Does Columbia still believe in Affordable Housing?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development states that housing is affordable if it costs no more than 30% of family income. Affordable housing for all economic groups is a bedrock principal in Columbia. Nonetheless, the three newest apartments in Columbia – – Alta Wilde Lake, The Metropolitan, and Lakehouse (Little Patuxent Square) — are all Class A or “luxury” apartments. This is evident by the ways the apartments describe themselves, and it’s easy to see by their starting rents that they are unaffordable to the secretaries, sales associates, builders, maintenance workers, cooks and waiters that make it all happen. 

The Downtown Columbia Plan anticipates construction of 6,250 residential units that will be priced however the market will bear. The February agreement by the County and Howard Hughes Corporation requires there be 900 affordable apartments built downtown, but advocates say only about 500 units will create new family opportunities; 400 units duplicate what is already available in other Columbia Villages. And we’re further increasing the stock of high-rent apartments with Kimco’s proposal of “luxury” apartments at Hickory Ridge Village Center.

We must design our housing policy to assure that the people who work in Columbia can enjoy the benefits of Columbia. To do otherwise, takes us far from the goals that James Rouse espoused.

Metropolitan Downtown Columbia (Kettler)

The Metropolitan Downtown Columbia offers the perfect blend of modern style and classic comforts. Enjoy a Columbia, MD, apartment home that brings together the sleekness of quartz countertops and the warmth of wood flooring to create a living environment like none other in Columbia. It’s a level of living you can only find here. At The Metropolitan Downtown Columbia, there is so much to do. There are places to stay active and places to unwind. And everything is fully modern, thoughtfully designed and completely smoke-free. It’s what makes The Metropolitan Downtown Columbia one of the finest apartments in Howard County, MD.

Lakehouse (Bozzuto)

Lakehouse, just steps from the lake on the northern edge of downtown, is Columbia’s next chapter in fine living. Lakehouse welcomes a resident seeking the best of comfort, convenience, sophistication, community, and outdoor adventure. Rising twelve floors to overlook downtown, Lakehouse offers 160 luxury apartment residences, ample common spaces, and a full suite of amenities and curated services. The LEED Gold certified building has gorgeous interiors reflective of the building’s natural surroundings, while the stylish exterior with expansive windows and green roof complete the story of luxury blended with nature.

Alta Wilde Lake (Wood)

Welcome to a home that fits you, whether going out or just going to stay in. Just blocks away from the Columbia Mall, the apartments at Alta Wilde Lake suit every facet of Columbia living. Nestled in the Wilde Lake Village Center, our community blends daily conveniences with natural splendor to create a true neighborhood feel, and pairs it with exceptional amenity spaces that are as welcoming as they are beautiful. And with exquisitely finished residences, Alta Wilde Lake is a community you’ll love to come home to, every day.

1 Bedroom Apartments

At 30% of income, a salary of  $63,700 – $67,600 would be needed to rent one of these apartments.

Metropolitan 1BR/1BA (646 sq.ft.) – $1,593/month


Lakehouse 1BR/1BA (702 sq.ft.) – $1,605/month
Alta Wilde Lake 1BR/1BA (688 sq.ft.) – $1,690/month

2 Bedroom Apartments

At 30% of income, a salary of  $84,000 – $91,200 would be needed to rent one of these apartments.

Alta Wilde Lake 2BR/2BA (1,098 sq.ft.) – $2,100/month
Metropolitan 2BR/2BA (1,084 sq.ft.) – $2,202/month
Lakehouse 2BR/2BA (1,035 sq.ft.) – $2,280/month

3 Bedroom Apartments

At 30% of income, a salary of  $108,600 – $200,000 would be needed to rent one of these apartments.

Metropolitan 3BR/2BA (1,382 sq.ft.) – $2,715/month
Alta Wilde Lake 3BR/2BA (1,439 sq.ft.) – $3,035/month
Lakehouse 3BR/2BA (1,797 sq.ft.) – $5,000/month

Howard County enters 30-year deal for affordable housing in downtown Columbia

by Fatimah Waseem (Baltimore Sun), February 6, 2017 [ABRIDGED]

In the modern lobby of the Metropolitan, one of downtown Columbia’s first major apartment projects, Howard County officials and Downtown Columbia master developer Howard Hughes Corp. signed a 30-year binding agreement Friday that sets the course for 900 affordable units in the heart of Columbia.

Despite reaffirming that vision in 2010, when the council approved the Downtown Columbia plan, the vision of affordability has not come to life — until now.

To date, about 10 percent of the project [the Downtown Columbia plan], which calls for 640 hotel rooms, 6,250 residences and 4.3 million square feet of office space, is complete. The agreement requires around 400 affordable units dispersed in market-rate buildings; 417 units in tax credit projects; and 83 units through a live-where-you-work program.

Between 6 and 10 percent of all of Howard Hughes’ future apartment projects — excluding the Metropolitan, which is fully built-out, and an adjacent development — will be set aside as affordable units.

Paul Casey of the Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation, John DeWolf, Howard Hughes Corporation, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and Carole MacPhee of the Howard County Housing Commission sign a four-party agreement that implements a 30-year deal between Howard Hughes Corp. and Howard County. (Fatimah Waseem)

The units with the lowest rent — around 200 — target individuals with housing choice vouchers, or incomes of around $27,000. Based on current rates, monthly rents in these units would range between around $1,100 for an efficiency and $2,200 for a three-bedroom apartment, paid in part by the vouchers.

Households earning around $88,000 would be able to lease one of another 200 units. The agreement allows affordable units to be smaller than market rate units to reduce development costs.

Another 417 units, financed through federal low-income housing tax credits, target people earning between 40 to 60 percent of the Baltimore area’s median income or between roughly $36,000 and $54,000.

The first tax credit project will bring up to 200 units at the site of Toby’s Dinner Theatre, which is set to transform into a $130 million cultural arts center and break ground as early as August.

Despite outspoken community opposition, the Banneker Fire Station will contain up to 100 units in senior housing above the fire station, which will be rebuilt. That project is in the county’s budget books for fiscal 2021.

Around 240 units are planned for a future transit center and a new central library that won’t be in the county’s budget until fiscal 2026. The transit center could be as high as 20 stories. Each site will have around 120 units.

Affordable units makeup about half of each tax credit project.

The live-where-you-work program, managed by Columbia’s housing corporation and proposed by Councilman Greg Fox, is aimed to help people working in downtown Columbia to live where they work. The corporation aims to finalize details of the program by the end of 2018. Howard Hughes is providing $7.8 million to help finance the corporation’s projects and $3.2 million to help fund the tax credit projects.


Published by

Harry Schwarz

Nicknamed “The Professor” by his colleagues, Harry is a native Marylander who moved to Columbia in 2001. Harry’s wife, Cathy, is a Columbia acupuncturist and the family includes two college-age children, a dog and a cat. Harry is a partner with BearsolutionsLLC, assisting charter school authorizers to provide effective financial oversight. He is underemployed at this time and welcomes conversation about how he might help you.

One thought on “Does Columbia still believe in Affordable Housing?”

  1. Yes it is distressing that by year’s end we will have over 1000 new residential units in Downtown and not one affordable unit even under construction. How different it would be had Jen Terassa’s 15% inclusionary housing plan been in effect.


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