Testimony before the Hon. Andrea Harrison, Chair, Prince George’s County Council Re: Prince George’s CB 27-2013: Rental Conversion First Refusal

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Our organization works to ensure that transportation and development decisions in the Washington, D.C. region, including the Maryland suburbs, accommodate growth while revitalizing communities, providing more housing and travel choices, and conserving our natural and historic areas.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth would like to express its support for CB 27, with the amendment that “Sec. 13-1120. Designation” be deleted. We are concerned that this designation by resolution provision is unnecessary and inhibits the function of this tool. Overall, we support this bill as a careful tool to assist with the preservation of quality rental housing to better meet the needs of many Prince George’s residents who struggle to find decent housing they can afford.

It is a measured tool to allow the county to help preserve affordable rental housing either through direct purchase, or through assigning the right to a third party. It also allows for waivers if certain conditions are met. This approach offers the county the opportunity to protect affordable rental housing without unduly burdening the building owner. Thus this tool is likely to be used where there is institutional and community capacity to purchase and rehabilitate rental housing. We welcome this useful tool to help Prince George’s residents secure quality, affordable rental housing.

Like all Washington, D.C. area jurisdictions, a significant share of residents find housing costs too high for their incomes. Building a toolbox of policies that help more Prince George’s working families find suitable housing that they can afford is a critical task for public officials. CB 27 is one of the tools that the county should have to assist renters with the opportunity to preserve their homes as affordable. This should be one of many tools. In 2010, we published a policy paper examining Prince George’s housing needs and initiatives (summary attached). This effort followed extensive work we have done in other jurisdictions on affordable housing policy. Through our research, we found that Prince George’s uses few local policy tools, both in absolute terms and compared to surrounding jurisdictions (see attached Table 5). Thus we welcome CB 27 as an important contribution to a local housing toolbox we hope to grow over time.

Thank you for your consideration.

Cheryl Cort, Policy Director