HYATTSVILLE, MD – In a press conference today, grassroots advocacy organizations kicked off the Prince George’s for Housing Justice Coalition alongside County Councilmember Jolene Ivey. The coalition centers the voices of working-class and immigrant communities and others in need of equity-focused housing policy solutions with four specific policy demands of housing security, increased tenant funding, strong community power, and support for the unhoused populations.
“The greatest asset in any community is its people – their health, prosperity, and quality of life are at the core of how we should measure community sustainability,” said the Prince George’s for Housing Justice Coalition. “Prince George’s County is not yet meeting the housing needs of all its residents, not equally, and not equitably. The short supply and few quality housing options means residents don’t have affordable options. Residents are desperate in not only preserving the County’s current housing but also in investing in new housing and services to benefit generations to come.”
County Councilmember Jolene Ivey announced her plan to introduce a rent stabilization bill in Prince George’s County. Rent stabilization was a tool used countywide during the pandemic to assist Prince Georgians impacted by the lack of jobs from the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2.6 percent increase limit on rents was passed by the County Council on June 9, 2020, and ends within 90 days after the expiration of the Governor’s State of Emergency. The bill would extend the cap for a year after the current cap ends which is 90 days after the governor’s State of Emergency is lifted. Housing cost-burdens are most prevalent among renters, who pay 49 percent of their income on rent, compared with 36 percent of homeowners. On the municipal level the Prince George’s for Housing Justice Coalition will actively pursue rent stabilization legislation to assist tenants living in municipalities achieve housing security.
Councilmember Jolene Ivey said, “Last year the County Council passed legislation I introduced to prohibit rent increases and penalty fees for those people economically impacted by the pandemic, and to limit rent increases for everyone else until 90 days after the State of Emergency was lifted. The bill passed unanimously so I thank my colleagues for their support. Soon the pandemic State of Emergency may be lifted, but that won’t mean that every family’s and every rent-payer’s emergency will be over. Legislation and our laws reflect our values. Extending the moratorium on rent increases is the just and right thing to do at this time. I am proud to sponsor a bill and I thank my colleagues for their support. There have been federal funds available through the County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program for both tenants and landlords who have lost income because of COVID. These funds are available to those who qualify, and who submit an application to the County’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Twenty million dollars in emergency assistance has been dispersed in the County so far. It is important to emphasize that immigration status is not and will not be checked; what matters is that people receive the needed assistance and are not evicted.”
Prince George’s for Housing Justice Coalition members include immigrant advocacy organization CASA, Neighborhood Design Center, NAACP, 1199 SEIU, Enterprise Community Partners, Laurel Area Referral Services, PG Change Makers, Independence Now, New Day Maryland, and directly impacted tenants. The full list of demands is at this link.
Veronica Gutierrez, CASA member from Cheverly, said, “I am a hardworking, responsible person who had to face the pandemic headon. I went out and found work to feed my family, but week after week my work hours were cut. That made it harder and harder for me to pay my bills and especially my rent. This affects me and many other Latinos like me, who are in vulnerable positions. We ask for a stop to rent increases through this bill and through this coalition.”