3. Agenda Item 3. Foreclosure and Other Housing Issues. Amy Neugebauer, Executive Administrator of the College Park City–University Partnership, made a presentation. Amy’s group is made up of representatives from the City and the University and addresses economic development issues. The number of empty houses in the neighborhood is a concern. When the foreclosure rates increased, the group applied for federal stimulus funds. They had to partner with the local housing authority (the College Park Housing Authority runs Attick Towers). Amy’s group was awarded $750,000. She wants more people, including lenders, to know about the program. The Partnership provides down payment assistance to those who work at least 20 hours per week and want to live in College Park. These homebuyers are eligible for up to $35,000 in closing cost assistance if they buy a foreclosure property. It has to be an “REO” or bank-owned property. If the buyer then resells the property within 10 years, it must not be to an investor. Amy Neugebauer and Bob Catlin have worked on the listing of eligible houses. They’ve partnered with the University and FreddieMac regarding counseling for potential homebuyers – the counseling is provided by the University. They have had full training sessions, involving 30 people. The program is not for first-time homebuyers. Bob Catlin brought to the meeting a list of bank-owned or recently bank-owned, and then sold, properties, and distributed this list. One house in the neighborhood that was sold by the bank sold for $109,000. Most of the bank-owned houses are north of Greenbelt Road. “Starter” homes were $350K+ originally. Bob Catlin suspects that many foreclosure properties were rental properties. A lot of investors may have had interest-only mortgages. If one looks at multiple listings, one-half are short sales (i.e., sold for less than what people owe on them). The City is thinking of offering a $500 bonus to agents who can complete a short sale. If someone is buying a bank-owned property, one would expect that it would be empty, but that’s not always the case. It’s possible that the banks are renting out the property. The City has a list of about 30 properties that it maintains. But if one matches up that list with the bank lists, there’s not a lot of overlap. Someone asked if banks that rent houses have to comply with the landlord laws in College Park. No one knew for sure. Bob Catlin said he hasn’t put on the list houses that are just in the initial phases of foreclosures. Under the program, College Park can buy a house, fix it up, then sell it. Sometimes the banks have made money in “flipping” the houses. Someone asked whether there are a lot of empty rental units. It seems like it. One of the landlords says it’s the worst year in the 25 years he’s seen. One theory for why that is is that more students are living at home. Jack Perry asked how much this is costing taxpayers of the city. The City and the University have both put up around $125K. That’s a relatively inexpensive way for the City to get more owner-occupied houses. Jack asked what the City is doing to publicize the program. The University has used an e-mail “blast.” Flyers have been sent to local business. The idea is to target potential buyers.
When Prince George’s County applied for a second round of federal grants in July, College Park wasn’t eligible. This round, it’s eligible for the County’s program. The County program grants only up to $20K.
The University housing now has a waiting list again. Additional student housing is being built on campus, too. Starview was ready to start construction of the 7-story student apartment building. It didn’t get the financial backing for its original plan. It now has a loan and hopes to begin construction this winter. New permitting was required because the design changed (the bank wouldn’t finance the first design). Regarding the “Varsity” project
– planned to be built between the liquor store and main gate to campus – it is important to protect the Paint Branch stream. The Varsity will be 4 to 5 stories high. University View 1 and 2 will be the two tallest buildings in the corridor. Each project has some parking for residents, but the University will let residents park in University parking lots as well.
Yesterday there was a joint public hearing with the County Council and Planning Commission on Route 1. A company will come in and do an energy audit of the City’s property and residents as part of the Energy Savings Program. City staff are looking into this now. Elections occur this year. Offices for City Council and the seat for Mayor are open. Tomorrow is the last day for a would-be candidate to turn in his or her petition. The City is a member of the National League of Cities, which has a joint program with the City where discount pharmacy cards are available. If you want one, call the City. Varsity Grill wants to buy Lasick’s liquor license. The City wrote a letter saying thank you, but it was already “very well served” with liquor licenses.
Regarding student housing development on the other side of Route 1, Jack said that the City doesn’t count bedrooms, but beds. All the new buildings going up will have some kind of commercial business on the ground floor.
Ledo’s Pizza is moving to College Park. It will be located in the new parking garage. Bob Catlin reported that in the 1990s College Park did a comprehensive plan that it’s now updating, this time focusing on environmental and sustainability issues. There will be
two meetings – one on October 5, and the other on October 8. The more people who participate and give advice, the better.
Bob is in a group that is looking at Paint Branch Elementary School. The University wants to improve the school. This year, the school’s test scores were higher than Hollywood’s. They’re trying to jump ahead of University Park’s test scores as well.
9. Agenda Item 9. Closing Remarks. Kevin Young reminded attendees that this year is election year and that the candidates will speak at October’s BDCA meeting. Andy Fellows is the only confirmed mayoral candidate. Sandy Tyler announced that the Lakeland Community Heritage Project had just published a book about Lakeland, which is now available. Contact Sandy if you are interested in a copy.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 pm.
Meeting Attendees (from sign-up sheet):
Jerry Anzulovic Jack Perry Bob Catlin Harry Pitt Megan Fleischer Forrest Tyler Doug Hunter Sandy Tyler Liesl Koch Chris Wanka
Liesl Koch, Recording Secretary, BDCA.