By Deborah Bailey,
Special to the AFRO
With Prince George’s County’s rental rates skyrocketing and eviction rates ranking among the highest in Maryland, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and members of the County Council are looking toward sustainable solutions for the 40% of county residents who are renters, while placing a temporary patch on rental price hikes.
Alsobrooks recently signed The Temporary Rent Stabilization Act (CB-007-2023), temporarily restricting landlords from raising tenant rental rates above 3% over a 12-month period.
The law goes into effect April 17 but will expire in one year. In the meantime, the county is hustling to get answers to rising rent rates, inflation, and an increasing eviction rate through the creation of a working group to study rent control and identify permanent solutions for addressing the rising cost of rental housing.
County Council member Krystal Oriadha (District 7), principal sponsor of the legislation, said the county must act now to keep rental prices within the reach.
“Residents are suffering because of rent increases, and rent stabilization creates stability so renters know that they are not going to wake up and their rent is doubled,” Oriadha said.
“We want Prince Georgians to have access to affordable, habitable, and fair housing and this bill gets us closer to that goal,” she continued.
Close to 20% of Prince George’s County residents face severe housing problems, according to data from The County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. The report defines severe housing problems as “housing inadequacies: overcrowding, high housing costs, lack of kitchen facilities, or lack of plumbing facilities.”
Alsobrooks said the Rent Stabilization Act will give the County time to work out long-term solutions ensuring affordable housing for Prince George’s County residents.
“This legislation is extremely important to all of us. We refuse to let any Prince Georgian be priced out of their home, that’s what this is about,” said Alsobrooks at a press conference announcing the county’s plan to get ahead of rapidly rising rental prices.
The Council’s proposed legislation includes CB-023-2023, The Prince George’s County Rental Assistance Program and Rental Assistance Fund, which would provide rental assistance to certain residents; and CB-024-2023, the Prince Georges Rental Assistance Act, which would prevent sudden increases/price gouging.
Lawmakers are also seeking to address the problem of rising evictions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, state and federal authorities suspended evictions. However, with those moratoriums ending, more than 17,000 Marylanders are at risk of evictions, with the highest percentages of those in Prince George’s County, said Jolene Ivey.
The veteran legislator and County Councilwoman and her spouse, Congressman Glenn Ivey took their message directly to families at risk at an Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention workshop held recently at First Baptist Church of Highland Park.
“It turns out there is help available, but people didn’t seem to know about it,” she said. She added about the event, “I’ve never hosted or been at an event where people found such relief. Sometimes residents even found out they were told falsely that they were going to be evicted. People were relieved to be in a setting where they could get some straight answers about their situation.”
Although applications for The Emergency Rental Assistance Program are no longer being actively taken, Ivey indicated that funds may still exist. Ivey’s staff urged residents who could not attend the event to contact her office and stay connected for updates on support for renters.
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