UPPER MARLBORO — Looking to expand opportunities for affordable housing throughout the county, the Prince George’s County Council adopted legislation to establish a Housing Opportunities For All Workgroup at their meeting on April 2.
The purpose of the Housing Opportunities For All Workgroup is to develop an effective housing policy using strategies that build housing for all and benefits the healthy, social and economic development of the county.
The workgroup will be tasked with assisting in implementing county’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy Report, which is called “Housing Opportunity For All” they will provide advice on any proposed legislation or changes for consideration by the county to the policies, regulations, procedures and distribution of county resources.
“This is, I would say, a continuation of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy that we just completed,” said County Council Chair Todd Turner. “Through that two-year process, we had a rather substantive advisory group for the comprehensive housing strategy which I think worked very well, they got input through the entire process to come up with the final report so what we’re trying to do is continue that work, in essence bringing it into an implementable stage.”
The 468-page Comprehensive Housing Strategy Report was finalized in March after the county council established a Comprehensive Housing Strategy Ad-Hoc Housing Subcommittee which worked with the Department of Housing and Community Development, consultants and citizen advisory groups to initiate and develop it.
The workgroup was unanimously adopted at Tuesday’s meeting.
Representing the county’s 10-year plan to support the housing needs of residents and expand opportunities, the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Report hopes to achieve three primary goals: supporting existing residents, attracting new residents and building on strategic investments and submarket conditions.
The report listed several existing trends under each goal such as lack of diverse housing options, growing market strength, barriers to new development, perception issues and varied submarket conditions.
Additionally, it lists strategies to address the current trends through a two-pronged approach; expanding housing policies to support new and existing residents, promote collaboration and increase resources and target strategies to respond to key housing market conditions such as lack of diverse housing options and affordability.
Housing Initiative Partnership (HIP), a Hyattsville-based nonprofit, works directly with county residents to assist in their search for affordable housing from assisting the homeless and helping people to move out of shelters into permanent housing. They also provide help with things such as rent and financial coaching, said President Maryann Dillon.
“This county doesn’t have a lot of the tools that other counties have like Montgomery County or D.C.,” said Dillon.
“The real challenge comes with the low-income and moderate-income workers here in the county who are making minimum wage,” said Director of Housing Counseling Mary Hunter. “In the service industry there is a lot of low-income families in that industry, and those are the clients that we work with, and often some of the barriers they face with getting stable housing are many things.”
These barriers include the cost of childcare, especially in a single-parent household, transportation costs and history of eviction, Hunter continued.
However, Turner said there is more to the Comprehensive Housing Strategy than just affordable housing and called it “a blueprint for where we want to go and where we are currently.”
The first aspect of it involves maintaining the current housing stock for those who are longtime residents of Prince George’s County. The second aspect is community assessment which includes strategies to create additional housing, particularly workforce housing.
The final aspect is market-based and involves incentivizing opportunities in the county.
Once the workgroup gets kicked off, it will consist of 19 members including a county council member as the chair and the director or designee of county departments and institutions such as the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce President, the Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Planning and the Housing Authority.
One representative of other organizations will be a part of the workgroup as well including the Prince George’s County Association of Realtors, CASA de Maryland and Prince George’s County Municipal Association.
The workgroup will meet quarterly unless otherwise required by the county council or workgroup co-chairs. By Jan. 1, 2020, they will provide an annual report which outlines activities, implementation status and budget recommendations will be presented to the county council.