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Community activists are pushing back on a bill proposed by the Prince George’s County Council Tuesday that would temporarily pause townhome developments in certain parts of the county.
The proposed bill, CB-052, would look to promote growth in county-defined transit hubs by placing a two-year pause on townhome development in areas that are not as transit-oriented.
But critics of the initiative argue the measure would move the county away from achieving its transit-oriented goals.
Dan Reed, the regional policy director of Greater Washington, a nonprofit focusing on growth in the region, emphasized that the county should focus on incentivizing transit-oriented development – rather than deterring townhome development outside of transit-oriented areas.
“Housing development isn’t like a faucet,” Reed said. “You can’t just direct it to where you want it to go.”
The bill’s primary goal is to reduce “suburban sprawl,” the spread of urban developments to rural landscapes, according to District 6 council member Wala Blegay, one of the bill’s two sponsors.
But not all townhome developments in the county should be classified as suburban sprawl, Reed said.
Recent townhome developments in College Park and Mount Rainier are examples of how townhomes can increase walkability in suburban areas and expand traditional urban centers, according to Reed.
Other community members have concerns that the bill would limit affordable housing options in the county.
Home ownership is considered to be the cheapest source of housing in the county, according to a 2022 study by Attom Data Solutions. Based on the median selling price of homes in the county, townhomes in Prince George’s County cost $375,000, while single-family homes in the county cost an average of $425,000, according to Redfin.
In a statement to The Diamondback, a representative from the Prince George’s County Association of REALTORS expressed hope that the county council would not move forward with the bill due to its possible negative impacts on first-time home buyers.
“We are concerned of the implications that this legislation will have in meeting the county’s future housing demands,” said Dwayne Mingo, the association’s government affairs director. “Stifling [townhome options] will drive up the cost of our existing housing stock and lessen opportunity for homeownership and wealth building.”
While some voiced concerns over disincentivizing townhome development, community leaders have voiced overarching support for prioritizing transit-oriented development in the county.
Blegay highlighted the importance of funding transit hubs because of Metro’s increasing presence in Prince George’s County. In January, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved an up-to $400 million investment into communities along the Blue Line corridor, which services parts of the county. The Purple Line, which is scheduled to open in 2026, will also run through parts of Prince George’s County.
Reducing developments in the outskirts of urban areas is a key part of the county’s plan to incentivize developments in transit hubs, Blegay said.
In a statement to The Diamondback, District 3 College Park council member Stuart Adams said he would like to see additional efforts to incentivize transit-oriented development to accompany CB-052 if it progresses.
“I hope that if CB-052 passes, an increased focus and incentives for housing density near activity centers, including those in College Park, will be forthcoming from the county,” Adams said.
The bill faces a challenging path toward passage, with just two sponsors, Blegay and District 1 council member Tom Dernoga. It is uncertain whether the bill has the support of the county council’s liberal majority.
CB-052-2023 has been referred to the county council’s planning, housing and economic development committee for review and discussion.