As the economic picture continues to worsen, Prince George’s County continues to lead Maryland in foreclosure properties.

With close to 625 foreclosure properties and a rate of 1 in 517 properties, the county’s foreclosure rate remains among the highest nationally as it tries to come out of a countywide downturn spurred by the crisis. In comparison, the next closest jurisdiction in number is Baltimore City with 213 and in ratio, Frederick with 1 in 1007.

The crisis caused the county to make difficult fiduciary decisions as the budget has steadily decreased from $2.8 billion in 2007 to $2.6 billion for fiscal year 2012.

The county, for many years, relied on its residential tax base to fund the government, but after the crisis built, government officials realized that it needed a drastic change in philosophy. Since then, everyone from candidates running for office to Gov. Martin O’Malley has stressed the need to bring more business opportunities, through transit-oriented development (TOD), to Prince George’s County.

Some realtors in the county are growing impatient with the pace of this movement though. Ruth Wright, president of the Prince George’s Real Estate Professionals for Change (PGREP4C) said more information on the TOD process needs to be provided. “The developers are talking, but county government does not appear to be responding efficiently or expeditiously,” Wright said. “The county’s plan needs to be developed and shared with the media. The county needs a positive media buzz. We need our subway stops to be a destination and not a transfer spot.”

However, efforts to achieve TOD are well underway in Bowie and New Carrolton as plans to bring major business development around the Bowie MARC Station and the New Carrolton Metro Station are progressing. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has been trying to convince everyone that the county is open for business, even traveling across the country to do so.

“Not only will you grow here, we have underutilized hubs waiting to explode such as our 15 metro stations,” Baker told the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Mid-Atlantic. “We are excited about some big changes that will be underway for our New Carrollton Metro Station and this is just the beginning of our mixed use development plans.”

O’Malley has promised to move the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to the county to aid in that effort, and the county has been fighting to attract federal tenants. But, that may be a few years away and the county has to make do in the meantime. It won’t be easy, though, as the national outlook has changed over the past few weeks and months with the time it took to pass the Budget Control Act and the chaos in the stock market.

The issues have Baker concerned that Prince George’s, like the federal government, will lose its AAA bond rating. He says the county will continue to work through the setback.

“The time it took to agree to this compromise has created a possibility that the ‘AAA’ bond ratings the County has worked so hard to achieve and maintain could be downgraded,” Baker said in a statement. “My administration is dedicated to working with the rating houses to avoid this downgrade.”

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO