Prince George's County rolls out proposal for $89 million in housing funds

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Prince George's County is presenting an $89.3 million plan Tuesday aimed at improving the housing market and increasing neighborhood safety.

The proposal comes a year after County Executive Rushern Baker signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to overhaul the county's housing department. Under the control of former County Executive Jack Johnson, since convicted of fraud, the department was fraught with cronyism and lack of oversight.

The largest part of the plan is $73.8 million for Section 8 housing vouchers, through which the federal government helps pay rent for low-income residents. The plan also features more than $4 million in community block grants meant to fund specific projects proposed by localities and nonprofit organizations.

"The major difference this year is that through the application process we tried to be more specific in terms of how we evaluate the applications that we received," said Eric Brown, the county's director of housing and community development. "That was quite a challenge."

The county received 102 applications asking for $14 million total, according to Brown. Those were whittled down to 48 projects that are approved in the proposal, for an average of about $90,000 a grant.

Accepted grants include $200,000 to rehabilitate senior homes in Oxon Hill and Brentwood, $125,000 for road and sidewalk improvements in Laurel and $100,000 to renovate vacant single-family houses in inner-Beltway neighborhoods.

The plan's public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in the County Council hearing room. While the plan must be approved by Baker, who can add amendments, the final decision is up to council members, who also can make changes.

A vote on the plan is tentatively scheduled for May 7. It then must be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by May 15.

Even if everyone votes in favor, that $89.3 million figure may not stand. The federal sequester may take its toll on the plan, reducing federal funding and forcing the county to cut back on community grants by as much as 5 percent.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner