Bowie seniors have complained that rent increases do not reflect the cost of living adjustment and asked the City Council to consider measures to stabilize rent, but they were disappointed with results of a city staff report Monday advising against the assistance.
The Senior Citizen Rental Assistance report evaluated whether a rent control ordinance, such as the one in Takoma Park, or a cash assistance program would be viable solutions.
The report concluded that a rent control ordinance would deter property owners from investing in Bowie residential communities, said Jesse Buggs, the director of the city’s office of grant development and administration.
Buggs said it would cost several million dollars to support even a small group of seniors with a serious need for income gap assistance. In 2010, approximately 7,900 Bowie residents were 62 years old and older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The biggest thing is we need to create more affordable housing,” Buggs said. “No place in the state or region is providing gap assistance.”
Octavia Blake, 85, who lives in the Evergreen Senior Apartments in Bowie, said rent stabilization is essential and it would allow Bowie senior citizens to take care of themselves.
“[Buggs] said it was difficult, but he didn’t say it was impossible,” Blake said. “We are disappointed, but not discouraged. Since when was Bowie afraid to be first with anything if it benefits its residents?”
Councilman Henri Gardner (Dist. 3) said the City Council needs to focus on this issue and support the needs of aging residents.
“I’m not pleased with the report at all. I’m not pleased with the direction we’re taking here,” Gardner said. “They’re not asking for someone to take care of them. They are just asking for some assistance to meet their ends.”
Councilman Dennis Brady (At-large) asked city staff to learn more about nonprofit organizations and philanthropies that provide income-based assistance to seniors and speak with property owners about their reasons for raising the rent.
“I don’t think it should be or can be something only the city does, but I think with some partnerships with the county and state, we can,” Brady said.