Housing Market Shows Signs of Cooling

Inventory Grows as Homes Stay on Market Longer

The Washington area's once-torrid real estate market seems to be cooling off as houses stay on the market longer and more of them are for sale. The number of houses for sale in the area has climbed by 50 percent in recent months. The available inventory has risen to about 35,300 homes, up from an average of about 23,000 in the past three years, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc., which runs the local multiple-listing service. One real estate executive said the market is returning to "normalcy" after a frenzied era of multiple contracts, bidding wars and desperate buyers waiving their right to property inspections or appraisals.

National Harbor Housing Plan Is Delayed

Vote Postponed to Give Black Entrepreneurs Equity

Plans to add at least 2,500 houses to National Harbor -- the hotel, office and retail center under construction on the Potomac waterfront in Prince George's County -- have been held up in part to try to give local black entrepreneurs equity in the $2 billion project, according to sources familiar with the discussions. Developer Milton Peterson told the County Council this year that high-end housing was crucial to the project's success. The council postponed a vote on the measure this month because, according to sources, Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) wanted to force further discussion with Peterson about minority ownership at National Harbor.

Comcast, Verizon Executives Assailed

Montgomery Council Criticizes Customer Service

Montgomery County Council members rebuked executives from Comcast and Verizon for treating customers badly as the two corporations compete to provide high-speed Internet access and other services to residents. Since spring, an increasing number of Comcast customers have complained about faulty Internet access, canceled appointments and incorrect billing. Comcast has blamed some of the problems on Verizon, saying the competitor has cut Comcast's lines during installation of fiber-optic cable.

Pr. George's Eases New-Home Limits

Law Linked Construction, Emergency Response

The Prince George's County Council eased restrictions it imposed seven months ago that effectively halted approval of plans for new home construction. The original measure, passed in November, made construction contingent upon county police and fire departments meeting specific standards for staffing and response time. The measure was an attempt to ensure that the pace of development did not compromise public safety. Six months after the law took effect, however, none of the 23 plans for new residential subdivisions that had come before the county fell within the new response times.

Thunderstorms Test Utilities' Response

For Thousands, Outages Last More Than a Day

Outages from this week's violent storms proved the first major test for Pepco and other utilities since Maryland's Public Service Commission took them to task for their response to 2003's Hurricane Isabel. More than 24 hours after a string of powerful thunderstorms moved through the area Wednesday evening, thousands of Washington area homes remained without power late Thursday night.

Across the Region

Georgetown Dig Done; Metro Security Training

* The Georgetown mini-dig is finished. More than five years after an epidemic of exploding manholes prompted an overhaul, the underground infrastructure of utility lines has been rebuilt with room for expansion.

* Starting next month, Metro will give quarterly security training to more than 1,100 station managers, train operators and janitors. The training was prompted by the terrorist bombings in London.

Storm-Toppled Timber Landscape workers remove a tree that fell on vehicles in the parking lot of Mrs. K's Tollhouse Restaurant in Silver Spring.