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Don't delay housing bill

March 08, 2005

If you already have a house, the recent rise in property values means that you'll have plenty of cash for the purchase of your next home.

But if you don't own a home, the price of many properties being listed today may make it nearly impossible to own one.

That's why the proposal offered last week by Maryland Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore City, is so welcome.

McIntosh's bill would require all local governments to include a provision for "workforce housing" in their comprehensive plans.

McIntosh, who chairs the House Environmental Matters Committee, told that panel last week that she is concerned that police, teachers and firefighters won't be able to live in the jurisdictions where they work.

Surprisingly, the legislation is opposed by Secretary of Planning Audrey Scott and the Maryland Municipal League.

Scott said that because a state task force on the issue has been established, the bill may impede the task force's work. Municipal League officials said they opposed the bill reluctantly and only because it would add a new state mandate that imposes on local jurisdictions' planning processes.

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We feel there should be no delay, for several reasons. The first is that without some effort to preserve property for affordable housing, a lot of land may get used up before the task force finishes its work.

Another reason: Forcing more people to commute to more affordable areas not only increases air pollution and traffic congestion, but it also lessens the amount of time those commuters can spend with their families.

Finally, the hours that police, teachers and firefighters spend commuting are hours they can't spend volunteering in their communities as tutors, mentors and youth sports coaches.

Think about what the loss of those people would mean and you will realize why McIntosh's bill needs to move forward now.

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