Development Without Displacement

Stanford Fraser shows that "Prince George’s County has the unprecedented opportunity to accomplish something far more extraordinary in local government -- incentivizing economic development without displacing citizens."

/By Stanford Fraser/Over the last four and a half years Prince George’s County has experienced $7 billion worth of development under construction or soon scheduled to begin construction. With ongoing projects such as the MGM Casino, the Regional Health Center in Largo, and the Purple Line, economic development in the county will likely continue for the foreseeable future. Given these development projects and relatively cheap housing stock, the county is primed to benefit from the affordable housing challenges facing Washington, DC. To further promote the economic progress in Prince George’s, the county is undergoing its first comprehensive zoning reform in decades. While zoning reform will help to maximize economic potential, Prince George’s County has the unprecedented opportunity to accomplish something far more extraordinary in local government -- incentivizing economic development without displacing citizens.

            Displacement of citizens isn’t a common concern of suburban governments, but neighboring jurisdictions in the DC region demonstrate why it should be. In recent decades, young professionals who were initially attracted to Arlington’s livable, walkable communities, luxury apartments, and bike lanes have transformed Arlington. But these same professionals can’t afford to live in Arlington as they grow older and start families. Instead these young families are leaving Arlington for more affordable jurisdictions such as Fairfax County. Over the next decade, Montgomery County will need 33,000 to 50,000 units for households making less than $100,000 and approximately half of those units should be for households making less than $50,000 a year. If these units are not built, then households making less than $100,000 will struggle to find housing in Montgomery County. Both Montgomery and Arlington Counties, respectively, are discovering that development is pricing their neighbors out of the community. By learning from the current challenges of our peer jurisdictions, Prince George’s County can stop displacement before it even occurs. The best methods to accomplish this goal are through inclusionary zoning and working with our business community partners.

            The county’s new zoning code should allow for select areas of high-density housing especially near current or future metro stations. These zones could allow for the sharing of single-family homes, provide tax incentives for developers to build micro apartments, and allow for construction of smaller homes such as row homes. Additionally, the county should encourage the University of Maryland to build and maintain enough on-campus housing for its student populations to prevent college students from inflating the rental market along the Route 1 corridor. Additionally, tax incentives could also be provided to build senior living villages that provide comfortable retirement options for empty nesters who no longer want to live in their large homes. These are only a few ideas that can help encourage development, while limiting displacement, in Prince George’s County. As the county continues to rewrite it’s zoning code, the citizens of PG should demand that development without displacement is one of our goals.

Stanford Fraser is a student attorney at Harvard Law Center