One day after President Joe Biden gave his State of the Union address, one of his administration officials traveled across the D.C. border to Prince George’s County, Maryland, to talk about affordable housing.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary Marcia Fudge, who attended the address inside the House chamber, told the various county officials from the D.C. region they must help their communities.
“Whether it’s a state, a county, or a city, they have more resources than they’ve ever had, but it’s not going to last,” Fudge said Wednesday in Suitland. “So we want to be sure you know the urgency of the moment and you start to plan to use those resources as quickly as possible.”
The one-hour discussion on housing took place inside The Lewis, a 137-unit resident development for residents 62 and older.
Fudge’s agency provided about $1.5 million to help build the senior complex, which sits upon the $400 million Towne Square at Suitland Federal Center.
Former County Executive Rushern Baker III led the county to push for mixed-use development in Suitland, known for its reputation as a high-crime area.
Several businesses such as a hotel, will also be built on the 30-acre property along with a performing arts center to run programs in conjunction with Suitland High School less than a mile away.
Behind the six-story senior building are about 220 Village at Towne Square townhomes that started at $289,900, to $350,000 which are now sold out. Another 60 to 70 homes are scheduled to be built in a second phase.
Harold W. Johnson II, managing partner with Cober Johnson & Romney of Greenbelt that led the project, said the development represents the first fiber-to-the-home community and first 5G-ready neighborhoods in the D.C. region. This means the complex will have fiber optic cable with stronger broadband and technology services.
In addition, Johnson said the equity in the homes increased by $100,000 in a year.
“We’re really excited and really happy about this,” said Johnson, who added the first tenants in the senior housing complex could move in this month.
Elected leaders thanked Fudge for speaking with them, especially Christian Dorsey, vice chair of the board in Arlington County, Virginia.
“After having four years in the wilderness of not having any attention from [the federal government], we are so happy to be in the company of an agency that gets it,” said Dorsey, who also serves as chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments board of directors.
Although Fudge expressed excitement in the work being done in Prince George’s County and collaboration to improve housing throughout the D.C. region, she said there remains “no affordable housing in this country.”
She said one goal for the administration will be to invest $100 billion in housing, possibly $60 million out of that toward public housing.
Another objective will focus on looking at housing policies through an equity lens. She said a report will be released this month about bias in the appraisal process.
“Communities of color have lost billions and billions of dollars in evaluation because our homes are undervalued,” Fudge said. “It is based upon the bias of race. Most of us will not be shocked, but I think to see it will bring a reality that most people can’t even imagine.”