THE NEW HOUSING PLAN for Prince George's County tentatively approved by the federal government is not exactly welcome in every segment of the county. Some county residents fear it's a ploy by County Executive Lawrence Hogan to get poor people out of the county. Mr. Hogan has long protested, and rightly so, that Prince George's has more than its share of the low-income housing in the Washington area. The result has been to drain the county's tax dollars and public services, and to deter upper- and middle-income people from buying houses or renting apartments in the county, which has hurt its tax base. Mr. Hogan wants to reverse this trend.
Under the new plan, Prince George's has gained approval to demolish one run-down, low-income housing project and to limit the size of several others. Citing the county's 6 percent apartment vacany rate, which is above the average in the Washington area, county officials persuaded the Department of Housing and Urban Development that there is no need to subsidize new construction of low-income housing projects in the county. Instead, under the new plan 300 additional rent subsidies would be given to poor people to use toward rent in middle-and upper-income buildings. Some construction of housing with federal dollars will take place, but only 20 percent of that housing would be set aside for low-income tenants.
Although Mr. Hogan says no tenants will be displaced as low-income housing in the county is demolished or reduced, he does not say what will happen to the people still waiting for county housing assistance. Part of his answer appears to lie in pressuring other suburban counties to build low-income housing. The county is preparing a proposal to be presented to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, under which Prince George's would give other counties its federal construction dollars in return for other counties' federal rent subsidies. That would mean that construction of federally subsidized housing for the poor -- even housing with 80 percent middle- and upper-income tenants -- would almost be completely stopped in Prince George's.
The county-HUD agreement is basically a good one that would rid the county of the slums the federal government helped to create in the 1960s. But the plan is only good if some construction of housing for poor people continues in Prince George's. If this responsibility is met, then the new housing plan will be demonstrably in the best interest of the county. evision and your sympathy goes out to him. Mine does. He laughs too lo