The Howard County Housing Commission was established in 1990 as the public housing authority for Howard County, Maryland. In the beginning, services were limited solely to the ownership of 50 public housing units. By 2006, the Commission had added another 225 affordable units to its portfolio and administration of the Housing Choice Voucher program for the County. However, the structure and function of the Commission remained that of a traditional small housing authority.
Beginning in 2007, the Commission embarked in a bold new direction. In the midst of the U.S. housing market collapse, and as federal, state and local resources grew scarce, the Commission purposefully sought opportunities to grow its portfolio of quality, inclusive affordable housing and become a self-sustaining enterprise. First, the Commission moved to consolidate all of the County’s and Commission's affordable housing properties under ownership of the Commission. The Commission also constructed Ellicott Gardens, a 106-unit multi-family Low-Income Housing Tax Credit community, and developed Tiber Hudson, a 25-unit low-income senior rental community.
Simultaneously, the Commission began focusing on large-scale redevelopment projects. The first of these, Guilford Gardens, once a concentrated low-income apartment complex of 100 units in Columbia, was transformed into Monarch Mills, a 269-unit, mixed-income, multi-generational, amenity-rich, sustainable community. Completed in 2012, Monarch Mills has won numerous awards for its innovative design and livable features.
In 2011, the Commission began to redevelop the former Hilltop Apartments – previously, an aging 94-unit low-income apartment complex in Ellicott City– into Burgess Mill Station, a 198-unit market-rate and affordable unit complex, featuring a variety of environmental efficiencies and garden apartments, manor homes, townhomes, and a below-ground parking garage. Completed in 2013, Burgess Mill Station features the Roger Carter Community Center, a new recreation and community center, with an indoor swimming pool with a retractable roof, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, a fitness center, classrooms, a multi‑purpose room, and a climbing wall. Built by the Commission and financed through the issuance of lease revenue bonds and Community Development Block Grant funds, the center is leased to and operated by the County’s Department of Recreation and Parks, serving as a critical amenity for both the Burgess Mill Station community as well as the larger Ellicott City community. The Commission is now planning Phase Two of Burgess Mill Station, which involves the redevelopment of the neighboring 60-unit Ellicott Terrace apartment complex.
The Commission has also sought innovative ways to develop quality, affordable homeownership opportunities. The Cottages at Greenwood are 10 award-winning, affordable, sustainable, and universally designed single-family homes developed by the Commission in Jessup. Upon completion in 2012, the properties were certified LEED Platinum and received the U.S. Green Building Council’s Maryland Wintergreen Award in the category of Socio-Economic Impact. The homes were sold to moderate income buyers and are permanently affordable.
The Commission has also expanded its portfolio through strategic acquisitions of existing multi-family properties. In 2008, the Commission issued its own tax-exempt bonds to acquire Columbia Landing Apartments, which stands today as a 300-unit, mixed-income housing community. The Commission also owns the 251-unit Verona at Oakland Mills; Columbia Commons apartment complex, a 200-unit, mixed-income community in Columbia; the Commission acquired the 132-unit Gateway Village apartment community in Jessup; and the 248-unit Azure Oxford Square, which is located in Hanover.
Over the years, the Commission has partnered with a number of private developers to help create affordable rental housing opportunities throughout the County. Through land acquisitions, ground leases and equity contributions, the Commission has facilitated the development of close to 800 affordable units. The latest example is Riverwatch, an 84-unit, mixed-income rental townhome community under construction in Elkridge.
Additionally, the Commission partners with human service agencies and non profits to provide supportive housing for the homeless and other special populations. In 2016, the Commission broke ground on The Leola Dorsey Community Resource Center, a 35-unit supportive housing and day resource facility in Jessup, which was financed in part by Commission-issued bonds. Supportive services at the site will be provided by Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center and Volunteers of America.
The Commission partners with Bridges to Housing Stability, the Howard County Department of Corrections, and the Howard County Health Department to provide housing that is combined with supportive services for populations such as individuals with disabilities and ex-offenders.
The Commission continues to serve extremely low income families through the administration of the Housing Choice Voucher program, with approximately 1,400 participant households throughout the County.
The Commission has creatively used development, redevelopment, acquisition, partnerships, and rental assistance to create a wide variety of affordable housing opportunities to meet a full spectrum of housing needs throughout the County. The Commission will continue to search for and advance new and innovative solutions to ensure the continued affordability of the County’s housing stock and the continued diversity and vitality of our community.