So I wrote up “Howard County Executive Calvin Ball To Hold MOU Signing For New ‘Live Where You Work’ Affordable Housing Program” and had some questions in advance of the announcement…and hey…got some answers in the follow up press release…how cool is that? Here is the press release from August 13th:

County Executive Ball Holds MOU Signing For New ‘Live Where You Work’ Affordable Housing Program

COLUMBIA – Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball held a press conference and MOU signing to announce the new Downtown Columbia “Live Where You Work” Program, with the Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation. The public-private partnership will provide rental subsidies for low- and moderate-income families to live near their workplace in Downtown Columbia. The flagship employer in the program will be Howard County General Hospital, which will allow selected hospital employees to qualify for rental subsidies and take part in County-sponsored home ownership seminars to prepare them for permanent housing options. The program will expand to enlist other Downtown Columbia employers in the future. Photos from the event can be found here. Video of the event can be found here. 

“Howard County’s most recent rental housing survey indicated a gap of over 5,000 units in affordable rental housing. We are launching the first ever public-private partnership for a rental subsidy program in Howard County history to address that gap and support our workforce,” said Ball. “We know that a community functions best when its residents live in the jurisdiction where they work. Our ‘Live Where You Work’ program will help us create the full spectrum of affordability as we continue to ensure Downtown Columbia lives up to our collective vision. This program is a tremendous example of what we can accomplish when we work together to dream and discover new solutions to community challenges.”

“This Live Where You Work program will provide a variety of benefits, including environmental benefits from reduced commuting to reduced stress for the caregivers in our community,” said Pat Sylvester, chair of the Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation Board of Directors.

“We are one of the major employers in Columbia, and we have a responsibility to make sure this community is as healthy as it can be, and that also our staff becomes an integral part of the community. Helping them live here is a big step in the right direction,” said Howard County General Hospital President Steve Snelgrove.

As part of the Downtown Columbia Plan, the “Live Where You Work” program was created through a Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (DRRA) for affordable housing between the County and The Howard Hughes Corporation. Under the new program, selected Howard County General Hospital workers will receive subsidies that will reduce for them the cost of rental apartments in Downtown Columbia. The subsidies are provided jointly by the hospital and the housing corporation and paid to landlords in the Downtown Columbia district eligible to participate in the program.

Selected hospital employees must have household income that falls within the low- or moderate-income guideline limits established by the Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development. Employees participating in the program will not be spending more than 30 percent of their household income on rent and the subsidies will be in place for a maximum of three years.

Funding for the program comes from The Howard Hughes Corporation, paid to the Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation, plus a contribution from Howard County General Hospital. While the employees are enrolled in the program, they will also be taking part in County-sponsored home ownership seminars to prepare them for permanent housing options once their 3-year participation expires. The Housing Corporation has plans to expand the program by enlisting other Downtown Columbia employers, and has an estimated $7.5 million to spend.

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Here are some images provided with the press release:

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I am happy to see this move forward and hope to see additional employers participate in this program going forward.

Scott E

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