Testimony before State Legislators on Takoma Park and Long Branch Goals
On December 6, 2012 I testified at a special Takoma Park City Council meeting before the City Council and the District 20 Maryland state legislative delegation about priority legislative goals for the coming Maryland State legislative session that starts in January. In the testimony I highlighted two goals that continue to be among the highest community priorities: “make housing equally available to people of all incomes.” And “improving health and expanding health care access.”
Background on How we Arrived at Community Goals
CHEER completed a community strategic plan for Takoma Park and Long Branch. In doing so we conducted small group visioning and goal setting sessions for the Takoma Park and Long Branch community on housing, health, and the local economy, and later on youth development. Each of these groups was representative of the racial/ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the community. Since then CHEER has worked to implement this plan. In doing so we have worked closely with immigrants, tenants and other underrepresented groups to update and learn more about barriers and challenges to achieving community goals. You can see the list of these goals updated for 2016 by clicking here.
I would like highlight two of the high priority goals from this list. First, one of the highest priority goals is to make housing equally available to people of all incomes. Because of the very high cost of living in this area, affordable homeownership opportunities are extremely limited. The City does not have the resources to address this in a substantial way. I urge you to consider ways to create home ownership opportunities for single family homes, and also multi-family buildings by supporting cooperatives or other forms of shared ownership.
Affordable rents are also a concern. Many Long Branch and some Takoma Park renters are subject to large rent increases that outstrip increases in income. Renter protections are needed everywhere to limit the threat of eviction and displacement, which destabilizes neighborhoods.
We have also found that there are some Takoma Park and Long Branch landlords that neglect maintenance, create dangerous living conditions, and intimidate renters who complain or seek to organize. Tenants are at a great legal disadvantage with these landlords. I urge you to expand tenant rights, through laws such as a just cause eviction law, which has been enacted in many states and Cities, but not in Maryland.
A second high priority goal that I want to highlight is improving health and expanding health care access. The Affordable Care Act has expanded opportunities for health care coverage and CHEER has worked hard to help community members take advantage of this. These gains are now under threat and I urge you to take actions that will protect those who are covered, and find ways to expand coverage to more people. For example, Montgomery County has two good programs, Montgomery Cares and Care for Kids, that might be a good model for statewide expansion of healthcare.
I would be happy to discuss any of these issues with you in more detail.