County Council members held a workshop on a bill Tuesday night that aims to address affordable housing issues countywide.

That bill, introduced by Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D) on behalf of Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner (D), would permanently allocate 1.5 percent of the county’s recordation tax to the Housing Initiative Fund.

Fitzwater has advocated for affordable housing for much of her time on the council. She said county data points to a need for officials to address the issue.

“I just wanted to say in terms of rationale for this bill ... we have a lot of data that supports [that] affordable housing should be one of our largest priorities,” Fitzwater said while introducing it Tuesday.

Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum said the main benefit of codifying 1.5 percent of the recordation tax into the HIF is long-term stability.

Milton Bailey, director of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development, said the $580,000 in fiscal 2020 would mean 86 units would be built, a “significant” amount when estimating a total of 225 residents in those units.

Bailey added that Fitzwater and Gardner’s legislation would also show state officials that Frederick County is serious about funding affordable housing projects. He hopes four or five in a pipeline of seven can be funded.

“By ... having skin in the game, which is what the state is looking for ... this would go a long way in convincing naysayers in saying, ‘We’re serious contenders in the affordable housing arena,’” Bailey said.

Councilman Steve McKay (R) again said he was “agnostic” about whether the Housing Initiative Fund was funded from the general fund or the recordation tax. He added that the council and administration needs to determine a funding level versus a percentage of the budget.

He also asked Bailey about the impact the legislation would have on moderately priced dwelling units, or MPDUs, in the county. Bailey said he could analyze that and report back to the council.

“We certainly could model out from what we expect in terms of remaining developments” concerning MPDUs and developers paying a fee in lieu of them, Bailey said.

The bill should be introduced by Fitzwater in the coming weeks.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

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