Retail and Office Markets

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In the previous two posts, I argued that we have a serious shortfall in the supply of new housing at every price level and that this drives up housing costs. Now I’ll take a look at retail and office space to try to offer some perspective on what’s going on in the market for commercial real estate and what it says about consumer preferences, our economic well-being, and what we can do to adapt to attract and retain employers and their employees in the future.

Our Retail and Office Markets

Even as many other parts of the country – and the DC region – are dealing with a glut of retail space, Montgomery County’s retail supply is, overall, strong … Continue reading

Housing Preferences and Affordability

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As I explained in my last post, Montgomery County’s continued population growth (even if this growth is slow in relative terms) coupled with constrained wages and housing supply, means that housing affordability becomes a bigger problem. This chart show the proportion of renters and homeowners with a mortgage who pay at least 35 percent of their income on housing costs:

The lack of affordable housing hurts the poor more than anyone else, but our high housing costs also hurt middle and even upper income residents. As for the impact on economic development and jobs, we risk driving away highly-skilled workers who have choices about where to live and work. Eventually, if we begin … Continue reading

Population, Job Growth and Housing Supply

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In earlier posts, I outlined where Montgomery County stands in terms of jobs and wages, discussed the related issue of income inequality and pointed out that the older segment of our population is going to grow disproportionately to other age groups over the next two decades.

Now let’s assess the past and future rate of population growth, job openings and housing construction, and the relationship of these factors to lagging wage growth in contributing to one of most significant economic challenges: a shortage of affordable housing.

Population and job growth

Before we can evaluate how much new housing and office space is needed in the future, we first have to understand how many people (and jobs) we might reasonably … Continue reading

Wages, Inequality, and the Aging of the Workforce

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In the last post I explained why I think Montgomery County is in pretty good shape (at least for the moment) on the economic measures that matter most – jobs and wages. But serious challenges to our ability to maintain and improve our quality of life are already apparent and I’m concerned about our future competitiveness.

Jobs and income: the bad news

In real, inflation-adjusted terms, median incomes in Montgomery County have not recovered to the levels reached before the recession that began in 2008. For that matter, real median incomes are down or flat in every DC-area jurisdiction except for the District and Loudon County. This chart shows the weakness of the recovery in incomes:

 

          

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Montgomery County’s Economy: The Good, The Bad, and The Future

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The debate over the future of Montgomery County – what kind of place we are, what kind of place we want to be and how we can pay to maintain our quality of life –has taken on a healthy sense of urgency during this election season. But I’m not sure that the public debate over these issues has provided a clear picture of our economic strengths and weaknesses, and – more importantly – where we need to focus our efforts to bolster our economic competitiveness.

Now that the primaries are over and dust is in the process of settling, I want to provide an assessment of our economic health and prospects. I hope to show that while we … Continue reading

Focusing Vision Zero in the Suburbs

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Montgomery County master plans recommend ways of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries By David Anspacher and Jessica McVary

If you think implementing Vision Zero to eliminate traffic fatalities in your city is challenging, try starting a program in the suburbs where communities were designed for the automobile and largely devoid of concern for walking, bicycling and transit use!

While more than 40 cities in North America have endorsed Vision Zero, only one suburban jurisdiction – Montgomery County, Maryland – has embraced this strategy to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities and severe injuries by 2030 while increasing mobility. Montgomery County is attempting to demonstrate that realizing Vision Zero is not just possible in San Francisco and Washington DC, but also … Continue reading

Where are the Family-Sized Apartments?

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Study reveals decline in number of family-sized units for county residents

The completed Rental Housing Study, presented to the Montgomery County Council in July 2017, reveals a need for large, family-sized units with 3 or more bedrooms. The study found that a large number of these family-sized units were built in the county over many years — currently, almost 40 percent of all rental units have 3+ bedrooms.  These units comprise both multi-family rental apartments and owned units, condos or single-family units, known as conversion units.

However, when these units are disaggregated into multi-family rental apartments, the number of family-sized units become smaller with these units concentrated in older structures. The study also found that only around 12 percent … Continue reading

Housing Alternatives Needed for County Residents

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First session of Winter Speaker Session focuses on infill possibilities as land becomes scarce for conventional developments.

Here is a question to discuss over your next dinner party: where can Montgomery County fit an additional 87,100 households?

Our county, like many jurisdictions across the nation, has a housing problem. Demand for homes is persistent and space for new dwellings is limited, forcing families to consider too many tradeoffs, such as paying higher housing costs or selecting homes in communities far from their employment.

The good news is that there are solutions to this problem that can be applied in Montgomery County, as revealed in the first session of the Planning Department’s Winter Speaker Series on the Economic Future … Continue reading

Montgomery County’s Think Tank

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The Planning Department’s Research and Special Projects Division undertakes cutting-edge studies to influence important decisions about the county

Our plans rely on accurate data about demographics, housing, commercial real estate and the economy to inform recommendations and decisions about land use. This information is carefully gathered by a dedicated group within the Planning Department – the eight staff members of our Research and Special Projects Division – who help us get ahead of the planning curve with their ongoing investigations.

We like to call this division “the think tank for the county” because it provides a wealth of intelligence for the County Council and various government agencies. Currently, the research staff is hard at work on several important studies … Continue reading

County Household Income Still Recovering from the Great Recession

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For the past eight years, the median household income in Montgomery County has remained below the level during the Great Recession. Moreover, median household incomes have yet to recover to the 1999 benchmark of $101,824 after the precipitous drop in 2010 to $96,913 (illustrated in Figure 1). The median household income – the income at which half of the households are above and half are below – adjusted for inflation, dropped 5.8 percent (-$6,063) from its peak in 2007 to $98,917 in 2015.[1]  The latest estimate is 2.9 percent lower than the adjusted 1999 median household income of $101,824.

 

Figure 1.  Montgomery County Median Household Income 1999-2015 (constant 2015 dollars)

Still considered one of the wealthiest counties in … Continue reading