Neighborhood Development & Revitalization
For 25 years, Montgomery Housing Partnership, Inc. (MHP) has been a leader in providing quality affordable housing. Realizing the “quality” of affordable housing is only as good as the living conditions and quality of life where such housing is located, MHP has, as part of its overall mission, worked to improve the vitality and quality of life of neighborhoods. To accomplish this holistic approach to its overall mission, MHP:
- Makes physical and aesthetic improvements to neighborhood property and infrastructure
- Conducts outreach and organizing to build community and develop leadership within neighborhoods
- Helps residents identify issues, establish goals, and solve problems;
- Provides analysis and research to inform the actions and strategies taken by neighborhood residents, policymakers, local government and other stakeholders.
Below is a sample of some products and outcomes from this neighborhoods focused work program. MHP has touched the lives of residents, tenants, homeowners, businesses, and property owners in different neighborhoods and communities.
In Long Branch, MHP assisted the County with revitalizing the commercial corridor along Piney Branch and Flower Ave. Long Branch is a key County neighborhood with a strong affordable housing stock and a strong small business presence that is part of the neighborhood’s strength. Supporting and sustaining the small business community is critical to improving the overall neighborhood.
In less than two years, MHP has managed to revive and put new energy into what was previously an inoperative and dispirited business league. MHP now publishes nine business league newsletters annually that are widely distributed and have raised the profile of the local businesses. The League has also voted in a new and energetic leadership, and MHP has helped them to: develop a web site, raise funds, create a logo, and gain new members.
MHP has also organized and sponsored access to technical assistance such as how to form business plans, access loans, design the inside of their stores, and market their services to the community. MHP helped to market and promote a street market in the area that averaged 550 people per day on weekends during its multi-year tenure. MHP also co-developed a very promising vision for Long Branch as a place that incubates and nurtures the arts through the proposed strategic placement of public art. There is now a special committee of artists engaged in helping implement this vision. Spring 2013 saw the unveiling of The Flower Dream mural and collaboration with UMD architecture students to bring temporary public art to the community. Since then we have unveiled five additional murals, provided façade improvements to four individual businesses, painted the Flower Avenue Shopping Center, and installed business district directories at two of the local bus stops. Additionally, we have annually installed flower baskets along the light-poles from Spring to early Fall.
Additionally, in the Glenville Rd. neighborhood in Long Branch, MHP has partnered with the County to bring about substantive change. In the past, the community faced fractured and irresponsible apartment ownership, lack of resident cohesion, numerous code compliance and pest issues, illegal bulk trash dumping, and criminal activity. To date, MHP has worked on behalf of the County by organizing property owners to facilitate concentrated code compliance enforcement and property improvements, as well as acquiring and rehabbing five derelict buildings totaling 27 units. Together with the property owners and other County stakeholders, MHP increased police involvement and patrols, built a fence around the perimeter of the neighborhood to reduce cut-thru traffic by vagrants and criminals, installed attractive lighting on the facades of the buildings to increase safety, renovated the main shared surface parking lot, facilitated a trash and recycling cooperative, and implemented a comprehensive rodent extermination process.
Additionally, to combat issues of littering, lack of recycling, and illegal bulk trash dumping, MHP formed a youth-based Green Club. The Club has stopped illegal dumping on one of the main public medians in the neighborhood through a tree planting project. MHP also built four neighborhood garden plots for use by the Green Club at the adjacent Long Branch Community Center. Due to its initial success, the demand for parents enrolling their students in the Green Club already exceeds capacity, and recently MHP was able to bring several thousand dollars in additional philanthropic and grant resources to the neighborhood to expand this program and deepen its impact. MHP has also partnered with the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission to bring new community garden plots for use by area adults, with at least 50 percent set aside for low-income residents of Glenville Rd.
In 2010 MHP began a survey of the neighborhood. Last year’s result shows that recycling rates are now 96 percent, the highest ever. Almost 70 percent of residents reported never seeing a rodent, in stark contrast to 80 percent seeing one every day in 2010. The number of residents sighting rodents was cut in half. Additionally, the number of residents citing safety as what they like most about their neighborhood went up almost 50 percent.
MHP worked with DHCA to address problems in the Connecticut Avenues Estates (CAE) neighborhood in Wheaton. In the late 1990’s, this neighborhood was rife with vacant and foreclosed properties, severe drug and crime issues, and neighborhood apathy. MHP helped build capacity through a local civic association and implemented revitalization strategies such as home ownership promotion, neighborhood and new resident marketing materials, resident education, and acquisition of vacant and deteriorated houses.
By the early 2000’s these efforts resulted in the rehabilitation of over 20 homes; improvements in the appearance of the neighborhood including attractive new neighborhood gateways signs and neighborhood marketing campaigns and materials; homeownership promotion; and a revitalized civic association. The rental rate declined from 26 percent to 10 percent, and the number of landlords that owned more than one unit declined from 52 to 4. Additionally, out of 31 previously vacant units, only two remained. Property values also rose, and community pride and ownership experienced resurgence.
Most recently, MHP has continued to help the civic association grow, champion their causes, and empower their residents. MHP sponsored several community building events in CAE, including a 15th anniversary celebration of the Civic association that helped raise their profile and boost their membership. In the last few years, MHP has helped the community raise several thousand dollars in funds for small community based projects, sent three neighborhood leaders to resident leadership training, educated over 200 residents on County rules, regulations and services, and helped lobby and advocate for neighborhood improvements like the State Highway Administration’s new signalized intersection at Veirs Mill & Claridge.
We recently just completed a community visioning process with CAE, and two adjacent neighborhoods – Glenmont Forest and Wheaton Hills to develop a roadmap for success.
Just north of CAE, MHP also helped to improve the quality of life in the Glenmont neighborhood by working on behalf of the County. In Glenmont, MHP addressed foreclosures, health, environmental, crime, and community pride issues. MHP helped build up two solid and highly successful neighborhood civic associations that represent over 1,100 households. MHP organized events and services that provided over 30 homeowners assistance in navigating their pending foreclosure situation, educated over 1,000 households on how to avoid foreclosure loan scams, and worked with the County to provide 40 rain barrels and over 100 programmable thermostats to improve the environment and lower residents utility bills. MHP helped to build neighborhood leadership by sponsoring leadership training for four residents, one of which was subsequently awarded a very competitive national recognition by NeighborWorks America.
MHP also assisted in the formation of numerous neighborhood watch programs in the area. Within two years of the inception of these watches specific crimes dropped by 40 percent in the district. MHP also partnered with providers to bring health services to Latinos in the community, allowing over 100 residents to access information and real time health services.
Recently, through MHP’s leadership and technical assistance, Glenmont was able to raise their profile to the broader community by designing and erecting five gateway signs around their neighborhood. The signs were long desired by the community and were identified as a goal in County’s Master Plan for Glenmont. Most recently, MHP recently helped residents beautify the neighborhood while building community through conversion of a long time unsightly vacant lot in the middle of their neighborhood into a conservation garden.