Nothing pains affordable housing advocates more than to watch helplessly as much-needed affordable housing stock is converted to high-end communities. But in Maryland, a new state program aims to protect affordable units by offering developers a one-stop shop to obtain all of their financing needs for rehabbing and preserving the units. This includes tax-exempt bonds and credit enhancement, low-income housing tax credits, and state appropriation gap financing funds.

“Affordable housing development and financing is a very complicated business, so one of our goals is to make it as simple as possible in light of the fact that it will never truly be simple,” says Patricia Rynn Sylvester, director of multifamily housing for the Crownsville, Md.-based Department of Housing and Community Development's Community Development Administration.

At the heart of the new program: $75 million in tax-exempt bonds available this year only. “We want to let developers know that if they have something they are thinking about doing, 2008 is the year to do it,” Sylvester says. And the timing is right for many developers, as an increasing number of projects built under the LIHTC program reach the end of their 15-year affordable housing requirement.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Housing Trust applauds Maryland's efforts. “We [find] that the state housing finance agencies that are most successful generally have a wide array of programs that are flexible,” says Tracy Kaufman, director of the trust's national preservation initiative.