Eugene Grant

Eugene Grant has served as mayor of Seat Pleasant, Maryland since 2004. (Courtesy Photo)

In an effort to stave off gentrification, Seat Pleasant, Maryland Mayor Eugene Grant is planning to cap property taxes for senior citizens who own their own homes. Seat Pleasant has about 4,500 residents and about 13 percent are people that are 65 years old and older, according to the mayor. The mostly Black community is known as a “bedroom community,” because it borders the District of Columbia.

“We’re always cautious we’re not going to be gentrified,” Grant told the AFRO. “We refuse to sit back and let that occur. If we don’t protect African Americans, which I will do, they will lose.”

According to news reports, the nation’s capital is currently undergoing segments of gentrification with lower income, mostly minority residents losing their homes and leaving the city. Grant said he is planning to prevent a similar fate in Seat Pleasant by putting a cap on property taxes for senior home owners who have lived in the city for more than 20 years. A cap amount had not been established at the time of publication.

Along with trying to forestall gentrification, Grant said he is also trying to improve the city. He said there are several development plans in process, including the construction of an innovation village comprised of investors and the installment of accelerators and incubators on 15 acres of land to increase business advancement. He said he acknowledges that the projects will inevitably drive up property costs.

He said he also has plans to transform the city into a smart city where information technology is used to address issues through online services. More than half a million dollars is being put into an Intelligent Operations Center above the city hall, Grant said. “We will be the first in this area, Prince George’s County or the state of Maryland,” Grant said. “As we redevelop our city, the value of our property obviously will increase. Ultimately, the taxes or the amount that you pay in taxes will increase. We have to put some type of incentive in place to ensure that as those rates increase, we lock in an amount for those residents who may have lived here 20 years or better.”

In addition to tax incentives, Grant said he is also eager to offer financial literacy throughout every neighborhood in the city over the next two years. “Imagine RVs teaching financial literacy up every block in the city on how to create legacy wealth,” he said. “We’re talking about making this community better. Values are going to go up, but the salaries are not going to go up. The senior benefits are not going up. They still got to pay utilities, food, out-of-pocket medical expenses. If the value goes up, if you’re barely making it, what happens when you’re paying ?”

Even though the tax incentives have not been created yet, Grant said he anticipates winning reelection this fall and said they will be implemented, should the city council approve them, after the beginning of what he refers to as his final term in office. “I’m getting out of politics soon,” Grant said. “My job is to train the next mayor. We want to maintain who we are. We want to create legacy.”