We Need to be Smart About New Housing

CEX Header

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

We Need to be Smart About New Housing

Dear Prince Georgians:

Today we voiced our opposition to CB-050-2023 and also plan to oppose CB-052-2023 when it is heard. Together, these bills will put a two-year moratorium on building townhomes in areas except transit-oriented development locations. This moratorium will eliminate opportunity, negatively impact our local economy, and harm the very people it claims to help.

The County Council also suspended the rules for CB-050-2023, to fast-track implementation of this legislation. Normally, the Council would wait 35-45 days before holding a public hearing, but now a public hearing could be held much sooner. Housing is a complex issue, and this gives very little time for the public and community stakeholders to learn about the legislation and be part of the process. Any time we are debating an issue of this magnitude, we should strive to be as transparent and inclusive of community input as possible, rather than rushing the process.

These townhome bills will add another barrier to homeownership, greatly harming hard-working residents. Many first-time homebuyers, including young buyers, African American buyers, and other buyers of color, purchase townhomes because they are more affordable than single-family homes. If we take away this housing type that is traditionally an entry point to homeownership, we will end up having the same “missing middle” discussion that other jurisdictions around the region are currently facing.

In addition, as housing prices have risen across the nation, the national conversation around land use and zoning has focused on how to expand housing options for households of color and low-to-moderate income households. Equitable and progressive policies focus on encouraging townhomes and other building types that promote density, increasing the supply of housing and helping drive down costs. These bills miss the mark and represent a step backwards on how other jurisdictions across the nation are dealing with the issue of housing.

As you have seen, the County is focused on smart growth and transit-oriented development, which is placing amenities and mixed-use development around metro stations. At the same time, we are working to preserve affordable housing, to ensure that those who have contributed to our community can continue to live in their homes at an affordable rate.

Our economic development strategy, which focuses on smart growth near transit, focuses heavily on affordable housing. In fact, we have created or preserved nearly 4,000 affordable housing units since 2021. Neighborhoods near transit need high-density housing options, like apartment complexes, to successfully maintain affordability.

Townhomes do not have the density needed to provide enough housing stock near transit, so limiting new townhomes solely to transit-oriented development locations will worsen housing affordability at these locations. It will also compromise our ability to use dense multifamily developments to attract more business, retail, and amenities near our transit stations.

When you look at housing stock in the County, the total housing inventory was 924 homes in March, and as of last week it was 750 homes, according to Bright MLS. New townhomes around transit stations will likely already cost more given their location. Limiting the development of townhomes in other parts of the County will strain an already limited housing supply, driving up the prices of these townhomes even more. Put simply, it will result in residents getting priced out of their neighborhoods near transit.

We’ve engaged in conversations about the placement of townhomes in our County, and we understand the concerns of residents. It’s critical that we grow in a smart way and continue to expand housing options for residents. However, we’ve heard a few concerns regarding townhome developments that are not based on facts.

Some have expressed concerns that townhome developments bring additional crime, and that is simply not true. Again, townhomes are often the entry point for homeownership for young people and people of color. Homeownership is one of the prime ways that families are able to build equity and generational wealth in this country. Suggesting that we not build townhomes because they bring crime is similar to discriminatory arguments our neighbors fought decades ago to live in a place like Prince George’s County.

We’ve also heard concerns about sprawl, and what I can tell you is we need to have a more nuanced discussion about this issue that does not link sprawl to townhome developments. Sprawl occurs when houses are built outside of established communities; places that require all new infrastructure to support them. Townhomes, and single-family homes, should be built in established communities in the suburban tier.

We agree that we do not want sprawl, which is why this administration has been focused on smart growth and transit-oriented development since day one. However, placing a moratorium on townhomes is not the way to address this issue and will only worsen housing issues that are already on our doorstep.

Housing is a complex issue, and we need to be smart about how we grow and develop. We also need to address this issue in a way that is transparent and inclusive, following the normal legislative process that gives people more time to learn about legislation, how it would impact our County, and ensure the voices of all community members and stakeholders can be heard. Unfortunately, the County Council’s bills regarding townhomes will worsen housing affordability issues and eliminate opportunities for homeownership, equity, and generational wealth for far too many hard-working Prince Georgians.

Yours in service,

Angela Alsobrooks

Prince George’s County Executive

Legislation Regarding Rent Stabilization

Today, the County Council also passed CB-051-2023, legislation adding on to the initial rent stabilization bill passed earlier this year. If you recall, my administration supported that initial Rent Stabilization Act, because we have heard the concerns of our community and understand the need to support those who are struggling with rapidly rising rents. We look forward to working with the Rent Stabilization Work Group and reviewing its findings and recommendations for long-term solutions to address this issue.

With today’s legislation and CB-7, the original rent stabilization bill, we believe it is extremely important that the public, especially tenants and landlords, understand how the rent stabilization legislation will operate and the impact it will have on County residents and government agencies. Violations of the Rent Stabilization Act involve a process that could take time to resolve, and we want to be sure everyone understands how that process works.

For tenants, if you believe that your landlord has raised your rent in violation of the Rent Stabilization Act (CB-07-2023), you will need to notify the Department of Permitting, Inspections, and Enforcement (DPIE). DPIE already has limited resources which we are working to address during this budget cycle. In our FY 2024 proposed budget, we increased DPIE’s budget by 10.1% over last year to fill all the department’s vacant positions and implement IT initiatives that will help improve services.

Once you have notified DPIE and an investigation has taken place, if the County makes a finding that the law has been violated, DPIE will issue a citation. Your landlord may choose to pay the citation. If your landlord chooses to appeal and go to court, your complaint may not be resolved as quickly as you would like. While your complaint is pending, you are obligated to pay your rent until your case has moved through the court system.

Rent stabilization is a complex issue that will require thoughtful and long-term solutions, which is why we look forward to the findings of the Rent Stabilization Work Group, which we will participate in. This administration represents all districts and all Prince Georgians, and rent stabilization is not a political issue that impacts only one or two districts in the County. We will continue to support long-term solutions to rent stabilization and will do what we can, despite limited resources and a tight budget, to expeditiously resolve violations of the Rent Stabilization Act.