Any earnest effort by the City to address the rising cost of housing must consider the property tax burden of our residents, especially with skyrocketing property assessments. Under Maryland State law, the Homestead Tax Credit slows the rate of property tax increases for owner-occupied homes. Unfortunately, Hyattsville has set the annual rate for municipal property tax increases at ten percent, the absolute legal ceiling under state law. My proposal is to strengthen the Homestead Tax Credit and cut in half the year-over-year property tax increases for residents from ten to five percent.
In 2013, roughly 38% of rental units in Hyattsville rented for less than $1000 per month. By 2018, that figure decreased to 9%. During this same time, units that rent above $1500 increased from 19% to 40%. Since 2018, rent has continued to rise at unsustainable rates, displacing many long standing residents and leaving many more vulnerable and insecure. Rent stabilization is a solution many jurisdictions are returning to to address excessive increases in housing costs. My proposal would stop the most egregious cases of rent gouging and increase stability for our tenants, while still providing landlords the capacity for modest rent increases to cover expenses and building maintenance.
On September 10, 2020, Hyattsville was inundated by a climate-change driven storm event, dropping 6.35 inches of rain in the City in less than 2 hours. This storm caused extensive property damage, flooded many basements, backed up sewer systems, and threatened the integrity of our levy system. While Hyattsville is already a recognized leader in combating climate change, there is much more we must do to help prevent similar and worse events from occurring in the future. I propose that the City prepare a Climate Action Plan to set ambitious and achievable targets on goals like electrifying our vehicle fleet, expanding our urban tree canopy, and providing incentives for residents to reduce their carbon footprint.
Unlike other utilities such as gas, electricity, and water, our current trash collection system charges households a flat rate rather than charge based on how much trash a household generates. The problem with an approach like this is that it does not create a financial incentive to reduce household waste or divert waste to the recycle or compost bin rather than the trash. Since trash collection has much higher tipping fees than recycle or compost, increasing participation in these programs will bring the overall cost of waste collection down for the City and its residents. The City is currently exploring ways to meter trash collection, using an approach that has been adopted by hundreds of jurisdictions across the U.S. called “Pay As You Throw”, or PAYT. A well-run PAYT program could save Hyattsville significant money on trash collection and allow a commensurate decrease in our property tax rate, while decreasing municipal trash tonnage by 40-50 percent.
To honor our departed Mayor Kevin Ward, it’s time for the City to re-engage on establishing an affordable and high-quality aftercare program. This has been a top priority for many on the Council, particularly Kevin Ward, but we were never able to cut through the red tape of partnering with PGCPS on the project. However, the time is ripe to push on this issue again. The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of our child-care system and reduced childcare options for working parents. In tandem, the recently passed Blueprint for Maryland’s Future focuses on expanding “Community Schools”, with goals to increase community partnerships and provide wrap-around services outside of the school day. I will push to make this happen and create a vital new community program and help realize an issue of great importance to Kevin Ward.
Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement increases public trust, builds bridges between communities and the police that serve them, and increases transparency and accountability. I have sponsored legislation that would create a volunteer-based civilian oversight commission in Hyattsville, which would make Hyattsville one of the first municipalities in Maryland to stand-up such a program.
Prince George’s County has the most dangerous roads in the State of Maryland, accounting for 34% of motorist fatalities and 38% of pedestrian fatalities across the entire state. Hyattsville is no exception to these grim statistics, as evidenced by several roadside memorials located here. In order to realize Hyattsville’s potential as “A World Within Walking Distance” we must do more to calm traffic and prioritize the needs of residents over cut-through commuters.