Howard County Housing Authority Acquires Ellicott City Apartments for $63M

Nonprofit plans to increase affordable units to 20%

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The Howard County Housing Authority has acquired Orchard Meadows Apartment Homes, a 240-unit multifamily complex in Ellicott City, Md., for $62.6 million.

The nonprofit used bonds to acquire the cluster of four-story apartment buildings, using a “right of first refusal” county law to close the deal over a private developer who also made an offer, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. 

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CREC Real Estate was the seller, having acquired the property in 2018 for $50 million as part of a seven-property investment fund. Over the ensuing six years, the company completed a renovation plan and strengthened the property’s operational performance, according to Aaron Dixon, president at CREC. 

The Howard County Housing Commission will offer 50 units to residents making 60 percent of the area median income, which is $129,549 for a household of four. Currently, Orchard Meadows has just 15 affordable units.

“The commission, as the county’s housing authority, is not interested in raising rents for resale purposes, which is the standard for operating procedure for value-add buyers and sellers,” Peter Engel, executive director of the Howard County Housing Commission, told Commercial Observer. “Instead, we will maintain the property as attainable housing for the long term.”

He added that the need for affordable housing in the area is overwhelming, with a current shortage of about 7,000 units for lower income county residents.

“We continue to see rents and home prices increase monthly, highlighting the shortage of housing options at all price points and for all families living in the county,” Engel said. “The shortage of housing and its high cost also reduces business activities. At the state level, housing is regularly identified as a key element for why businesses do not relocate to or expand in Maryland, and is a driver of out-state migration.”

Located about a mile south of Interstate 70 at 3411 Sonia Trail, Orchard Meadows was built in two phases — 96 two-bedroom units in 1998 and 144 one- and two-bedroom units in 2012. Select units include stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and individual full-size washers and dryers.

Community amenities at Orchard Meadows include a swimming pool, fitness center and outdoor entertainment area with a TV, foosball table and fire pit. 

Ellicott City is the wealthiest county in Maryland and sixth wealthiest in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report. The federal government is a major employer in the area, which includes Fort George G. Meade Army base, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

CBRE’s Michael Rudolph represented the seller in the deal. The buyer was not represented.

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.