PG County Non- Profit Seeks To Grow Home Ownership

The Housing Initiative Partnership has been dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods and creating housing security for low- and moderate-income households since 1988. Photo by Shayla Farrow, Howard University News Service.

The Housing Initiative Partnership (HIP), is a nonprofit housing developer and counseling agency in Prince George’s County, that has been dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods and creating housing security for low- and moderate-income households since 1988.

In August of 1988, a small group of Prince George’s County residents came together to express their frustration at the lack of affordable housing in the community. The group purchased their first four-unit apartment building in Suitland Manor, Maryland in 1990 and has grown to develop over 490 affordable rental apartments and counseled over 15,000 clients.

Counselor Luis Perez, assists a client at one of HIP’s offices in Hyattsville, Maryland. Photo by Shayla Farrow, Howard University News Service.

HIP’s administrative, development, and counseling staff are located at their main office in Hyattsville, Maryland. In 2009 they opened two satellite offices in Germantown, MD, and Gaithersburg, MD.

Maryann Dillon, executive director of HIP, joined the organization in October of 2012. She acknowledges her team’s efforts to help clients have the best experience possible.

“Clients receive help at every step of the way,” said Dillon.

HIP provides homebuyer and foreclosure prevention education and mortgage counseling. They also host homeownership workshops, foreclosure prevention workshops, and financial capability workshops.

The organization caters to local artist and has developed two affordable rental properties exclusively for artists. The properties are Mount Rainier Artist Apartments and Renaissance Square Artist Apartments. Other rental properties include Birchwood at Elkton, Birchwood at Newton Green, The Willows at Cecilton, and The Willows at North East.

Vernon Sears, 71, has lived in the Mount Rainier Artist Apartments for five years. Sears considers himself a Renaissance Man; he is a painter, sculptor, and a musician who plays the piano and guitar.

He says HIP employees are, “believers in what they do. They accommodate us well and I feel apart of a family.” Sears said that he learned through working with HIP, it is possible for a local artist such as himself to find affordable housing in an environment that fosters his creativity.

Similarly to Sears, Andy Torres is a resident of Mount Rainier Artist Apartments. Torres, 78, has lived in the building for the last decade. The singer, actor, and dancer was born in Puerto Rico but settled in Mount Rainier after years of working on stage in New York City.

“They made life easier,” said Torres. The building’s upkeep and amenities, diverse atmosphere, and affordability made the property attractive to Torres when he initially moved to the artist apartments.

The HIP team has even made efforts to go green in the construction of their new properties. HIP will be developing 9 new “net zero ready” townhomes. Net zero ready housing ensures high energy sustainability for families living in the homes.

Current homeowners in need of home improvements can also utilize services offered by HIP.

The nonprofit partnered with Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development and the Redevelopment Authority of Prince George’s County to provide home improvement loans of up to $60,000 to eligible homeowners.

Eligible home improvements include health hazards such as lead, mold and asbestos abatement, safety and code compliance repairs, energy efficiency, and ADA related improvements (ramps, railings, grab bars).

“Treating people with respect,” said Dillon, is what sets the partnership apart from other organizations. HIP is one of the only programs that offer free counseling and affordable rental properties at the local level.

Offering rapid rehousing and other programs for free is a challenge to the organization.

Dillon stated, “changes in program priorities to more homeless services (which are extremely complex, time-consuming and expensive), continued decline in financial support from federal government and limited support from Prince George’s County,” as some of HIP’s biggest challenges.

The organization plans to overcome their challenges by diversifying funding and advocating for the prioritization of affordable housing.

HIP will “continue to diversify funding sources through more grants and contracts for services, advocate with County staff and elected officials to prioritize affordable housing, and build more partnerships with service providers to assist formerly homeless clients in the Rapid Rehousing program,” stated Dillon.

Prince George’s County residents interested in the Housing Initiative Partnership Inc. and their services can contact intake specialists, Claudia Jutila (cmedina@hiphomes.org ) or Lorena Fuentes (lfuentes@hiphomes.org).