By Elliott Davis
Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced on Friday a $1.4 million grant for public housing in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.
The funding, awarded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Public Housing Capital Fund, will be split up between five different housing authorities, according to a joint statement released by the senators. The funding will be used for “development, financing and modernization of public housing developments and for management improvements,” according to the release.
The Housing Authority of Prince George’s County received the largest share of the funds, at over $700,000. Other housing authorities receiving funds include the College Park Housing Authority, Glenarden Housing Authority, Rockville Housing Enterprises and Housing Opportunity Community of Montgomery County.
Cardin said in the statement that Marylanders deserve “a safe and affordable place to call home.”
“Many families in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties benefit from access to public housing developments, but too many more remain on waiting lists without other good options,” Cardin added. “These federal funds will support the continued effort to expand and improve affordable housing options for future generations, which uplifts our local communities and strengthens our local economies.”
More public housing grants for the counties are expected to be announced soon — as early as Monday, according to Sue Walitsky, Cardin’s national communications director.
Van Hollen added in the press release, “When we invest in affordable housing, we invest in Maryland’s continued economic growth and success. That’s why we must keep working to improve the quality and accessibility of affordable housing in our state. This funding will not only increase the supply of affordable housing in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, but it will also help modernize current homes – providing more options and better living conditions for Maryland families.
“I will continue fighting for investments that strengthen Maryland communities and increases economic opportunity for all.”
Bridgett Frey, Van Hollen’s communications director, said that Van Hollen’s role on the Senate Appropriations Committee and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee means he will continue to push for public housing funding for the counties.
“As a member of both the Appropriations Committee and the Committee that covers housing issues, I’m working to make sure that the federal government does its part to support affordable housing in Maryland and across the country,” Van Hollen added in a written statement provided by Frey. “When families have a safe and affordable place to live, the results are clear – children are more secure, the economy improves, and our entire community succeeds.”
The funding grant split was determined through a formula used by HUD’s Office of Public Housing Investments. The formula measures “existing modernization needs and accrual needs” of public housing authorities and then determines the relative share, according to the HUD website. The office also prepares quarterly reports for Congress about the “obligation and expenditure” of grants and imposes sanctions on authorities that do not comply with deadlines, according to the release.
Jereon Brown, general deputy assistant secretary at HUD, said the grant funds are placed in the department’s Line of Credit Control System once an official announcement is made. The housing authorities that received the grant can then withdraw funds from the system, which Brown referred to as HUD’s “bank.” From there, the housing authorities are empowered to use the funds for capital improvement.
Van Hollen continued his push for public housing by urging the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee to support funding for HUD’s Section 4 Capacity Building program, according to another press release sent by the senator’s office on Monday. The program works with local organizations “to improve affordable housing, finance small businesses, and provide for other community needs,” according to the release.
Van Hollen said in a letter, co-signed by 40 other senators, to Sens. Susan Collins and Jack Reed that he and his colleagues are “disappointed” that President Donald Trump’s budget slated the HUD program for elimination “after decades of successful economic and community development.” Collins and Reed are the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the subcommittee.