HAND members are working tirelessly in all of our jurisdictions to creating thriving communities for all. “Five Minutes With” is a series highlighting the great work that our membership is doing across the region. This informal conversation asks HAND members about their recent projects, the affordable housing industry and more. In the latest edition, we have a dialogue with Angie Rodgers, the newly named Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) for Economic Development for Prince George’s County, Maryland. Angie comes to the County from the District of Columbia where she most recently served as the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
In her role as DCAO for Economic Development, Rodgers is looking forward to ensuring that County residents benefit from the same prosperity as residents in other parts of the region. This includes enjoying amenity-rich neighborhoods, a variety of housing types for people across the income spectrum, support for home-grown businesses and good jobs that are accessible and pay a living wage. She also looks forward to ensuring the County realizes its potential to be a leader in the solution for inclusive housing and economic growth.
Check out our conversation here:
HAND: Can you tell us about your latest role?
AR: I spent the past 4+ years in DC’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, most of it as Director of the New Communities Initiative, and most recently as Chief of Staff.
In February, I will start work in Prince George’s County government as the new Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO) for Economic Development. The DCAO leads a cluster of nine county-chartered, quasi-independent and independent agencies focused on housing, business and economic development, employment and planning.
HAND: You’ve touched almost every part of the housing/community development industry – can you tell us about the journey you’ve taken to get to this point?
AR: I started my career in research and advocacy, and I’m so glad I started there. I was doing research on general income and poverty trends for DC households, and did some of the first studies to define and document the housing crisis that began to grip DC in the early 2000’s. So many extremely low-income households were spending 70, 80 and even 90 percent of their income on housing costs – way past the threshold for being severely housing burdened and at risk of homelessness. That early work gave me a mission-focused point of view that has continued to define my work. At this point I’ve been on every side of the work – public, private, nonprofit, philanthropic – and on all sides I’ve found a way to do work that creates opportunities for people of all backgrounds, and specifically those who are low-income.
HAND: What is the most important takeaway(s) from your previous positions that you’re bringing into your new role?
AR: Whenever I step into a new challenge, I think about how past roles have prepared me, and I am ready for the challenge of Prince George’s! Because there is so much room for growth, the County has an enormous opportunity to be a problem solver for the region – easing housing pressures and growing business (small biz – because they are the backbone – as well as those that may need a bit more leg-room). Hindsight is 20/20, so we also know so much more than we did 20 years ago about how to approach that kind of growth responsibly, so that the families and businesses in Prince George’s today can be there long-term. You have to be intentional to manage growth in that way, with the right strategies and interventions to protect all the people and communities that don’t have automatic access to opportunity. Everything I’ve done in my career thus far has armed me with that intentionality.
HAND: What do you think is the largest hurdle when it comes to increasing housing supply across our region?
AR: We don’t have a consistent toolkit across all of the region’s jurisdictions for production, so we can’t effectively plan together. Of course, some jurisdictions will be able to do things that others can’t, but we could go far if we were all at least aiming for the same target and thinking about supply collectively. While we’re silo’d, the region’s residents are fluid and making decisions about where to work and where to live based on where the best opportunities are. If there were more areas of opportunity spread throughout the region – places with a range of housing types for a range of incomes, access to transit, good amenities – we could increase supply and decrease prices.
HAND: Do you believe there is a “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability? If so, what do you think that is?
AR: My secret sauce would be made up of:
Production – We need a lot more units overall to meet demand before we see prices start to adjust. Without that, we’re left trying to subsidize our way to enough affordable units.
Preservation – We have to be vigilant about protecting what we have, and preservation tools can’t be an after-thought.
Regulations and Entitlements – We need to re-evaluate and reduce the regulatory barriers that have increasingly contributed to driving up the cost and time to build.
Income – We need to reduce income gaps. That is the biggest problem of all in this scenario. We’re only going to shift our affordability problem up the scale if we don’t reduce income and wealth gaps.
HAND: What are you most looking forward to over the coming months?
AR: Prince George’s has spent a few years getting many of the right ingredients in place – a planning strategy heavily focused on transit-oriented development around some of the County’s best assets – its metro stations; a housing strategy focused on diversifying the County’s housing types to meet the needs of a broader range of households; a business environment that is boosting job growth. I am looking forward to leading that ambitious work going forward.
I am also looking forward to continuing to see all my friends from around the DMV. The regional collaboration on housing and economic development pushed by HAND, MWCOG and other groups is hugely important, and I’m looking forward to representing Prince George’s in that collective problem-solving.
HAND: If you weren’t working in this industry, what might you be doing?
AR: Back-up singer à la “20 Feet from Stardom.” I don’t want to be famous; I would hate that. But I’d be happy backing up some of my favorite artists. I can blend in with the chorus, and also make the part uniquely mine. So I don’t stand out, but you hear just a little something that makes the whole thing better. Actually, I hope that’s me even when I’m not singing!