Who gets to live where?: The battle over affordable housing – by Lawrence Lanahan January 18, 2015 5:00AM ET


The Supreme Court is to hear a case involving the low-income housing tax credit as state and local opposition simmers

Lauren Wilusz and her son, Tommy, outside their home in Severna Park, Maryland. Wilusz’ property is near a proposed affordable housing development.Lawrence Lanahan

SEVERNA PARK, M.D. — Lauren Wilusz leans down to help her 22-month-old son, Tommy, out of his coat and snow-spattered boots.

“Dat!” he says, pointing to the tall Christmas tree in the den.

“Christmas tree!” Wilusz responds.

Lauren and her husband, Joe, allowed themselves the tree as a treat. “First Christmas in the new house,” she says. “It’s the biggest tree I’ve ever had in my life.”

Last January, after several years of strict budgeting and hard work — Lauren in university administration, Joe as an aerospace engineer — the couple bought a home in Severna Park. In this suburban neighborhood of single-family homes in Anne Arundel County, the Wiluszes have 2,000 square feet with a community playground and pond right outside their back door. Lauren recently quit her job to stay home with Tommy. Their second child is due in March.

But before the Wiluszes were in the house a year, neighbors told them about plans for an apartment complex a mile away on Ritchie Highway, a busy, four-lane stretch connecting Baltimore and Annapolis. Enterprise Homes, an affordable-housing developer, planned 84 units on five acres, with reduced rents for low-income earners.

Nearby residents opposing the development dominated two public meetings this fall, complaining about potential effects on traffic, school crowding, crime, infrastructure and home values, according to local newspaper coverage. On Dec. 1, County Council member Derek Fink submitted a bill that would stop the project. A public hearing and council vote was scheduled for Jan. 5. Wilusz felt the development would change the feel of the neighborhood she had worked so hard to afford. She made plans to attend.

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