The first low- and moderate-income housing project in Maryland that does not depend on federal rent subsidies is 80 percent complete, and state officials and the developers already are calling it a success.
Belle Haven, a 276-unit apartment complex on George Palmer Highway in Prince George's County, is the first in the state to charge the going open-market rent for some of its units while charging less to low- and moderate-income tenants.
The project is an alternative to the usual federal Section 8 housing assistance in which low-income residents are given money to help pay their rent.
Belle Haven is being renovated by private developers with the help of tax-exempt bonds issued by the state. In return for this assistance, the developers are renting 20 percent of the units to low-income families, 31 percent to moderate-income tenants and the remainder at fair market prices.
Trudy McFall, director of the state Community Development Association, said Belle Haven may be the first market-rate housing project in the country and could be used as a model for future efforts.
Developer David R. Marshall, a partner of Belle Haven Corp., said 150 people have moved into the renovated apartments of the complex, which has a swimming pool, two tennis courts and three basketball courts.
"We have 30 units left and 150 people waiting in line, calling every day" for units being renovated, he said. "There is no really nice moderately priced housing available in this area."
A one-bedroom apartment in the complex rents for $345 a month plus utilities, a two-bedroom unit for $393 plus utilities and a three-bedroom unit for $484-plus, he said. Rents for the low- and moderate-income units are determined by the county's coordinator for federal Section 8 assistance.
Although the tenants do not receive subsidies from the federal government, they must meet income guidelines set for Section 8 assistance. Those restrictions range from $15,000 to $24,300 in annual income, depending on family size. For moderate-income assistance, the income maximums range from $28,000 to $33,000.
Marshall said the developers will make a profit on the low-rent apartment complex, but said the owners also use the complex as a tax write-off.
"The people who are more affluent are helping the less affluent afford housing through their tax write-offs," he said.
Marshall said the remaining 20 percent of the Belle Haven units will be completed within a year. He said the renovation process has slowed because the developers now are fixing up units that are inhabited by original tenants of Belle Haven.
"We are moving them to other units temporarily," he said.
The CDA has similar projects in the works, including a $21 million, 468-unit apartment complex under construction in the Germantown area of Montgomery County. Marshall said the group of developers he represents is starting up two other low-income projects in Prince George's County.
"These can be very successful, just like Belle Haven," he said. Belle Haven "is a really nice place to live. Low income doesn't have to mean poor quality."
Marshall said the developers tore down almost one-thirds of the original Belle Haven units to make enough room for the tennis courts and park areas. He said tenants are careful to maintain the newly renovated complex.
"We really don't want this place to deteriorate," he said. "We have a lot of pride in it, and the tenants seem to have a lot of pride also."