Where We Live

A Latino Evolution in Prince George's

Selvin Cartagena moved to Langley Park five years ago from Honduras, and two brothers have since joined him.
Selvin Cartagena moved to Langley Park five years ago from Honduras, and two brothers have since joined him. (By Mara Lee For The Washington Post)
By Mara Lee
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, February 16, 2008

On a warm winter day, teams of Latino men play soccer behind Langley Park McCormick Elementary School. A few others sit on the swings or watch from the sidelines.

Other men walk back from the strip malls that line New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard, the main roads in the Prince George's County neighborhood.

Here and there, a woman murmurs to a child in Spanish as she pushes the stroller down the sidewalk. The census in 2000 found that 56 percent of the residents of Langley Park were men. You have to wonder from sights on the street if the next count will be even higher.

According to the same Census, 65 percent of the residents were foreign-born. More than three-quarters were renters.

The neighborhood sprang up in 1950. Almost every brick rambler appears identical. The large cluster of low-rise apartment buildings came later.

Selvin Cartagena has been renting in Langley Park for five years. He lives in a single-family house near the community center and elementary school.

He likes the neighborhood, he said, because it's calm, his neighbors are friendly and the rent is not too bad.

He came from Honduras to Langley Park because a friend told him about it. Since then, two of his brothers have joined him.

He said that he is happy that there are so many other Latinos in the neighborhood and that he likes the many Latino restaurants and markets in the nearby strip malls.

He has no plans to buy a house in Langley Park, however. "It's very expensive to buy a house," he said in Spanish.

But it's getting less so. The average sales price of the seven houses that sold in the past year was just under $358,000, with an average subsidy of $12,600 to cover the buyers' closing costs, according to real estate agent Ilissa Flamm. Most were built at 910 square feet, but many owners have expanded living spaces into the basements.

More than half of the 20 houses on the market have dropped from their original asking prices, on average by about $30,000. Four are short sales, which means they're being offered for less than the mortgage balance. Two are bank-owned. One of those, advertised at $334,900, points out in the ad that "previous owner paid $455,000."

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