LARGO — The Prince George’s County Housing Opportunities For All Workgroup met for the first time on July 29 to discuss the current state of housing in the county, action the county is currently taking to improve housing opportunities and what the workgroup will be doing in the future.
The Prince George’s County Council established the Housing Opportunities For All Workgroup through legislation which went into effect in April.
The purpose of the workgroup is to create an effective housing policy using strategies that develop housing for all and benefits the healthy, social and economic development of the county.
Additionally, they must come up with plans to implement the county’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy, entitled “Housing Opportunities For All,” as well as make recommendations on proposed legislation or amendments to existing housing policies and legislation under consideration by the county.
“This is work that has been going on for several years now, and it is a focus on where Prince George’s County should go with respect to meeting the needs of our residents, both our current residents and our future residents,” County Council Chair Todd Turner said at the beginning of the meeting.
As the first comprehensive housing strategy ever created in Prince George’s County, Turner said, the questions for the county government to explore are what is the goal, how to foster and incentivize development and what policies the county needs to adopt.
The 19-member group consisted of representatives from county government agencies, nonprofits and other stakeholders.
These included County Councilmember Dannielle Glaros (District 3) and Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Interim Director Estella Alexander as co-chairs, Department of Social Services Director Gloria Brown Burnett, Attorney Nathaniel Forman from the Maryland Business Industry Association and City of Bowie Director of Housing and Homelessness Jesse Buggs.
Over the next two years that the workgroup is together, the hope is to make the comprehensive housing strategy a “living, breathing document that guides housing policy here in Prince George’s County,” Glaros said.
“We don’t have unlimited resources, and we don’t have unlimited time, but here in Prince George’s County, we can get to where we want to be by being really smart and wise and effective,” Glaros added, stating that going forward the workgroup will be focusing on the priorities and policies they will tackle first.
The county council worked with Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit working to create affordable housing opportunities around the U.S., to develop the housing strategy. The organization is one of the only social enterprises in the U.S. with significant expertise in capital, solutions and policy: the three catalysts for system change.
Project Manager Christopher Kizzie gave an overview of the comprehensive housing strategy, where the current housing market in Prince George’s County currently stands and priority actions for the workgroup to take on.
According to Kizzie, the housing strategy was developed in three phases: an analysis of existing and future housing conditions, developments of goals and targets, and a strategy for development and delivery.
It was also created through extensive stakeholder engagement that included four public hearings, eight focus groups, surveys and county staff and stakeholder interviews.
“At the onset, we worked with the advisory committee to make sure that this process was grounded in things that we want to reflect not only the county today, but things that are going to impact the county moving forward,” Kizzie said.
Developing a housing strategy becomes increasingly essential as trends begin to shift within the county. The population is on the rise as it grew by 29,000 between 2010 and 2015. In 2030, the projected population of the county is expected to increase by 950,000.
Market conditions within the county are also changing. The population, rent and home values are increasing, having gone up by 29% and 30%, respectively, between 2000 and 2015.
However, income growth is decreasing countywide, having gone down 1% between those years. Meanwhile, housing market conditions in rural areas are much stronger than those in urban areas.
With the decline in income growth comes the demand for affordable rental housing and homeownership. According to Kizzie, 4,800 subsidized rental units are at risk of losing their affordability requirements between now and 2028.
As for homeowners, more than 70% of the units affordable for low-income households are occupied by people with higher incomes, making it hard for lower-income people to break into the market.
However, regional employment growth is also expected with a projected 990,000 more jobs in the area by 2040, and with that comes the need for 575,000 housing units. Overall, Prince George’s County would need to invest $82 million annually to meet the current and future housing demand without losing existing subsidized units.
Alexander detailed the current actions DHCD is taking to improve the housing market. These include increasing the county’s Housing Investment Trust Fund, improving communication on development projects and aligning the county’s housing initiatives with federal and state resources.
Additionally, the DHCD is working on housing development projects, completing a solicitation for developers and working with the Purple Line coalition to develop a housing plan for that area.
“The department is positioned to grow, both in terms of its policies and programs and also to grow its staff,” Alexander said. “This is a great period for the department and the county at large, so we certainly want to be an active participant in that process.”
The group also talked about some key actions the workgroup could take on in the future.
The three main goals outlined in the comprehensive housing strategy are supporting existing residents, attracting new residents, and building on strategies investments and submarket conditions.
Some specific actions outlined for the workgroup include creating consistency within the county’s development process, modifying the public land disposition process to advance the goals of the housing strategy and identifying opportunities for new housing development on publicly-owned land.
Toward the end of the meeting, the workgroup collectively came up with some other actions to take on including taking a more in-depth look at homelessness, looking at the source of income protection and considering housing for those re-entering society, such as people coming out of prison.
What the workgroup come up with will be important over the next few months as the county executive’s budget will be drafted towards the end of the year. The expectation is for the workgroup to have something to implement when the budget comes to the county council to be reviewed and approved in March. Additionally, they have to send a report to the council and county executive by Jan. 1.
The next meeting date has not been decided, but it is projected to be sometime in late August or early September.