On a windy December day in Owings Mills, politicians and staff from real estate developers Enterprise Homes and Pax Edwards were joined by future residents of the 72-unit housing complex Red Run Overlook to celebrate its opening.
The $22 million development, festooned with blue balloons for the occasion to match the ironically blue exteriors of the units, is a mixed-income housing complex. Mixed-income housing means it is made of units with various prices, to be affordable. By U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s definition, affordable housing costs less than 30% of one’s income. In Owings Mills, almost half of all households pay more than that, in part because demand is so high.
Red Run was partially funded with Bank of America tax credits, according to Miles Cary, Bank of America senior vice president of community development. The Maryland Department of Housing, Baltimore County, Enterprise Community Investment, and Bellwether Enterprise were also financially involved.
In the last year, Pikesville home values grew 3.6%, Harford County grew 2.7%, and Owings Mills went up 1.4% — and each are expected to increase even more, according to real estate database Zillow. Zillow calls the market “very hot,” based on the list-to-sale price ratio, prevalence of price cuts on home listings, and time on market. The median home values of the three hover around $300,000. According to Market Minute, a data collection service of Long & Foster, October saw 11% more unit sales in Owings Mills than last year with fewer available units. Meanwhile, Towson, Reisterstown, and Randallstown home values have declined, per Zillow.
In terms of general population, Pikesville has grown almost 6% in the last decade, while Owings Mills has seen a staggering increase of 51%, according to City-Data, a private information collection and social networking company.
Beazer Homes, a national construction company, has established developments on Smith Avenue, between Pimlico and Beth Tfiloh. Beazer Homes does not comment on local trends. A representative from Stevenson Village Condominiums in Pikesville, who declined to be named as it is against company policy, agreed there is an increase in people wanting to buy as investors, as of about a year ago.
“Basically we’re dealing with low inventory,” said Iris Miller, a real estate agent at Long & Foster who works mostly in Pikesville.
“There are buyers out there, just not enough inventory. It’s a seller’s market.” She pointed out that the average price has gone down, due to an increase in townhouse and condo sales as opposed to single family home sales.
What is the Draw?
Miller said that the townhouse market is hot because there are a lot of first-time buyers. Interest rates are strong, and millennials can get “mortgage approvals easier with interest rates being so low. There has also been an increase in buyers receiving seller subsidies [to cover part of buyers’ closing costs].”
Moreover, “people want to live in the county because of tax benefits,” she said.
At Chabad of Harford County, Rabbi Kushi Schusterman shared that some of the reasons people are moving to the area are good schools, affordability, safety, and “It’s a good place for those with family in New York or New Jersey.”
“It’s because there’s so many Orthodox Jews who want to live here,” Stanley Drebin, owner of Goldberg’s Bagels, said.
Pikesville boasts an eruv, an area enclosed by a wire boundary that allows Jews to do certain activities on Shabbat. Some activities, such as pushing a stroller, are usually only acceptable within the home on the Sabbath, but the eruv symbolically extends the home into the public domain. It borders Owings Mills and could help spark the housing boom among more religious Jews. Rabbi K says the eruv is in a small section in Pikesville, which only attracts more religious Jews.
“I call it the ‘eruv premium’ on the housing market; because of its confined boundaries in Pikesville, prices tend to be higher. As I mentioned, inventory is low, and there is more demand than supply,” said Miller.
Baltimore County also draws in small business residents. It provides real estate, fixed assets, and working capital loans of up to $500,000 to firms with fewer than 75 employees, according to CNN Money.
The suburbs of Baltimore City may be ideal because of its proximity to John Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System, two major employers. Forbes notes that Baltimore is one of the top cities for tech startups in the nation.
Effects on the Ground
Beyond providing additional available housing, a housing development boom can have several positive effects on a community.
Rabbi Nochum Katsenelenbogen (Rabbi K) of Chabad of Owings Mills said that his Chabad runs more programs, classes, and services now.
“There is a lot more interest from the community,” he said. “Definitely a notable amount of growth in everything Chabad, from classes, to synagogue services, and our housing program.”
“I think it’s important for people to understand that there’s a lot for Owings Mills to offer people,” said Rabbi K. He didn’t attribute the uptick in membership at his Chabad to an increase in available housing options, however; instead, he highlighted Chabad’s open, non-judgmental environment, that “we bring joy to into everything we do,” and its “authentic Jewish tradition.”
Rabbi Schusterman has seen youth engagement skyrocket, he said, as well as an increase of membership from the Charleston and Abbington area.”
Drebin said that his business is impacted, but not positively — there is more competition because of more businesses opening.
“It’s okay, competition is good,” he conceded. “It makes people better.”
Some local institutions say they aren’t registering a difference.
“I was not aware there has been a housing boom in Owings Mills,” said Melanie Schatten, senior director of member and guest services at the JCC of Greater Baltimore. “Our membership is doing very well but I am not aware of a correlation.”
“We have not seen an uptick in enrollment because of it,” said Dr. Zipora Schorr, director of education at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School (BT) in Pikesville.
The affordable housing complex at Red Run could have a positive impact on the local economy.
“When people are not spending 50 to 60% of their income on housing, it frees money to be spent on their family, for businesses, for entertainment,” said Julian Jones, Jr., District 4 Baltimore County Council.
“My daughter tried to find a house, it took her about six to eight months to find a house. All the other houses’ prices were so outrageously high, she finally settled for a somewhat detached home,” said Drebin. “For a young family it’s very hard unless parents can pay for the house.”