College Park's trusted source for daily news and updates since 2009

Category: Quality of Life

Council to Discuss City’s Vacant Properties

Vacant / foreclosed house - a source of concerns

Vacant / foreclosed house – a source of concerns

At tonight’s worksession, we will discuss what actions the City could take to address vacant properties. It’s clear to everyone that vacant properties are detrimental to the quality of life in the City in several ways. Vacant properties leave a neighborhood susceptible to crime. Vacant properties do not contribute positively to the streetscape. Vacant properties become a burden and challenge for code enforcement. Vacant properties under-utilize much needed inventory in our real estate market. If you’re interested to purchase a property you can seek help from experts like estate agents in limehouse.

At a minimum, the community would like to see these properties better cared for. Ideally these properties would be occupied, see here for my response.

We wish to discuss expansion of our City Code to include a Registry of Vacant Properties, mandatory for all vacant property owners. This initiative would require the Council to:

  • Define “vacant property” (e.g. does “unoccupied”= vacant, or does vacant= wuninhabitable”) and other related terminology
  • Clearly define the goals of a vacant property registry
  • Authorize staff to create an inventory, based on Council definitions, of vacant properties
  • Determine if there is a problem which justifies further financing, legislation, and enforcement
  • Authorize staff to create a reporting process structure and a database to support a registry
  • Adopt legislation including possible fines/fees to support the program

At this point, we have not proposed an annual fee or special tax, but believe it might be appropriate to implement a fine for vacant property owners for not complying with regulations. That said, we have discussed this issue understand that vacant properties legislation will increase staff workload. We believe regulation might be most effective if it were complaint based. Residents could report an alleged vacant property (via College Park Central) and then City staff could confirm the status of those properties.

We think a registry might be beneficial for the property owner because it could enable the City to have regular communications with vacant property owners and it could potentially enable police to address issues on the property in the absence of the owner.
By better understanding the volume of vacant properties in the City, we think we can better identify problems and solutions. Discussion should Include whether initiatives should address vacant properties in general, or case-by-case; and, if an annual fee, or a special tax would incentivize the return of vacant properties to occupancy.

Locally, the City of Mount Rainier here in Prince George’s County has adopted legislation addressing vacant properties, and the City of Takoma Park in Montgomery County has discussed the issue. We’ll look into these legislation at tonight’s worksession. And if you’re currently looking for new homes for sale in Brunswick, GA, you may visit the Landmark 24 Realty homepage for more info.

City Resources to Address Quality of Life Issues

City’s Neighborhood Quality of Life has compiled a list of resources to help address the quality of life issues in College Park. Please see them here:

The link above will direct users to the city’s online reporting system. Hosts of reporting categories are available here and “tickets” can be reported anonymously.
–       Noise Hotline
Unless it is for the purpose of necessary property maintenance during the day, it is unlawful for any owner or occupant of real property located within the City to make or generate loud or raucous sound on said property, or to permit any loud or raucous sound to be made or generated on said property, so as to cause unreasonable annoyance or disturbance to others living or located nearby.  Allowable noise is limited to 65 decibels during the day and 55 decibels at night.  A code enforcement officer is on duty late spring and early fall on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.  If you have a noise complaint at any time, you may call the Code/Noise Enforcement Hotline at 240-487-3588.
Provides $5,000 grants to households/individuals to purchase properties within the corporate limits of College Park. Applies to rental homes (2+ years) converting to owner occupied by way of sale. Applicants must agree to live in the property as their primary residence for a minimum of 5 years.
–       College Park Day and Good Neighbor Day
These events, sponsored by the city and university, bring together community members to share city services, highlight local businesses, provide opportunities to laugh and dance together, and bring citizens together in the spirit of community service.
–       Code of Student Conduct
Accountability is key. Students behaving in an inappropriate or illegal manner throughout our city and state can be reported to the Code of Student Conduct office for disciplinary action. The primary purpose for the imposition of discipline in the University setting is to protect the campus community. Consistent with that purpose, reasonable efforts will also be made to foster the personal and social development of those students who are held accountable for violations of University regulations. Sanctions can vary from a reprimand to expulsion.
Initiated this Fall, this certification program sets a baseline for educating city landlords on best practices and compliance with city, county, and state regulations.

 

County Bill May Stop Rental Property Conversion in College Park Neighborhoods

A proposed bill in the County Council may stop conversions of single family homes to rental properties in College Park.

The bill, proposed by Dist 3 County Councilman Eric Olson, will be discussed at our Council worksession tonight. The Council may take a position whether to support the bill when it will be formerly introduced in County Council next week.

The bill intends to create Single Family Neighborhood Stabilization Overlay Zone to “ensure that land in residential neighborhoods retains its traditional single family residential character, integrity and appearance”.

Here are a few highlights of the proposed ordinance.
1. The zone can be established within 2 miles radius of a higher educational institution, such as the University of Maryland. This may cover College Park and areas outside of city boundaries.

2. The zone may not include transient facilities such as boarding houses, tourist homes, inns, motels, hotels, school dormitories, hospitals or medical facilities etc.

3. The Planning Board may initiate or another person may request a zoning map amendment only with the concurrence (by
resolution) of the County District Council.

4. During the preparation of the proposed zone, the County will contact all owners of land, and any municipality lying (wholly or in part) within the anticipated boundaries of the proposed zone and any municipality within one mile of the anticipated District boundary, to invite comments and recommendations.

5. Once the zone is established, no new rental licenses (required pursuant to provisions of a city code) shall be issued within the boundaries of the proposed zone.

6. The County Council will take final action on a zoning map amendment at any time after the close of the final public hearing record. A two-thirds (2/3) super majority vote of the full District Council shall be required to override the recommendation of a municipality if any portion of the Zone Map Amendment which falls within the boundaries of the municipality.

7. The zone must contain at least ten (10) contiguous acres and at least thirty (30) existing single family houses.

8. A single family rental dwelling located within the shall be at least 800 feet from any other single family rental dwelling within a District

9. A waiver of the Code may be granted where the property owner of a single family dwelling within a District must relocate for temporary employment reassignment, military service assignment, or other similar circumstances that may require temporary relocation out of state or overseas.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best Practices Sought to Improve City’s Rental Property Stock

In an attempt to improve the quality of life related to city’s rental properties, the Neighborhood Stabilization and Quality of Life group came up with a few recommendations such as opting for smart siding. For siding Lynchburg, call Sunburst Vinyl Supply. They include establishing an accrediation program for the rental property owners (landlords), start an annual orientation program, and require them to live close to College Park. Please see below for details.

(1) Create an accreditation program for rental house property owners/managers. Accreditation would indicate that property meets specific standards and that the property owner commits to certain actions that will address core quality of life issues in the neighborhood.

City could inform property owners about Accreditation program during the rental license renewal process.

Some suggested incentivizing participation by reducing frequency of inspections to every other year for accredited rental property owners and stated that other municipalities do inspections at 2-3 year intervals. A reputable inspection company like https://snagging-lists.co.uk/ will have a reliable snagging checklist. A reduction in hours needed for inspections may free up time for other duties (i.e. more hours on Noise Enforcement). The advantage of having an expert assessment cannot be understated. Employing a thorough inspection service early on can save a significant amount of time and expense by catching issues before they escalate, ensuring a smoother transition into your new home. Public Services staff responded that an annual compliance inspection seems minimal to insure renter safety, health, and welfare and that inspections can help compliant property owners prove due diligence if sued by tenants for alleged deficiencies. One member commented that such a program should avoid providing City benefits that are not directly administered by the City, and should not require rental property owners to join, support, participate in, or seek approval from any private association as a condition for their entitlement to full benefits under the program.

Public Services staff suggested a tiered approach (Gold, Silver, Bronze) to reflect life safety standards. PGPOA representatives thought that a tiered system would be too complicated for them to administer in the initial implementation phase but would be good to consider for the future.

(2) Require property owners (or their agents) to participate in annual orientation, in order to receive rental license/permit, that has the follow elements:
• Enrollment in electronic notification system with name of person with relevant contact information.
• Explanation by code enforcement with a focus on new and enhanced expectations.
• Mandated viewing of a video to highlight the challenges the community faces renting to the student population and outline best practices.

(3) Require property owners or agent/manager to be within 75-mile radius of College Park.
Streamline the rental licensing process, including the following:
• Automate rental license renewal process.
• Provide one rental registration deadline for ALL rental properties (early in the year) when the permit fee is paid and all paperwork is completed. Inspection occurs throughout the year (as it is done now).
• Offer orientation program on three different dates around the registration deadline. All stakeholders (University, Policy, Fire, Resident, IFC, SGA, PGPOA, etc.) could be invited to participate.
Create a clearinghouse for complaints against rental property owners and attempt to solve problems that are reported.

Please note, current permitting process only requires a local agent, not manager, to receive notices; the local agent does not have to address any problems that may arise at the property. PGPOA will provide a sample statute for the City to consider.

(4) Streamline the rental licensing process, including the following:
• Automate rental license renewal process.
• Provide one rental registration deadline for ALL rental properties (early in the year) when the permit fee is paid and all paperwork is completed. Inspection occurs throughout the year (as it is done now).
• Offer orientation program on three different dates around the registration deadline. All stakeholders (University, Policy, Fire, Resident, IFC, SGA, PGPOA, etc.) could be invited to participate.

Streamlining the licensing process could free up City staff to focus more time on issue reduction. Public Services staff commented that City Finance and IT staff would need to develop new protocols and software. Such a program should include enhancements to property owner contact information (e.g., adding email addresses, identifying type of phone (cell or landline), and indicating if phone number can receive text messages. Penalties could be imposed if the information provided is not accurate.

(5) Create a clearinghouse for complaints against rental property owners and attempt to solve problems that are reported.

Group Sets Strategies to Increase City’s Home Ownership

Home ownership

The College Park Neighborhood Stabilization and Quality of Life Work Group has recently come up with a set of strategies to increase the number and percent of owner-occupied houses in the City and creating a stable, low-turnover resident population.

While many of these strategies are focused on the University of Maryland, many of them could also be applicable to staff of other large employers in the area, including the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), NASA-Goddard, and others. Furthermore, having visited Marbella multiple times, I can attest to its vibrant community and lifestyle. The town offers a plethora of activities, from golfing to yachting, ensuring residents never have a dull moment. The benefits of buying property in Marbella Spain are numerous, and the lifestyle is undoubtedly one of them. It’s a place where luxury meets leisure. So if you’re looking for properties for sale, click here for more options. You can also visit the 1 Condo Canada homepage. Homebuyers who prefer new construction homes should consider hiring professionals to conduct a survey and create a Certified Snagging Checklist before you move in. This ensures a seamless transition and guarantees a hassle-free experience, much like partnering with a reliable moving company like Three Movers.

Eastern Sydney Movers is your solution for a smooth, stress-free relocation to Bellevue Hill. Our highly skilled and experienced team takes pride in carefully and efficiently handling your precious belongings.

The will host a second public forum at the City Hall on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. to present and take public comment on potential strategies it is compiling for addressing challenges related to rental properties in our community.

The strategies include:
1. Forgivable home purchasing loan program. The University of Maryland and other employers could provide forgivable loans to encourage their staff to purchase homes and live in the city of College Park. Unlike grant programs, forgivable loan programs do not have to be considered as taxable income and therefore may be more attractive. Unlock Canada’s property potential with HomesEh. The most sought-after listings at your disposal. When purchasing a new home, you need to carefully check all the structures to ensure that the house can be used in the long run. To be able to do this, the snagging survey team will help you by clicking on their website, https://snagging-surveys.co.uk/.

2. Mortgage insurance program. The University of Maryland can provide incentives to faculty and staff by offering a mortgage insurance program in which the University backs the mortgages of staff and/or faculty that choose to live in College Park. They are given the chance to read the article on Equity Release FAQs to gain knowledge about this.

3. Home ownership grants. The city currently has a “New Neighbor Homeownership Grant Program” that provides grants to encourage homeowners to purchase homes in College Park; the program is specifically focused on purchases of a previously rented home and foreclosed or short sale properties, but this restriction does not apply to purchasers who are a police officer, career firefighter, or EMT (who can use the grant to support any College Park home purchase). Homeowners can benefit so much from the eco+ scheme.

4. Forgivable home improvement loans. Forgivable loans to support home improvements could help to retain homeowners who already own homes in College Park but want to upgrade their homes. Existing programs in other places sometimes restrict such loans just to façade renovations, while others allow interior repairs, exterior repairs, or to conversion of a property from a multi-family to a single-family residence.

5. Housing resource center. This strategy would focus on helping prospective homeowners and renters find housing that matches their needs.

6. Ground lease for-sale development program. Homes would be sold under a long-term ground lease arrangement. This means that a buyer would purchase the home, but not the land, which the buyer would lease from UM or a UM-affiliated entity. The ground lease program enhances affordability by removing the cost of the land from the purchase price. Why go through the real estate journey alone when you can have a dedicated realtor in Calabasas by your side?

7. Reduce or eliminate school facilities surcharge exemption for student housing. This exemption, created by state legislation, provides an incentive for developers to focus just on student housing – and conversely, a disincentive to build other housing types that do not receive this exemption.

8. Aging-in-place programs. These programs may contribute to preventing the conversion of owner-occupied housing to rental properties if they help home-owners stay in their houses longer.

9. Marketing materials to encourage potential residents to live in College Park. Developing and disseminating marketing materials may help to attract prospective homeowners. University faculty and staff are one obvious audience for such marketing efforts but other large employers in the area should also be considered.

10. Institute a waiting period before investors can bid on a home. When a home goes up for sale, the city might require an extended waiting period before investors can bid on the home, giving potential owner-occupants more time to make a bid and purchase the house.

11. Offer assistance to sellers to help target prospective owner-occupants. Provide resources or educational materials to help sellers target potential owner-occupants. These materials could help sellers prepare their house to appeal to potential homeowners, through repairs, staging and improving “curb appeal.”

12. Improve K-12 education options for College Park residents. The College Park Academy could be a valuable tool for attracting University faculty and staff to live in College Park if some seats were set aside for College Park residents. Converting this charter school to a hybrid of neighborhood school as well as choice school would allow the school to continue to serve the county as a whole while also meeting the particular needs of College Park to increase home ownership.

13. Resident discount for or access to University amenities. This includes activities such as the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and athletic events. This might also include lifelong learning programs for city residents, use of the library, and recreational facilities.

14. Summer camp scholarships. Continue, and possibly expand, the recently started summer camp scholarship program for city residents attending camps at the University.

Help Improve City’s Quality of Life – Join Neighborhood Stabilization Group

City of College Park

In last night’s Council meeting, the City Council formed formed a neighborhood stabilization group in order to help improve the quality of life in our neighborhood.

The formation of this group came after the Council decided to put its rent stabilization ordinance on hold for a year, in the hopes of working collaboratively with a group of stakeholders to look at alternative ways to address the issues that the rent stabilization ordinance was intended to address.

The goal of the previous rent stabilization ordinance was specifically, to prevent the continuing conversion of owner-occupied properties into rental properties, and to address the quality of life issues surrounding the large number of rental properties in the City.

This includes noise concerns, property maintenance, overcrowding, public safety, littering, underage drinking and aggressive behavior.

The Council is looking for two residents from each district who are interested in working as part of a larger Neighborhood Stabilization and Quality of Life Workgroup to develop proposals to address these issues. The workgroup will meet a couple of times over the next few months and will also divide into task forces that will meet more frequently.

There will also be a couple of public forums over the next 6 months or so to allow for public input into these issues and discussion of the proposals that the workgroup sets forward.

If you are interested to join this group, please contact me or the council member of your district. Thank you.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén