City plans housing on public land, rent control
By Kit Slack
On May 17, the Hyattsville City Council unanimously approved a strategic plan to promote affordable housing in the city over the next 10 years.
Under the plan, the city will establish a city-level fund to finance development or otherwise support housing for residents. The city will also seek to use public land — city- or county-owned land -— for housing development. To support tenants, Hyattsville will legislate rent control and expand other tenant protections.
According to the plan, more specific goals for each of these initiatives will be worked out, with community input, over the next year.
Apartments for less than $1,000 per month and houses for less than $300,000 are becoming scarce in Hyattsville, according to data in the plan, which was authored by the affordable housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners.
Between 2013 and 2018, Hyattsville lost about 700 apartments costing $750 to $999 per month, and gained nearly 600 units in the $1,500 to $2,000 range, according to Enterprise. Similarly, houses under $300,000 have appreciated in value 93% since 2013.
Also according to Enterprise, 575 new households earning more than $125,000 per year came to Hyattsville between 2013 and 2018, making up the large majority of those moving here in those five years (652 residents total).
Housing for seniors (about 9% of residents), persons with disabilities (about 8% of residents), and those who earn less than $35,000 a year (20% of households) could be at risk, though there will be plenty of housing in the next ten years for those who can afford it.
According to Enterprise, between 2000 and 2018, Hyatttsville added 1,120 new housing units — a 19% increase — outpacing a growth in new households of 874 during the same period.
At a July 2020 city council meeting, Community and Economic Development Director Jim Chandler estimated that several thousand units would be built near the city’s two Metro stations in the next 15 years. In its report, Enterprise counted more than 1,600 additional dwellings recently built or approved for construction, including more than 1,100 new dwellings in various developments near the Prince George’s Plaza Metro, 300 apartments in the Armory Apartments development on Route 1 north of Hamilton Street, and 200 town houses being built near the West Hyattsville Metro.
In 2020, Hyattsville awarded a $90,000 contract to Enterprise to develop the plan approved in May. Enterprise is a nonprofit that focuses on increasing housing supply, advancing racial equity, and building resilience and upward mobility.
In developing Hyattsville’s plan in 2020 and 2021, Enterprise analyzed state, county and city housing policy, and held three city council workshops and one virtual community forum.
At public meetings, Councilmember Danny Schaible (Ward 2) encouraged consideration of rent control, which was not a focus of early Enterprise reports, as well as of eviction protections.
In preparing the strategy, Enterprise also interviewed 34 people, listed on p.74 of the plan submitted to the city council at their May 17 meeting.
That list included one for-profit developer, Robert Gilbane, of Gilbane Companies, which is building the Riverfront at West Hyattsville development and six county schools, including Hyattsville Middle School. The list also included a banker, investors, city and county staff, and several nonprofit developers and other nonprofits.
In September 2020, while the city council was developing this strategy with Enterprise, Hyattsville approved an expansion of a city affordable housing tax credit proposed by then-Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. In May 2021, through a county affordable housing program, the city council approved a nonprofit’s purchase of Hamilton Manor, a 245-unit Hyattsville apartment building.