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The Gazette: MetroPointe Opens with Affordable Apartments, Housing for Disabled

November 19, 2008

The MetroPointe apartments in Wheaton have opened their doors to residents of all income levels as well as disabled citizens.

The project, a joint effort from the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission and Bozzuto Development, combines luxury housing with affordable voucher units and handicapped accessible rooms.

"You cannot tell the affordable units from the market-rate units," said Maryann Dillon, the director of real estate for HOC.

The 173-apartment complex sits on top of the Wheaton Metro station, at 11175 Georgia Ave. Fifty-three of the rooms are affordable units, with 35 of those reserved for residents at or below 50 percent of the area median income, which averages $99,000 a year in the Washington, D.C., area. The other 18 are designated Housing Choice Voucher units for residents at 30 percent of the median income.

The market price for the regular units runs from $1,300 for a studio, between $1,500 and $1,800 for a one-bedroom and to $2,000 for a two-bedroom. The 35 affordable units will go for $861 for a studio to $922 for a one-bedroom or $1,107 for a two-bedroom. In the 18 voucher units, residents pay 30 percent of their income and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development picks up the rest, said Susan Krimer Yancey, a spokeswoman for HOC.

And while buildings in Montgomery County are required to be handicapped accessible, MetroPointe went one step further by making six units equipped for residents with severe spinal injuries and paralysis, Krimer Yancy said. The rooms, which have been rented by people who would otherwise be living in nursing homes, will have a subsidized rent. A part-time, on-site counselor will coordinate services for low-income residents with the nearby Mid-County Regional Services Center.

Dilllon said the project is a product of cooperation between the government and private sector. If the county had not been involved, MetroPointe could easily have been another expensive apartment sitting above a Metro, she said. Instead, it is consistent with the county's initiative to provide more affordable housing.

County, state and federal money went into the project, Krimer Yancy said. The county paid $3.85 million from the Housing Initiative Fund, the state provided an annual allocation of low-income housing tax credits, which earned more than $8.5 million from Wachovia in equity, and issued $1.53 million for a rental housing partnership loan. And the HOC, a federal program under HUD, issued $35.2 million in bonds.

The project also serves as the beginning of renovation for Wheaton. The town's 18-year-old sector plan for the central business district is being reworked, in conjunction with several development projects happening in the downtown area. MetroPointe will add needed density to the downtown area, developers and planners say. But adding affordable living near transportation is unprecedented, Krimer Yancy said.

"It's a progressive thing, and it's really the way of the future," she said.