A short-term fix for Annapolis' affordable housing program has been tabled by City Council in favor of overhauling the entire law.
"I think that we really do need to go back to the drawing board, and I’m not sure that this fix is coming close to doing that," Alderman Ross Arnett (D-8th Ward) said. "Every time we look at it more questions come up. I would argue at a minimum that we postpone and send this back to committee to really explore this program."
The program is the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) Law, which passed in 2004. It requires new developments with more than 10 units to provide 12 percent of its homes and 6 percent of its rentals for less than market value.
People who live or work within city limits are eligible to buy these homes if they meet certain income requirements.
In July, nine houses and condominiums in Annapolis became the first MDPUs to come on the market since the law's passage, but the developers have struggled to sell them.
The amendment would have allowed developers to expand the applicant pool to Anne Arundel County residents after 90 days and given the Planning and Zoning Department authority, waive additional regulations if the units still couldn't be sold.
"It is my understanding that there is one developer that needs to have a decisions made on the MDPU like now," Alderwoman Classie Hoyle (D-3rd ward) said. "Even if we take 90 days or more to clear up this legislation, we need to make some decision on what we are going to do with those three units."
The units are located at Boucher Place, a new development in Eastport.
In lobbying for the passage of this amendment, Planning and Zoning Director Jon Arason cautioned against penalizing developers for providing these units during an October council meeting.
"It is my understanding that there is a time period after which there hasn’t been a sale under the MPDU program, the house goes on the market," Arnett said. "I think that’s a reality that I am willing to accept that some of these units will go on the open market."
City Attorney Karen Hardwick wasn't sure about that.
"The amendment would have established clarity about what happens now," Hardwick said. "It is not clear ... The hope is that there will be purchasers."
The council unanimously agreed to immediately revamp the city's marketing plan to help sell these last units.
"This program has not been promoted as well as it can be. That needs to be addressed," Mayor Josh Cohen said.
Several members expressed their surprise that these units were so hard to sell.
Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson (D-4th Ward) pointed out that units in her ward are advertised at MPDU homes.
"Who is going to know what that means," Finlayson asked.
She and Hoyle were adamant that these properties not be lost. They hope that an aggressive marketing campaign will bring qualified buyers forward so the council will have more time to think about how best to correct the law's flaws before another development is built in Annapolis.
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