OXON HILL – More than 40 Prince George’s residents discussed the housing needs of different communities in the county and identified their primary housing values at the Prince George’s County Comprehensive Housing Strategy Kickoff Meeting on Oct. 11 at Oxon Hill High School.
“It was the first of what’s going to be four of our public engagement meetings,” said Eric Brown, director of the Department of Housing and Community Development of Prince George’s County. “The purpose is to get a sense from the public about their understanding of housing needs in the county from various perspectives, and then also to gauge their housing values, and their values in general.”
Chris Kizzie and Laura Searfoss with Enterprise Community Partners gave a presentation on housing conditions in the county. Enterprise Community Partners is a consulting team working with the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Team.
The presentation indicated that housing needs and preferences in the county are changing and some residents cannot keep up with rising housing costs. These changes are shaped by “aging residents, rise in Hispanic households and immigrants, fewer families, more unrelated persons living together, smaller households, and limited growth in middle-income families,” according to the slide presentation.
The presentation also noted that, based on demographic trends, the county may need more smaller apartments, homeownership opportunities for higher income households, and rental opportunities for extremely and very low-income residents.
Attendees worked in groups to identify the housing concerns of different factions of people in the county. Each of the groups addressed different identities, including a single parent with children, senior citizen, person with disabilities, long-time homeowner and recent immigrant.
Although each group addressed the specific issues facing their assigned identity, common themes emerged. Multiple groups discussed affordability, access to public transportation, and safety.
“Access (to transportation) is usually a big challenge for people that have either suffered from a stroke or lived with other types of disabilities,” one group member said.
Another group listed affordability as an important issue for senior citizens.
“He’s semi-retired,” another group member said of a hypothetical senior citizen. “He can’t afford to go into full-retirement, so he has to maintain a little work to maintain the same quality of life he’s used to. He’s living in a senior living facility, but the rent’s increasing next month, even though his income is not increasing.”
Sade Oshinubi, a candidate for State Delegate for District 26, attended the meeting. She was struck by how many residents discussed the importance of costs of necessities such as transportation and affordable food accessibility in addition to the cost of rent.
“I think a lot of times we pay attention to the cost of a house or the cost of an apartment, and not the cost of getting from Point A or Point B from that place, or access to eating options and things like that,” Oshinubi said. “What really stood out to me was that so many of the attendees focused on aspects outside of the actual cost of living in the county.”
Participants listed their “housing values” on posters, and as attendees left they placed stickers by the statements they agreed with . Some of the values that multiple people listed included safety, affordability, environmental friendliness, and diversity.
Brown said the goal of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy is to assess the county’s housing needs from the present through to 2035.
“The idea is to, one, take a look at what the housing needs are now based on the current demographic, and then what it would look like in 20 years based on what the projected demographic would be at that period of time,” Brown said. “And to take the information to help guide what our future housing policy will be, but not only in terms of policy, but how do we strategically make our investment as it relates to housing and economic development.”
The next public meeting on the Comprehensive Housing Strategy is Nov. 8 at Central High School.