Bowie investigates affordable housing for seniors -- Gazette.Net







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Some Bowie seniors are optimistic city officials will find a way to make housing more affordable despite a recent city report recommending against a rent subsidization program for seniors.

Members of several Bowie senior housing complexes petitioned the city for rent stabilization in November, and while city staff recommended against such a program in a 200-page council report presented in June, staff members met with representatives from Columbia-based Humphrey Management on July 1 to discuss the issues raised by Humphrey’s senior communities.

Humphrey president Bethany Hooper said the meeting included discussions on maintenance issues related to a sprinkler break and ensuing carpet replacement as well as the complex details of rental pricing.

Humphrey’s three senior communities — Pin Oak, Evergreen Estates and The Willows — offer housing options ranging from $775 to $1,855 per month, said Humphrey regional manager Deb Hindman. Hooper said rental rates can increase between 2 and 3 percent annually for these units, depending on the apartment complex. At Pin Oak, rent increases are capped and have to be approved by the state, she said.

Hooper said rates are determined on a property-by-property basis and are based on the costs of the particular community.

“Apartment communities are investments, so you need to find a balance that allows a senior to have an affordable home, but still gives an investor and lender the return they’re looking for,” she said. “It really is a discussion of advocacy and advocating with the state to have more help program-wise and to have more housing that’s affordable for seniors. It’s an ongoing conversation.”

According to the staff report, a Bowie-commissioned study found that Bowie’s senior population is projected to increase by 78 percent between 2011 and 2018 and will be the fastest growing age group in that time period.

Bowie councilwoman Diane Polangin (Dist. 2) said she feels most of the council members agree with the staff’s recommendation and believe a rent subsidy program would be unfair to the greater Bowie community.

“We will always look to see if we can help the seniors, but we can’t get a rent control program,” she said. “I understand their dilemma and we don’t want to leave them hanging, but there are certain things we cannot do because of fairness and equality to the taxpayers who would be paying for it.”

Octavia Blake, a resident at Evergreen Estates and vice president of the advocacy group petitioning rent stabilization, said she believes city officials are fairly investigating the issue. Despite the unfavorable response to the rent subsidization request, Blake said she and her neighbors have not given up.

“At this point, we will just have to wait and see,” she said. “We are disappointed, but we are not discouraged. And I would add that we are definitely not defeated.”