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Work-force housing funds being requested

November 13, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County residents who earn too much to qualify for low-income housing but not enough to buy a house at market price could soon get some help from local governments.

Officials from the Washington County Community Action Council and the City of Hagerstown will ask the County Commissioners today to help fund a nine-house development on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown.

The houses, which would be moderately priced, could help spur a work-force housing program in Washington County, according to Dave Jordan, executive director of the Community Action Council.

"Once we get the ball rolling with this project, it will be easier to build properties elsewhere in the county," Jordan said.

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Work-force housing programs provide housing below market price for people who earn too much to qualify for low-income housing. Participants in the programs typically earn salaries similar to entry-level police officers, firefighters and teachers.

The South Potomac Street project would include four duplexes and one single-family house. The 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot houses would be built across from Bester Elementary School on land owned by the City of Hagerstown.

The Hagerstown Housing Authority and the City of Hagerstown have committed funding to the project, Jordan said. The groups will ask the County Commissioners to provide $400,000 for the project.

Jordan said a work-force housing program is necessary in Washington County, even though housing prices here are lower than in many Maryland counties.

"Housing may be more affordable here than in some places, but a lot of people living in Washington County still can't afford to purchase," said Jordan, who served on a 2005 task force created to study work-force housing options in Washington County.

The houses being proposed for South Potomac Street would sell for $130,000 to $150,000 - well below the county average of about $250,000 reported by the Maryland Association of Realtors.

Jordan said the houses could be sold at reduced prices because residents would pay for, and own, only the house. The land would be owned by a land trust created by the county, city and other groups.

Jordan said the program would not include ground rents, whereby residents rent the land beneath their house.

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