission's members are scheduled to be appointed at the council's July 30 meeting.

CABLE RATES -- The council voted 3 to 2 against a resolution urging the county's largest cable television company to limit any future rate increase in a given year to no more than the annual rate of inflation. Council members who voted against the bill said the resolution won't have any effect, and that a new discount monthly service rate offered by the company makes the rates accessible to lower-income residents.

"It's a political exercise in futility," Beltram said after the meeting. "If we can regulate {cable rates}, fine. If no, it's a waste of time."

Howard Cable TV Associates Inc., the county's largest cable television provider with about 36,000 subscribers, has increased its rates by 50 percent in the past four years, making it difficult for county residents on fixed and lower incomes to afford cable TV service, according to the resolution's sponsor, Councilman Vernon Gray.

Gray has said in the past that he has received many complaints from constituents in recent years about "the phenomenal increase in {cable} rates" in the county.

Tom Beech, the cable company's general manager, told the council during a recent public hearing, however, that his company now offers customers the option of a new "limited service" that includes major network and public broadcast channels.

Since 1986, Howard Cable has raised its fee for basic cable service from $11.95 per month to the current rate of $17.95, according to the resolution and company officials. The most recent hike -- a $2-a-month increase -- went into effect Jan. 1.

The resolution notes that since the Cable Act of 1984 removed authority for cable TV rate-setting from local jurisdictions and gave it to the Federal Communications Commission, the rates have climbed rapidly across the nation.

In October, a second cable operator, Bethesda-based Mid-Atlantic Cable, began service in the county. The company charges $10.95 a month for basic service, but serves only western Howard County, with about 1,000 current subscribers, company officials said.

Howard Cable officials have said that before 1984, the county forced the company to keep its fees down even though costs were rising, and several increases have been necessary since then to adjust the rates to better reflect actual costs. No additional rate increases are planned at this time, company officials said.