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  • Bruce Baker

Gilbert Highlands: A Nonprofit Housing Development in Long Branch

On January 26, Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP) offered a mini-tour of Gilbert Highlands, a 21-unit, affordable housing property at 8508 and 8510 Flower Avenue in the Long Branch section of Takoma Park.

This property is one of four rental properties MHP owns in the neighborhood. The Gilbert Highlands property is indicative of the role that a nonprofit housing developer can play in building community. MHP’s mission includes providing high-quality affordable housing, improving the quality of life of its residents, and building strong, vital neighborhoods.

The Gilbert Highlands property was built in 1953, and prior to being acquired by MHP, was plagued with maintenance and age issues including more than 300 housing code violations like persistent mold and unsafe electrical wiring. MHP acquired the property in 2007 by assignment from tenants exercising their right of first refusal when the property was offered for sale. During renovations in the fall of 2009, the property was gutted. This required all of the tenants to temporarily relocate to nearby MHP properties. All but two of the original tenants chose not to return to the building after renovations were completed.

The renovations included installing green ecological features made possible with federal stimulus money. These features include water conserving appliances and fixtures, energy efficient lighting, Energy Star appliances and new reflective roofs. The property also boasts native landscaping and rain barrels for watering grass and gardens.

The one-bedroom unit on display was small but comfortable. All components appeared to be in good, clean condition, and the common areas were also in good shape.

Gilbert Highlands Front After Renovation

One notable feature was the inclusion of a community room that houses a bilingual pre-school and computer lab. MHP also conducts an after school homework club at another nearby MHP property for kids who live in any of its four Long Branch properties.

The rents vary depending on renters’ household income. Costs range from $425 to $910 for a one-bedroom apartment, and $500 to $1,010 for a two bedroom. The high end of the ranges is market rate.

The building development cost was $5.3 million, and about half of it came from theCounty’s Housing Initiative Fund.

Renovated Kitchen

Other major sources include funds through the Federal Low-Income Housing tax credit, Citi Community Bank, NeighborWorks America, and the State of Maryland.

MHP is also in the process of renovating Maple Towers at 7610 Maple Avenue. MHP plans to hold a tour starting at that property on February 17

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