Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Continues Work on Housing Initiative

Prince George’s County inches closer to implementing a comprehensive plan that seeks to boost its housing stock, increase diversity in types of units built and improve overall policies.

The county’s Department of Housing and Community Development and lead consultant presented the draft called “Housing Opportunity for All” before County Council on Tuesday, Oct. 9 in Upper Marlboro.

“We chose this title to signify and emphasize the importance of addressing the housing needs of all Prince George’s County residents,” said Eric Brown, the county’s director of housing. “This comprehensive housing strategy is intended to be a dynamic document with implementable strategies that will be carried out over the course of the next 10 years.”

According to the document, this strategy would require a significant financial commitment: nearly $107 million with the majority to expand the county’s Housing Investment Trust Fund at $82.6 million.

One major plan to improve housing would be through an updated zoning and subdivision ordinance, which council expects to approve at its last legislative session for the year Oct. 23. The current ordinance infuses dozens of regulations some developers and land owners say are confusion, outdated and cumbersome.

Another housing proposal includes the creation of a centralized inventory system to keep track of publicly-owned land and underutilized properties. It could cost $250,000 to get running and possibly $80,000 annually to maintain it.

Some of the other ideas include:

Count the number of vacant storefronts, office buildings and other properties to rehabilitate for another use;

Establish a taskforce to create a comprehensive tenants right’s policy to assess rent increases, source of income protection and relocation assistance; and

Invest $25,000 a year to train county staff on cultural competency and work with residents with disabilities.

Besides the county touting the lowest median home value in the Washington Metropolitan area estimated at $270,000, the county also experienced a decrease in foreclosures.

According to realtytrac.com, which keeps a monthly record of foreclosed properties nationwide, Prince George’s ranked eighth in the state August with a foreclosure rate of one in every 730 units. For the past several years, the jurisdiction stood among the top five counties in Maryland.

Anne Jordan, program officer with Enterprise Community Partners of Northeast which the county hired to as the lead consultant on project, said there continues to be a negative perception among lack of affordable housing, but stressed officials and residents must continue to outline the jurisdiction’s strength.

“Prince George’s County can really leverage that for its existing housing today,” Jordan said.

The eight people who spoke after a PowerPoint presentation support the housing proposal.

“We are very excited about participating [and] helping you implement [housing strategy]. We would do it tomorrow,” said Norman Rivera, an attorney representing Ryan Homes who proclaims the company as county’s largest developer.

Julia Baltimore of Fort Washington offered council a warning before the document becomes approved.

“I ask that you work for the people who placed you in positions to oversee our affairs,” she said. “You must make sure that the developer will deliver housing at suitable income levels for all citizens.”

Those who couldn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting can still submit written comments by Nov. 9.

For more information, call 301-883-5531. To review the document, go to https://bit.ly/2CDymEO.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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