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High Costs in Howard May Be Daunting to Young Adults

A family of four—with two adults, a school-aged child and a preschooler—needs to make an annual income of at least $83,557 to live in Howard County,

Howard County has about 8,000 fewer young adults than 10 years ago, according to the U.S. Census. And some officials believe the county's high living costs may be the reason.

The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning used data from the 2010 Census to show a decline of adults 30 to 39 years old over the past decade. The county also had about 800 fewer infants and children.

"If you put those two together, it may indicate that many young families are having difficulty living in Howard County," said Duane St. Clair, the director of the Association of Community Services of Howard County, a network of community organizations.

A family of four, with two adults, a school-aged child and a preschooler needs to make an annual income of at least $83,557 to live in Howard County, according to the 2012 Self-Sufficiency Standard for Maryland.

Young professionals who grew up in the county might not be able to afford its high cost of living, St. Clair said.

The study calculates the basic costs for Maryland families by looking at the price of essentials such as housing, food, transportation and childcare. It was created by researchers at the University of Washington School of Social Work, in cooperation with the Maryland Community Action Partnership.

But a family of four with two adults, a preschooler and a school-aged child needs to earn more than 370 percent the poverty level to "realistically support a family, without public or private assistance" in Howard County, the new Self-Sufficiency Standard shows.

"The Federal Poverty Level has little relevance to the reality of trying to make ends meet in Howard County," according to a by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. The Policy Analysis Center and the Association of Community Services of Howard County commissioned .

"We have a lot of folks here that don't meet our income guidelines but are really living in the edge of poverty," said Anne Markson, the director of programs and services at the Community Action Council, a nonprofit that has been serving Howard County over 40 years.

Families of any type are eligible for help paying their heating and electrical bills from funds such as the Maryland Energy Assistance Program, if they earn up to 175 percent of the poverty level, Markson said. She said that case workers would refer those who may not qualify for assistance to churches, charities and other agencies.

A family could get food stamps and health insurance for their children if they make as much as 200 percent of the poverty level, according to federal rules. That is still less than half of what a family of four would need to be self-sufficient, according to the new study.

"Many families lose benefits before they can be economically self-sufficient," St. Clair said.

Sometimes families are so close to the income limit that, when they get a modest raise of as little as an extra $1 or $2 an hour, they could be pushed over the income limit for several benefit programs, Viviana Simon said.

Simon is the former director of Howard's Policy Analysis Center, a partnership between the Association of Community Services of Howard County and the Horizon Foundation created to measure the impact of the recession on Howard's residents.

An example from the Hopkins report illustrates that a single parent of two children working full time, while earning minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, would lose benefits if she gets a raise to make $10 an hour.

The University of Washington study did not determine how many working families have incomes below the Self-Sufficiency Standard. Census Bureau data show that roughly 29,902 people in Howard County—about 10 percent of the population—live in families with incomes less than 200 percent of the census poverty threshold. (For a family of four, twice the poverty line would be about $44,000.) The census data count the elderly and other categories that were not included in the self-sufficiency calculations for working families.

MG42 February 23, 2012 at 10:07 PM
$84K seems like a very attainable household income for two adults to be earning. Anyone who earns less than that should probably not expect to be able to afford one of the richest counties in the nation. Heck, I'd like to have a penthouse in Hawaii but, sadly, that's well out of my price range. I hope that doesn't keep Duane St. Clair up at night!
CN February 24, 2012 at 02:09 PM
A quick internet search indicates that the median household income in Howard County is between $101k and $102k per year. An $83k cost of living appears to not be much of an issue.
LF February 24, 2012 at 02:33 PM
It isn't much of an issue, unless you are a young person, just starting out, have lived in Howard County all your life, and would like to continue to live here. It isn't much of an issue, unless you consider that they are our future taxpayers, and if new families can't afford to live here, we are losing our future tax base. Not to mention that their support of our school system would keep our schools at their current standard. I thought Rouse's original vision was to provide a quality life for all levels of income. You can manipulate statistics any way you like. If we lose the youth in our county, we lose our future.
MG42 February 24, 2012 at 04:29 PM
If you are a young person, just starting out, is it reasonable to expect that you should be able to move right into one of the richest counties in the nation? We won't lose our future tax base unless you think that homes will be vacant in the future. That is a laughable suggestion if you stop and actually think about it!
CN February 24, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I'm going to assume that if you are a "young person, just starting out", you aren't a family of four and therefore your cost of living is much lower that $83k. This isn't manipulation of statistics, this is just logic.
LF February 24, 2012 at 04:48 PM
It's so laughable, that in my condo building of 16 units, 4 of them are vacant. There are four condo buildings in this community. The only thing that's sold in this "luxury condo" community are two short-sales, for 100,000 less than that what they sold for. As I watch my property values dropping, believe me, I'm not laughing. We moved here as young people, and raised our kids. I don't think it's too much ask that our children be able to live here, too.
LF February 24, 2012 at 04:59 PM
CN: This is true! Let me be clearer. We moved here with two kids, I worked part-time, my kids went to great schools. It simply makes me sad to think that Howard County will be populated only by people who are wealthy. Enough said.
MG42 February 24, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Honestly, it sounds like those 4 units are vacant b/c the owners are asking entirely too much money. There's a difference between "young people can't afford to live here" and "young people don't want to pay $500,000 for my 850 ft^2 condo".
Kim Dixon February 24, 2012 at 07:46 PM
I have lived in Elkridge for over 30 years, funny it never cost that much to live here brfore all the development took hold. so much your your progress.
CN February 24, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Are you saying that you consider housholds making $83k or more, wealthy? More importantly, are you saying that you want a certain percentage of the poplulation to not be wealthy? Shouldn't the goal be to have everyone in America (and the whole world for that matter) be wealthy?
CN February 24, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I would bet the average income wasn't that high 30 years ago either.
Jack February 24, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Where will your children live? Where will they start out? I ask this because this is how a community is built, with history. It appears without wealth your children will not have a right to live in the neighborhood they were born and raised in.
MG42 February 24, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Learn what a "right" is before attempting to use the word in a sentence. Affordablity is a case of supply and demand, rights have nothing to do with it.
Adam R February 25, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Its a huge 30 year cycle. HC is trying to capitalize on every penny they can now by overbuilding and increasing that tax base. Then the plan will be to spend money on Govt.Offices, Schools, Utilities, Sewer,Police, and Fire down the road. There will be a breaking point and people like me will have a fire sale on our homes and will move out.
Jack February 26, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Society is not only about supply and demand but this is the reality imposed upon your children. Your children do not have a future here albeit our schools are the driving force in the Howard county economy. Perhaps you are confused as to what constitutes a right. Since we live by money and not moral it would be intellegent to move further out now instead of when it becomes unbearable where your children and grandchildren can put down roots. Daunting does not stop people who are led to believe life in Howard is better for their children's education nor does it stop them from sacrificing to this end albeit the price is concealed. This is why we currently need another 8 to 10 schools in the county in the next 10 years. For those who come for the "quality education" Howard county uses as bait to attract new taxes, they firmly believe their children will have a right to live in the community they sacrificed for them to grow up in.
MG42 February 26, 2012 at 02:00 PM
You have an amazing ability to do a lot of "talking" without saying anything. Then your ramblings all culminate in some illogical disaster of a conclusion (we need 8 to 10 new schools). Are you on the blue meth?
Jack February 26, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Yes, Howard needs 8 to 10 schools in the next 10 years. The 2 they are trying to open in Elkridge cleared the way to build about 3,500 additional houses in the county.
k February 26, 2012 at 09:32 PM
I don't think that will ever be the case. We will continue to see an influx of low-income government subsidized thugs move it. Just look at what is going on in the Long Reach and Oakland Mills areas. As the number of section 8 housing slots increase so does the crime.
hmj February 27, 2012 at 01:21 PM
1 million jobs taken from American citizens by aliens ( here on work visas). President and Congress ignore the needs of citizens
hmj February 27, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Find a place you can afford. If you cannot afford Howard County feel free to move. No more freeloaders. People with the entitlement mentality want others to pay their way ---- but that is not the American way.
hmj February 27, 2012 at 01:29 PM
This is just another wacky study by far left loons looking to advance their own interests at the expense of the large community. These loons want more government spending to support their desire to leave in an area they cannot afford. No more freeloading. Pay your own way.
ndrb February 28, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Ohai- If you are a young person just starting out and were born and raised in Howard County then it is reasonable to expect to continue to live here. If you are from Howard County then you would understand why. Also, why should some one born and raised in Howard County either not be able to continue to live here or just barley get by living here; but they can bring Section 8 into Columbia causing more crime and problems by people from the city living in one of the richest counties in the nation for free?
Roger Nye March 04, 2012 at 06:19 AM
LMAO: My wife and I made the mistake of moving here in 2006, bought high in this "wunder-county" and can't leave because our "one car garage" house is almost 200k under water. At the same time we face threats of higher taxes on all fronts, state and federal! We've met some great people in Howard County, but we'd gladly leave...if only we could! Roger N.
MG42 March 04, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I was born and raised in Howard County and continue to live here. When I was just starting out I lived in an apartment and saved my money until I could get a more permanent place. That worked for me and maybe others should try it before putting their hand out and asking for someone else to pay. You're right about Section 8, that is a bad program. If I was in charge I'd get rid of it tomorrow.

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