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Affordable Housing Development Opens in St. Mary's

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The County Times Newspaper

The Southern Calvert Gazette Newspaper

Posted on October 21, 2008

By Andrea Shiell, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Oct. 9, 2008) -- Dignitaries gathered Thursday, Oct. 3, to celebrate the opening of the area’s newest affordable housing development, Hunting Creek townhouses and apartments, which opened along with a new community center and Head Start facility.

The development was a joint effort between Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Committee, Inc. (SMTCCAC) and Osprey Property Company LLC. Opening on Thursday were 70 units, including six one-bedroom flats, 36 two-bedroom and 28 three-bedroom townhouses, all featuring private entrances, heat pumps, air conditioning, washers and dryers, and full kitchens with dishwashers and garbage disposals.

The units themselves are available for applicants earning between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income, between $18,475 and $51,240, and rent prices range from $355 to $1,086.

“We’re looking at the culmination of a dream come true,” exclaimed Commissioner Daniel Raley, explaining that in the wake of the flat tops being demolished, the county had to have a plan to replace that housing with “stock that was comparable.”

“As soon as we acquired the land we turned it over to the Tri-County Community Action Committee,” said Raley, explaining that the 20-acre tract of land had been donated to the county by Paul V. Facchina Sr. for the development of workforce housing.

The total development cost for the Hunting Creek Townhouse Apartments and the new 6,600 square foot Community Center was $12.9 million. Enterprise provided an $8.5 million Low-Income Housing Tax Credit equity investment for the development, which also received a private loan of $3.95 million and an SMTCCAC grant of $200,000 through the Federal Home Loan Bank.

SMTCCAC President Swynice M. Hawkins took time that day to also promote the area’s latest workforce housing program aimed at low-income families. “We will be doing some self-help houses here called duplexes,” she said, explaining that the program has been collecting applications for the last year.

The Mutual Self-Help Housing program includes 30 duplex units that will be built on the same property as the Hunting Creek development, with mortgage payments and interest rates based on income. The families themselves work on nights and weekends in order to complete as much as 65 percent of the construction themselves, further reducing the price of development with “sweat equity.”

“It’s called sweat equity because they help each other build these homes,” said Hawkins, explaining that the first group of six families has already been approved to start, pending last-minute financial approval for USDA funding. They will be working under the direction and supervision of licensed professionals.

“We’re hoping to break ground in the next six weeks,” said Hawkins. “We’ve got the building permits, we’re just waiting on the families to go to the closing with USDA.” Hawkins said that several groups have already contributed funds in order to keep the costs for the homeowners low. The Housing Assistance Council has contributed $454,000, and $300,000 is coming from a Community Development block grant, with another $300,000 coming from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and the Tri-County Community Bank.

In order to qualify for the program a single person cannot make more than $27,000 a year, and the maximum combined income should be no more than $45,000 a year. Hawkins said that there is a great deal of interest in the program, but that the committee is still having trouble finding qualified applicants.

“The problem we’re finding is with credit histories,” said Hawkins, adding that applicants cannot have collections agencies pursuing them for payments, and no more than two late payments in the last year, including utilities, credit card payments, or medical bills. Hawkins said that only one applicant out of 40 or 50 ends up being eligible for the program.

The upside though is that participants in the program can enjoy between $30,000 and $40,000 in equity the day they move into their new homes, which are typically finished in about a year. Since the building effort is a communal one, neighbors also know each other by the time they move in to their new homes, and the SMTCCAC offers credit counseling services for those interested in improving their credit so they can be approved for such programs in the future.

In the meantime, dignitaries celebrated the completion of the apartment and townhouse community that had already been completed, as well as the completion of the county’s fourth Head Start program building, also located at the Hunting Creek development. As developers and dignitaries cut the ribbon and reflected on the six-year journey from planning to that day’s ribbon-cutting, some headed across the street to tour one of the completed units.

Hawkins said that she is proud of what has been accomplished so far, but she hopes to see more emphasis being placed on the self-help program and others like it. “In another two years this new development should be completed and we’ll have an even bigger celebration,” said Hawkins.

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