After enduring power outages and forced to sleep outside due to malfunctioning air conditioning at her apartment, Lidia Rivas of Hyattsville testified before the Prince George’s County Council in favor of a bill she said would protect tenants.
Rivas, who lives at the Bedford Station Apartments complex on University Boulevard, testified July 24, claiming living conditions have worsened since Miami-based First Market Properties purchased the apartments in the spring.
County Bill 27, which requires sellers of apartment complexes of 20 or more units to give the county first right of refusal before selling the complex, could have prevented the corporation from taking over the apartments, she said.
Zorayda Moreira-Smith, Casa of Maryland housing attorney, said the legislation could act as a buffer to third-party buyers, allowing time for the county to purchase apartments, adding that some complexes would be better run by the county instead of companies like First Market Properties.
Bedford Station Apartments and First Market Properties did not return repeated calls for comment.
According to a statement from the county’s Property Standards Division, Prince George’s has about 72,000 multifamily rental units.
The council approved the legislation in a scaled-back form, applying the requirement only to designated areas, which have yet to be determined, effective 45 days after the hearing.
Councilwoman Mary A. Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel said the purpose of the legislation, which she introduced July 2, was to preserve and stabilize housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income households. She said the amendment limits the flexibility of the legislation.
The legislation states that the rental housing owner must offer sale of the facilities to the county before selling to a third party. The county would have seven business days after receiving the offer to exercise its right of first refusal and 180 days to obtain financing for the purchase.
Ronald Wineholt, vice president of government affairs for the Maryland office of the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, said the legislation could hurt the private housing sector.
“We feel it strikes at the very most fundamental right of property ownership, which is the ability to sell your property to a willing buyer in the marketplace,” Wineholt said during the hearing.