County looks to ad­dress af­ford­able hous­ing

Coun­cil sub­com­mit­tee meets to dis­cuss con­sult­ing op­tions

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

In re­sponse to in­creas­ing chal­lenges and at­tempts in­no­va­tive ways to en­sure hous­ing is avail­able and af­ford­able for fam­i­lies at all in­come lev­els, mem­bers of the Prince Ge­orge’s County Coun­cil Com­pre­hen­sive Hous­ing Strat­egy Ad Hoc Sub-Com­mit­tee held a joint meet­ing July 26 at the County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in Up­per Marl­boro.

Ac­cord­ing to an ex­ec­u­tive summary report on “Hous­ing Security in the Wash­ing­ton Re­gion” from the Ur­ban In­sti­tute and the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Wash­ing­ton Coun­cil of Gov­ern­ments, the short­age of af­ford­able hous­ing in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., re­gion is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly clear as many house­holds are still strug­gling

to get by on min­i­mum- or low-wage jobs.

In­suf­fi­cient in­come is a sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier for many peo­ple in ob­tain­ing and re­main­ing in af­ford­able hous­ing. Nearly onethird of owner-oc­cu­pied house­holds in the Wash­ing­ton re­gion paid more than 30 per­cent of their monthly in­come in hous­ing costs, with cost bur­den rates that ranged from 88 per­cent for ex­tremely low-in­come house­holds to 10 per­cent for high-in­come house­holds, the report also noted.

“While we’re on re­cess, we’re go­ing to at­tempt to en­sure that the very dif­fi­cult work of Prince Ge­orge’s County, in this re­gion dur­ing this time of re­cov­ery as it con­tin­ues to take place,” said Coun­cil Chair­man Der­rick L. Davis (D). “When we went through the re­ces­sion, it hit just about ev­ery­body. It’s a good dis­tant mem­ory and hope­fully we don’t re­peat it. But we plan to be pre­pared.”

The coun­cil’s Com­pre­hen­sive Hous­ing Strat­egy is a plan, to be de­vel­oped over an 18-month pe­riod from April 2016 to Oc­to­ber 2017, for as­sess­ing and ad­dress­ing the needs of the county through 2035. It will not only fo­cus on is­sues of hous­ing sup­ply, af­ford­abil­ity and qual­ity, but also as­sess hous­ing needs and gaps in hous­ing — for house­holds at all in­come lev­els and ten­ure types — and de­velop a set of poli­cies and strate­gies to ad­dress those needs, ac­cord­ing to a mem­o­ran­dum dated June 15 from the Prince Ge­orge’s County De­part­ment of Hous­ing and Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment (DHCD).

“I’ve heard ev­ery­thing from tran­sit-ori­ented hous­ing to ru­ral hous­ing. But in Prince Ge­orge’s County, it’s prob­a­bly the only place where you can get just about ev­ery­thing and we still have the op­por­tu­nity to do more,” Davis said. “If we plan it right, it can con­tinue to give and bal­ance out es­sen­tially our tax base. … I just want to make sure that that con­ver­sa­tion is in­her­ent to how we op­er­ate. It’s not a right or wrong; it’s a for­mula that we have to strike.”

The meet­ing fea­tured pre­sen­ta­tions from Melissa Bondi of En­ter­prise Com­mu­nity Partners and Hi­lary Chap­man from the Metro Wash­ing­ton Coun­cil of Gov­ern­ments. Both or­ga­ni­za­tions, which are a part of the Com­pre­hen­sive Hous­ing Strat­egy Group/Task Force/Com­mit­tee, op­er­ate as partners with the coun­cil’s ad hoc com­mit­tee.

Bondi and Chap­man dis­cussed mod­els of com­pre­hen­sive hous­ing strate­gies and frame­works for con­sul­tant as­sis­tance.

Since 1982, En­ter­prise has worked to cre­ate op­por­tu­nity for low- and mod­er­ate-in­come peo­ple through af­ford­able hous­ing in di­verse, thriv­ing com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to its web­site. En­ter­prise helped to de­sign and im­ple­ment the Low-In­come Hous­ing Tax Credit and re­mains at the fore­front of all crit­i­cal hous­ing and com­mu­nity devel­op­ment poli­cies, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

“Our re­gion cer­tainly re­lies on hav­ing ad­e­quate sup­ply of hous­ing that’s safe and de­cent and af­ford­able to peo­ple at ev­ery area all around the spec­trum,” Bondi said. “It goes from state hous­ing all the way to those who may be home­less or at risk of be­ing home­less and ev­ery­where in be­tween.”

The report claims that the Wash­ing­ton re­gion has long been among the most ex­pen­sive met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas na­tion­ally and hous­ing has be­come in­creas­ingly un­af­ford­able for many house­holds in re­cent years. Al­though the area has gen­er­ally higher in­comes and wages than most other places in the coun­try, in­comes are not keep­ing pace with ris­ing hous­ing costs.

The re­cent hous­ing cri­sis forced many house­holds out of home­own­er­ship and brought about tighter lend­ing stan­dards that made home mort­gages more dif­fi­cult to ob­tain. Home­own­er­ship, which is the path to sav­ings and sta­bil­ity for most peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S., is out of reach for many in the re­gion not be­cause of a lack of steady in­come, but be­cause high prices fu­eled by ex­ces­sive de­mand squeeze po­ten­tial buy­ers out of the mar­ket.

Most home­less peo­ple in fam­i­lies and sin­gle adults, how­ever, did not need per­ma­nent sup­port­ive hous­ing. Rather, many just needed af­ford­able rent­ing hous­ing and, in some cases, ad­di­tional sup­ports such as as­sis­tance with se­cur­ing child care, health in­sur­ance and em­ploy­ment, to help them hold a lease and main­tain rent pay­ments over time, the report also noted.

“All hous­ing plans are on an am­bi­tious time­line,” Bondi said. “We have a lot of re­ally high-qual­ity con­sult­ing firms, or­ga­ni­za­tions, aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions who can of­fer ser­vices in a wide va­ri­ety of ele­ments. Many of those con­sul­tants can do more than one thing.”

The con­tin­uum of hous­ing needs — from ba­sic shel­ter to sup­port­ive hous­ing from a sub­si­dized apart­ment to an af­ford­able home for sale — en­com­passes hous­ing for home­less in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies, renters and for home­own­ers. To pro­vide for house­holds at dif­fer­ent points along the con­tin­uum, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, state and lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions, pri­vate in­vestors and phil­an­thropic or­ga­ni­za­tions have cre­ated sev­eral pub­lic and pri­vate pro­grams to sup­port the cre­ation and preser­va­tion of af­ford­able hous­ing, the report noted.

In or­der to re­main com­pet­i­tive, the re­gion must ad­dress hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity to en­sure that its work­force can con­tinue to find hous­ing with­out hav­ing to com­mute fur­ther to work. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers are in­creas­ingly pay­ing at­ten­tion to af­ford­able hous­ing as a plat­form for con­nect­ing house­holds with other sup­ports and ser­vices than can help them achieve bet­ter out­comes.

“Re­search and data, ac­tual writ­ing, pol­icy ex­per­tise and de­sign or facilitation of a pub­lic process re­ally com­prise, in my mind, four big-pic­ture cat­e­gories for con­sult­ing,” Bondi said.

Fund­ing for af­ford­able hous­ing and home­less ser­vices will re­quire lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions like Prince Ge­orge’s County to find in­no­va­tive ways to pro­duce more af­ford­able hous­ing through zon­ing or­di­nances and reg­u­la­tory poli­cies or by rais­ing rev­enue to fill the gaps, po­ten­tially by lever­ag­ing lo­cal re­sources or of­fer­ing tax-ex­empt bonds, ac­cord­ing to the report.

The county’s hous­ing and com­mu­nity devel­op­ment de­part­ment sug­gests that the broad goals of the Com­pre­hen­sive Hous­ing Strat­egy in­clude de­vel­op­ing poli­cies and strate­gies that would cre­ate di­verse hous­ing choices; pro­mot­ing re­gional hous­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion and co­or­di­na­tion; in­creas­ing home­own­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties; and en­cour­ag­ing sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

The re­sources needed would in­clude a re­search and anal­y­sis team, ge­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion sys­tem (GIS) map­ping ca­pa­bil­ity, a web­site, so­cial me­dia sup­port, graphic de­signer or graphic de­sign sup­port, print­ing and brochures as well as an es­ti­mated bud­get of $300,000 to $375,000. DHCD also rec­om­mends that the ad hoc sub-com­mit­tee seek sup­port from county agen­cies in­clud­ing the rede­vel­op­ment and hous­ing au­thor­ity, de­part­ment of per­mits, in­spec­tions and en­force­ment, the eco­nomic devel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion, park and plan­ning de­part­ment, so­cial ser­vices de­part­ment, pub­lic works/trans­porta­tion de­part­ment, Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools, County Stat, the health de­part­ment and fam­ily ser­vices de­part­ment.

“With hous­ing in par­tic­u­lar, there’s no need to rein­vent the wheel. We have a good wheel. We know how to do it well in this re­gion and there’s no need to cre­ate some­thing shiny and dif­fer­ent to get a high-qual­ity prod­uct,” Chap­man said. “That’s to the county’s ben­e­fit and all of our ben­e­fit.”

“It sounds like [Oc­to­ber 2017] is not a re­al­is­tic time­line, es­pe­cially from the per­spec­tive of a com­pre­hen­sive hous­ing strat­egy,” Davis said. “It’s re­ally more about the over­ar­ch­ing re­al­i­ties and be­ing able to en­sure that we get a good prod­uct.”

The pro­jected date for the ad hoc sub-com­mit­tee’s pre­lim­i­nary hous­ing strat­egy is Jan. 31, 2017.

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Prince Ge­orge’s County Coun­cil mem­bers Deni Tav­eras, Mary Lehman, Todd Turner, Chair­man Der­rick Davis and Chair­woman Dan­nielle Glaros lis­ten to Melissa Bondi from En­ter­prise Com­mu­nity Partners as she gives her pre­sen­ta­tion dur­ing a meet­ing held July 26...

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