Chesapeake Neighbors Receives $100,000 from Maryland Energy Administration

Front of the Delmont property at twilight

Chesapeake Neighbors is pleased to announce the receipt of a $100,000 grant from the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) to improve the energy efficiency of five of its rental properties, from oil and propane fuel to electric energy, promoting cleaner and more cost-efficient energy use. 

The conversion project aligns with Chesapeake Neighbors’ sustainability plan and is set to commence by Fall 2024. This initiative aims to enhance the environmental sustainability of our properties, reduce carbon footprints, and provide our residents with more reliable and affordable energy solutions. 

“We are incredibly grateful to MEA for this grant,” said Judi Olinger, Executive Director of Chesapeake Neighbors. “Energy equity plays a large role in ensuring that housing remains affordable and environmentally responsible for all people within our communities. By transitioning to electric energy, we are promoting environmental stewardship and creating a more sustainable living environment for our residents and the community.” 

Delmont property at twilight

Chesapeake Neighbors has nearly 20 years of experience at the forefront of providing quality rental housing in Maryland. With its scattered-site development model, Chesapeake Neighbors often renovates older properties, integrating rental housing throughout the existing community. Updating these properties to incorporate safer and more efficient energy practices is a key part of ensuring energy equity, and this grant marks a significant milestone in our commitment to integrating sustainable practices into our operations.

Chesapeake Neighbors Welcomes Rasheeda McCrea to its Board of Directors

Rasheeda McCrea

Chesapeake Neighbors, an Arc Central Chesapeake Region company committed to providing safe, accessible, and affordable housing in Maryland, and Board Chair Jonathon Rondeau are pleased to welcome Rasheeda McCrea to the Chesapeake Neighbors board of directors.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rasheeda to our Board,” said Judi Olinger, Executive Director of Chesapeake Neighbors. “She is an energetic and motivated person who lives in one of Chesapeake Neighbors’ homes in Pasadena, so she will undoubtedly bring important lived experience and perspective to our decision-making as a Board.”

Rasheeda is a thoughtful and compassionate community member who understands the importance of supporting those in our communities who need it most. She has extensive experience volunteering her time at important community organizations such as food pantries and currently works at the World of Care childcare center through Kennedy Krieger.

“I am someone who enjoys using my time to help others succeed,” said Rasheeda, “and I am excited to give my time to Chesapeake Neighbors because I know how many other people like me benefit from Chesapeake Neighbors’ success.”

Rasheeda is ready to lend her perspective on all things related to affordable housing as someone who understands the many needs of the people in our communities—such as food, childcare, and housing—and how those needs intersect. She is committed to making a difference, listening to different opinions, and being part of the important work Chesapeake Neighbors does every day for the good of all Marylanders.

Board Chair Jonathon Rondeau Speaks on Affordable Housing

Jonathon Rondeau joined Governor Wes Moore on Tuesday to advocate for housing expansion and support Section 7-504 of the Governor’s bill HB538: Affordable Housing Zoning Density and Permitting

Jonathon Rondeau, President & CEO of The Arc Central Chesapeake Region (The Arc) and Board Chair of Chesapeake Neighbors joined Governor Wes Moore on Tuesday to advocate for housing expansion and support Section 7-504 of the Governor’s bill HB538: Affordable Housing Zoning Density and Permitting (Housing Expansion and Affordability Act of 2024).

Maryland is experiencing a housing crisis – no community has enough affordable housing to support the needs of its residents. Recognizing the challenges Maryland is facing, Governor Moore’s bill intends to introduce new tools and resources for developers like Chesapeake Neighbors to leverage as they create additional affordable housing opportunities. Specifically, section 7-504 introduces density bonuses which allow developers to tailor affordable housing to a community’s needs with greater nuance, which is especially important when seeking to create diverse and inclusive communities.

 Today, The Arc serves over 3,000 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families throughout the region, supporting people with IDD to live the lives they choose by creating opportunities, promoting respect and equity, and providing access to services. Building affordable housing has been a natural part of this work since The Arc’s founding in 1961 and has accelerated in recent years in response to the housing crisis.

Recognizing the need throughout the community for quality, affordable, and accessible housing, The Arc founded Chesapeake Neighbors in 2007 to accelerate the development of new affordable housing opportunities for people with disabilities and low-income families. Today, Chesapeake Neighbors has created more than 70 affordable housing units in Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore and specializes in creating mixed-income communities that blend affordable housing with market-rate housing.

“Chesapeake Neighbors believes in small, scattered-site housing, and density bonuses are a resource that allows us the flexibility and creativity to continue developing affordable housing at scale while staying true to our mission,” said Rondeau. “It is essential that organizations like Chesapeake Neighbors also have resources to survive and compete in the housing market – we are an important part of creating a greater housing supply for Marylanders.”

Addressing Maryland’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Jonathon Rondeau (far right) Speaks at Baltimore Banner Event Discussing Affordable Housing

On Tuesday, legislators and members of the public gathered at The Graduate in Annapolis, MD, to talk about key legislative issues like affordable housing, the budget, environmental challenges, and transportation. Despite the snow, people packed the ballroom to hear Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Jake Day and Chesapeake Neighbors Board Chair Jonathon Rondeau speak.

Together, Day and Rondeau discussed challenges surrounding affordable housing throughout the State and the need for creative solutions. Rondeau touted Chesapeake Neighbors, where he is the board chair, as an example of a successful developer taking an innovative approach to affordable housing.

“The affordable housing crisis isn’t new,” said Rondeau. “The pandemic just exacerbated the problem.”

No community in Maryland has enough affordable housing to support the needs of its residents, and low-and moderate-income renters are spending a disproportionate amount of their income on housing. Low-income renters are already more likely to have increased stress levels from working multiple jobs, navigating disability, raising children solo, and unreliable transportation. They tend to lack access to generational wealth, have a disproportionate amount of debt, and many come from historically marginalized populations. Millennials and Gen Z are slower than previous generations to enter home ownership. With salaries stagnating, more college graduates burdened with debt, and rising inflation, the demand for high-quality, affordable rentals is high.

Rondeau elaborated on the work Chesapeake Neighbors is doing throughout the region.

“Chesapeake Neighbors believes the future of affordable housing is scattered-site, small-scale, mixed-income developments,” he said. “In practice, that looks like dividing a single-family home into multiple units or building additional structures on a subdividable lot. By dispersing housing throughout different neighborhoods, residents from various backgrounds, income levels, and demographics can live side by side, creating truly diverse communities.”

Rondeau also elaborated on the challenges to developing housing in this fashion, highlighting that a significant barrier is the lack of access to funding. State funds prioritize larger developers, something Rondeau would like to see changed.

Secretary Day agreed to the need to develop innovative solutions to tackling the affordable housing crisis and has put together an extensive agenda he plans to pursue during the legislative session.

Attendees left with a better understanding of the challenges facing our community, as well as encouragement that organizations like Chesapeake Neighbors are working with the State to find creative solutions to develop more affordable housing.

Chesapeake Neighbors Finishing Renovations on Two Properties

Ayrlawn

Chesapeake Neighbors’ mission is to provide safe, affordable housing for all Marylanders, and they will be starting 2024 with two properties newly renovated and ready for the people we support to enjoy!

In 2023, Chesapeake Neighbors acquired a property on Ayrlawn Drive that needed a complete back-to-the-studs renovation. This property, which was once outdated and in disrepair, has quickly become a beautiful space with accessible, universal design throughout. This like-new 3-bed, 2-bath home will be ready for move-in in February 2024.

While the property on Spa Road has been owned by The Arc and now Chesapeake Neighbors for many years, it was time for some updates! The renovation at Spa Road, a 4-bed, 2-bath home for people supported by The Arc, included adding accessibility features to common spaces, a brand-new kitchen, accessible bathrooms, and HVAC updates. The renovation was generously funded through CBG and will be completed in March 2024.

Not only will people supported by The Arc now live in these beautiful, updated spaces, but the neighborhoods these houses are in will benefit from these properties being rejuvenated.

This is the power and importance of scattered-site development, a central tenet of Chesapeake Neighbors’ philosophy as an organization. Scattered-site housing development allows for more inclusive communities that put people with low incomes right in the center of existing neighborhoods instead of on the outskirts or in a large apartment complex.

To learn more about Chesapeake Neighbors’ commitment to affordable housing through scattered-site development in Maryland, read this article.

Judi Olinger Speaks at Maryland Municipal League Conference

Executive Director Judi Olinger Speaking at Maryland Municipal League Conference in Baltimore

Chesapeake Neighbors’ Executive Director, Judi Olinger, presented alongside Easton Mayor Megan Cook and Ross Benincasa of Rivers & Roads Consulting on the benefits of scattered-site affordable housing at this year’s Maryland Municipal League Conference in Baltimore.

Scattered-site housing is deeply aligned with Chesapeake Neighbors’ mission of creating quality, affordable housing for all across the greater Chesapeake region. Scattered-site housing is a way of creating affordable housing options within existing neighborhoods and communities, often by using existing single-family homes, townhomes, or units as affordable housing.

“Unlike traditional large housing projects, scattered-site housing units are exactly what they sound like – spread out in various neighborhoods, enabling families to integrate organically into diverse communities,” said Judi Olinger. “Residents have better access to amenities like schools, parks, and healthcare, and there is less social stigma around their housing because it isn’t separate.”

Increasing the affordability of housing is an ongoing conversation across the state of Maryland, and the scattered-site housing model provides many solutions in terms of reducing commuting times, providing more housing options to families and young professionals, and sustaining community growth with a localized workforce. Chesapeake Neighbors has successfully developed scattered-site housing throughout Anne Arundel County and in several locations on the Eastern Shore.

“Scattered-site housing allows for new ways to revitalize neighborhoods, repurpose older structures, and bring underused or vacant properties back onto the tax rolls,” said Ross Benincasa of Rivers & Roads Consulting. “Reducing infrastructure strain and preserving the historical integrity of communities are other important reasons to invest in this movement.”

Within the next few years, Chesapeake Neighbors will have multiple and/or improved new scattered-site housing opportunities available to the public, including The Primrose House, and The Residences at Port Street, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and The Residence at WB&A in Anne Arundel County. These new or improved units will be new real-life examples of the tangible and intangible ways that scattered-site housing works to increase the diversity, strength, and vitality of our communities.

You can read our White Paper on Scattered-Site Housing here: https://bit.ly/491x3M2

Chesapeake Neighbors Welcomes Deena Kilmon to its Board of Directors

Deena Kilmon

Chesapeake Neighbors, an Arc Central Chesapeake Region company committed to providing safe, accessible, and affordable housing in Maryland, and Board Chair Jonathon Rondeau are pleased to welcome Deena Kilmon to the Chesapeake Neighbors board of directors.

“We are thrilled to welcome Deena to our team,” said Judi Olinger, Executive Director of Chesapeake Neighbors. “Her connection to communities throughout the Eastern Shore means she will be able to lend a unique perspective on our organization’s work as we continue to expand affordable housing opportunities for people in Kent, Dorchester, and Talbot counties specifically.”

As the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Easton Economic Development Corporation (EastonEDC), Deena is familiar with the key players in the housing world on the Eastern Shore and the many private and government investments needed to spur growth. Prior to EastonEDC, Deena was the Director of Engagement at The Arc Central Chesapeake Region, where she built relationships with local leaders and organizations and helped organize events, fundraisers, and marketing initiatives. Not only is she a champion of housing access, but she is also an advocate for the inclusion of women in the workplace and people with disabilities in the community.

“I am eager to share my passion for innovation, networking, and redevelopment in rural areas with the Chesapeake Neighbors board of directors and gain a broader sense of how affordable housing works while contributing to Chesapeake Neighbors’ future,” said Deena.

Deena is dedicated to finding innovative means of making affordable housing accessible to all Marylanders and is looking forward to using her skills to bring more housing to the region.

Kent Attainable Housing, Inc. Partners With Chesapeake Neighbors on High Street Property

High Street

Pictured: 423 High St, Chestertown, MD

January 2023, Kent County, MD- Kent Attainable Housing, Inc. (KAH) and Chesapeake Neighbors are pleased to announce a partnership that will bring more affordable housing to Chestertown, MD.

Chesapeake Neighbors has purchased the vacant building at 423 High Street from KAH and intends to develop several affordable rental units on that property. Proceeds from this sale will allow KAH to make critical investments in home construction and financial literacy programs in 2023.

“Kent Attainable Housing is glad to partner with Chesapeake Neighbors to bring more affordable housing to Kent County residents,” said Taylor Frey, President of KAH. “KAH and Chesapeake Neighbors are great complimentary organizations, with KAH focused on creating homeownership opportunities in Kent County and Chesapeake Neighbors focused on developing affordable rentals across Maryland. We hope this is the beginning of a partnership that brings more housing to working families, and we’re glad to welcome Chesapeake Neighbors to Kent County.” Continue reading

Chesapeake Neighbors Creates Affordable Housing in Historic Downtown Easton

Primrose House

Chesapeake Neighbors, an Arc Central Chesapeake Region company committed to providing safe, accessible, and affordable housing in Maryland, is pleased to announce the purchase of Primrose House in Historic Easton, Maryland.

“There is nowhere in Maryland that has enough affordable housing,” said Judi Olinger, Executive Director, Chesapeake Neighbors. “We are excited to be able to offer this resource to the community, and to be a part of the solution to the housing crisis.”

This purchase is the first of several new development and housing opportunities that Chesapeake Neighbors plans to unveil over the next year on the Mid-shore. Chesapeake Neighbors currently owns and operates over 60 units throughout Maryland, with a goal of operating over 160 units by 2025.

“We are actively growing the number of affordable units we offer to the community. While we’re proud to support Easton with these 10-units of affordable housing, we need to do more,” said Olinger. “Over the next two years, we plan to bring an additional 40 units to market. Primrose House is the first critical step in making that happen.”

Primrose House holds historical significance and is minutes from Downtown Easton, giving tenants access to all the community has to offer—shopping, dining and attractions. The property currently offers 10-units of affordable housing in a historic, market-rate neighborhood, and has room for further expansion to include additional units over time. Chesapeake Neighbors is committed to ensuring the integrity and historical value of the building(s) are maintained over time.

As Chesapeake Neighbors continues to develop properties throughout the region, they are prioritizing opportunities in the heart of the community, close to public transportation and amenities.

Chesapeake Neighbors Welcomes Meredith Wimbrow to its Board of Directors

Chesapeake Neighbors, an Arc Central Chesapeake Region company committed to providing safe, accessible, and affordable housing in Maryland, and Board Chair Jonathon Rondeau are pleased to welcome Meredith Wimbrow to the Chesapeake Neighbors board of directors.

“We are excited to welcome Meredith to our team,” said Judi Olinger, Executive Director of Chesapeake Neighbors. “Her years of experience in both the public and private sectors lend her a unique perspective on our organization’s work.”

As a member of the BUILD-PAC team with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Meredith is familiar with the key players in the housing world, the inner workings of fundraising efforts, and the issues at the forefront of the housing sector. Prior to NAHB, Meredith was the Executive Assistant to Governor Larry Hogan’s Chief of Staff and worked for Governor Hogan’s campaign, though her interest in housing began at MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services where she learned the inner workings of commercial leases and sales negotiations.

“I am eager to share my knowledge of business administration, marketing, and housing trends with the Chesapeake Neighbors board of directors and gain a broader sense of how affordable housing works while contributing to Chesapeake Neighbors’ future,” said Meredith.

Meredith is committed to the work of affordable housing and her participation on the Chesapeake Neighbors board of directors will be invaluable to the organization’s mission of increasing access to housing for all Marylanders.

 

About Chesapeake Neighbors

Chesapeake Neighbors was founded in 2007 by The Arc Central Chesapeake Region to provide, promote and support safe, affordable, and accessible housing for people and families in need. What started with one house in Anne Arundel County has grown to over 50 owned and managed, affordable, accessible single and multifamily units across Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Learn more at https://chesapeakeneighbors.org/.