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Prince George’s County residents filled a small room within the Vista Gardens shopping center in Bowie on Feb. 4 for a town hall to discuss housing concerns in the community. The topics included identifying the entity responsible for devaluing property in Prince George’s County and perpetuating the fabrication that homes in the county are not increasing in value. A small panel including former Del. Aisha Braveboy, former State Attorney Glenn Ivey and Broker Ruth Wright helped residents address their concerns.

For the 2015 residential reassessments, the county had a 23 percent increase in base value, which was the highest in the state from $12.5 billion to $15.4 billion, which totaled $2.9 billion in value. Although the numbers seem good, panelists discussed how the numbers could stay the same or even increase in the future.

Director of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development Eric C. Brown said he believes the solution to continue to build value in Prince George’s County is in expanding the commercial tax base. “Expanding our commercial tax base will do a number of things,” Brown said in a news release. “It will increase job and employment opportunities within the county, which will strengthen the value of the housing market and drive demand. It will also increase tax revenues for the county and reduce our reliance on residential taxes. All this will make the county less vulnerable in the future.”

The county saw an economic down turn in March 2011 with housing values dropping to $155,000, the lowest median sales price the county has ever seen. However, since then, the county’s median sales price has increased 47 percent from March 2011 through December 2014. “The longer your house stays on the market, the more it deteriorates,” Braveboy told the crowd. “We cannot afford to lose our communities, wealth or home owners.”

The median sold price for homes in the county from December 2013 to November 2014 was $227,000. For the other surrounding areas, the numbers were much higher. The median sold prices for other counties during that same time period were: Anne Arundel County $309,000, Howard County $378,700, Montgomery County $397,000 and Washington D.C. $513,250.

“While other people’s communities have been getting the respect they deserve, we have not received that here in Prince George’s County,” said Sandra Pruitt, executive director of People for Change Coalition, who hosted and helped plan discussion. “This whole crisis is devastating out county. Children in Prince George’s County are considering themselves homeless. We are losing our generational wealth.”

The housing and community development department is using counseling agencies to assist residents who are facing foreclosures. Housing counselors are also working with families, banks and mortgage companies to get loan modifications and enter into short sale contracts. “Prince George’s County by in large is going to rise and fall together,” Ivey said.

For more information on how to receive assistance with foreclosures or loan modifications, visit the department’s website http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/sites/DHCD/Pages/default.aspx.