Courtesy of Prince George's County Department of Housing and Community Development
Courtesy of Prince George's County Department of Housing and Community Development

When the financial and housing crisis struck the nation several years ago, Prince George’s County became one of the most affected jurisdictions in the nation.

Although county officials say there’s been steady improvement, they are coordinating a yearlong, comprehensive project to assess its housing stock based on current and future needs.

“If you think globally, everybody needs housing regardless of your income,” said Eric Brown, director of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “It’s kind of hard for you to focus on anything else if you don’t have a good, safe, secure place to live.”

Thousands of residents have jobs marked by the county’s unemployment below 5 percent for two straight years, but one of the biggest challenges the county continues to combat involve foreclosures.

According to realtytrac.com, which keeps a monthly list on foreclosed properties nationwide, Maryland ranked fourth in the nation in August with a foreclosure rate of one in every 1,065 units.

Although Prince George’s County continues to be seen as one of the most affluent African-American areas nationwide, it ranked second in the state with a foreclosure rate at one in every 719 units, just behind Baltimore City at one in every 625.

The Census projected about 65 percent, or 590,230 Blacks resided in the county in July 2016.

Brown said foreclosures aren’t as severe compared to 2011, when the median value of a house stood at $150,000.

“We still have some challenges in some parts of the county, but it is less of an issue,” he said.

To improve homeownership for Blacks, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers of Lanham noted in a report released last month that policies must be changed such as a requirement for lenders to use up-to-date and accurate credit ratings, eliminate predatory lending and enhance education on homeownership.

Meanwhile, the county hired Enterprise Community Partners of Northeast to help assess the housing stock.

One major problem Enterprise found: “the county may not offer enough housing options — for a range of income levels, preferences, and phases of life — to meet its existing and future housing needs.”

Another concern is residents who reside in 122,000 of the more than 300,000 households spend at least 30 percent of their income on housing.

The company presented some of its findings at an Oct. 11 public meeting in Oxon Hill to highlight the county housing stock flourishes with single-family homes, multifamily apartment buildings with five or more units and large apartments with four or more bedrooms.

Some types of housing the county may need to increase:

• Smaller apartments (studio and one-bedroom units);

• Homeownership opportunities for higher income households; and

• Rental opportunities for low-income residents.

To ensure more accessibility, various types and affordability, the county wants input from business leaders, housing advocates and residents and will incorporate focus groups. Some of the members will include seniors, developers and people who experience homelessness.

Those who attended the Oxon Hill session broke into groups to identify who needs housing and specific values.

Krystal Oriadha of Capitol Heights said after the 90-minute discussion that apartment companies and landlords who own housing units connected to businesses should be mandated to accepted all vouchers.

That would help ensure more people have a place to live, she said.

Another meeting will take place Nov. 8 at Central High School in Capitol Heights to focus on specific communities to assess where foreclosed homes may be more evident, existence of rental properties, values of single-family homes and other housing items.

“Part of our next analysis is to think about the county not as this big area, but really drill down into recognizing that the conditions are really playing out differently throughout the county,” said Laura Searfoos, program director for Enterprise. “The county needs a strategy that can address all those things and all those diversity of conditions.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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