A group of churches seeking construction of low-priced homes in Prince George's County was misidentified yesterday. The group's name is Interfaith Action Communities. (Published 2/7/91)
Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening said last night that the economic downturn will not prevent him from living up to his promise to work with an organization of church groups to provide more affordable housing in the county.
Speaking to more than 600 people at Gethsemane United Methodist Church in Capitol Heights, Glendening said the county will give more than 40 acres of surplus land at sites in Suitland and Camp Springs to the Interfaith Action Committee for construction of more than 200 low-priced homes.
The IAC, a group of 44 churches that focuses on housing, education and law enforcement issues, has in turn agreed to secure interest-free construction loans to build the homes.
Glendening made his promise to provide the surplus land to IAC in the fall of 1989, before the county's economy slumped and created a budget deficit that is expected to grow to at least $85 million by the end of the fiscal year in June.
IAC officials have been pressuring Glendening and the County Council to release the land in recent weeks, fearing that the economic downturn -- which already has caused spending cuts and layoffs -- would be given as a reason for pulling out of the deal.
Using the slogan "Renewing the covenant, keeping the deal," more than 40 congregations sent delegates to the IAC's winter assembly last night to urge Glendening to keep the promise.
Glendening, who acknowledged the county's grim financial picture, said, "We cannot allow this economic slowdown and tight fiscal times to cause us to abandon those programs which directly serve the people."
The Interfaith Action Committee already has received pledges of $3 million from churches and religious organizations to help finance the project on the land the county will provide.
The so-called Nehemiah Housing project is designed to provide low-cost housing for first-time home buyers. The project is modeled on similar ventures in Brooklyn and Baltimore in which community and church groups worked with city and state officials.
County and IAC officials stress that the Nehemiah program is designed to provide low-cost housing for residents who earn between $20,000 and $40,000 a year and have been unable to buy property because of the Washington area's high housing costs.
"People of low and moderate incomes have been exiled from owning homes in our county," said the Rev. Bruce Eberhardt, who heads the IAC's housing committee. "We believe you should not have to earn more than $50,000 a year to be able to buy a home in our county."
Barbara Johnson, a day-care worker who carried her Bible and small child to last night's meeting, told a reporter she has been saving money for a town house for more than six years. "The first thing I do when I get my paycheck is put some of it into my housing account," Johnson said. "But every year the home prices increase at a rate that exceeds my ability to save. If hard-working people can't buy homes in a county that is supposed to have the best deals around, then this county has a big problem on its hands."