Posts tagged ‘jobs’
Each year, metro area planners prepare forecasts on how much growth is expected in the next few decades. In July, we presented a different take on these forecasts to the Planning Board, expanding beyond growth in jobs and housing needs to consider the land needed to accommodate that growth. The story is very interesting when we consider past county growth trends and whether MoCo has enough land to grow the same way.
This is a very big story for MoCo. Along with the changing demographics, where we grow is one of the major defining factors in the future sustainability of the County.
The big picture
Let’s consider job growth. Using the Council of Governments model, we project a 33-percent increase in jobs (167,000) over the next 20 years, a seven-percent decrease over what we saw between 1990 and today. We also project a 21.5% increase in the number of housing units (77,500), which mirrors what we saw for the past 20 years. These projections would mean a bigger gap in the jobs-to-housing ratio. Translation: more people commuting farther to work.
Not surprisingly, we predict the biggest job gains to be in Area 2 running up the I-270 corridor and east along the Beltway, including the FDA complex. With lots of surface parking lots ripe for redevelopment like White Flint, there is tremendous potential in this area of the county. Area 1, inside the Beltway, is expected to be the smallest job gainer — no surprise because this area is largely developed within the job centers. We are seeing infill on single lots in this area, but large redevelopment opportunities are few. However when considering the actual land used to accommodate the job growth, Area 3 is the biggest consumer of land. This is to be expected, given the suburban-style office development in the area.
The next part of the story is how much new office, retail and industrial floor space is needed to accommodate job growth? We determine these numbers by multiplying the projected jobs in each of office, retail and industrial sectors by the amount of floor space the market now builds per employee. (The average office employee uses about 225 square feet.) This math results in an estimate of:
• just over 26 million square feet of new office space
• 6 million square feet for retail
• 5.8 million square feet for industrial
To put those numbers in perspective, downtown Rockville and the surrounding area currently represents about seven million square feet of retail space.
What does 6 million ft2 look like?
At current land consumption rates, those new jobs would take 1,552 acres. This number factors in both the urban-style employment development that uses little land as well as the office park development built at much lower densities.
While the growth in the number of housing units compares to the past 20 years, there will be a major shift in the type of housing built. The demand for multi-family housing, particularly rental housing in the short term, will be the dominant new housing product. Now, single-family houses (singles, towns) make up 68 percent of all units in the county. Over the next 20 years, that share is expected to drop to 59 percent.
We predict just over 19 percent of the new housing will be single family, while the remaining 80 percent will be multi-family units. And this is a positive shift given a number of factors.
• the housing market nationwide over the next five to 10 years will be in multi-unit housing with a focus on the rental market
• affordability improves with multi-family units in a range of both sizes and tenure
• the MoCo housing market needs diversification to provide products that are attractive to younger people, now priced out because of high costs, as well as multi-unit living popular with seniors looking to downsize
At our current housing densities, meaning the number of housing units per acre, we predict a need for just over 9,000 acres of new housing. Obviously, single-family housing consumes a much higher percentage of land than multi-unit housing. We predict that while only 19 percent of the new units will be for single-family housing, those units would consume around 70 percent of the land needed for the new residential units. Area 3 is the part of the county where most of this development would occur.
Current building projects in the county paint a picture of the future. Construction is just starting on two projects that reflect past and future trends in county housing. The Cabin Branch single-family site plan housing project in Clarksburg has over 2,000 housing units, while plans for mixed-use projects in White Flint will see the beginning of the 9,000 new multi-family units expected there in the next 15 to 20 years.
Where we can meet the demand for housing?
It’s easy to identify the options, harder to implement them. MoCo has only about 14,000 acres of vacant land zoned for greenfield development, meaning land where nothing has yet been built. Much of this land is scattered and in places where if it had been easy, people would have developed there by now.
Considering that we need around 9,000 acres for the new housing plus 2,000 acres for employment uses, we will have to consider infill development on a bigger scale than the past.
We project a need for 3,000 acres for new multi-family units. However, we have only 325 acres of land zoned for this use available as greenfield development. So where will the units go? There is only 2,900 acres of land zoned for commercial and mixed uses in the county and this is already built on. Even with considerable redevelopment of these lands, we cannot accommodate the expected need for land for new housing.
There is a large pipeline of approved yet unbuilt projects in the county. Can these projects make a dent in the needed capacity? Assuming everything in the pipeline gets built, and that is a big if, there is still a gap of over 18 million square feet for the commercial and office segment and a gap of around 60,000 units in the residential projections.
In sum, here’s where we stand.
• growth is expected to slow over the next 20 years but still be considerable
• we have very little new land left to develop
• we have very little land zoned for multi-unit housing and we have little commercially zoned land to accommodate the projected demand
• our processes for reviewing land use change are lengthy and cannot adapt to market changes in a timely manner
How can we prepare for the future demand given the above factors?
The first big step is to rationalize our zoning rules. That exercise is well underway. Considering where we can grow is a big step. We have done well planning our nodes like White Flint and Twinbrook. We are underway on the East County plan and Glenmont will begin shortly. Now we need to consider connecting these “nodes” by looking at our corridors, the subject of a previous blog post. These arterials don’t show the best side of MoCo, and given the emerging work on bus rapid transit, offer tremendous opportunities for growth connected to transit.
We need to look at what we have built and how we can make it better.
• Office parks – if we want to improve our jobs | housing balance what better place than to create new housing on some of the hundreds of acres of grass surrounding the lonely office park buildings?
• Parking lots – there are 160 acres of surface parking in White Flint and already it is being transformed into mixed uses. There are over 8,000 acres of surface parking in the county, a negative environmental condition we must improve upon. How many of these can be developed at varying scales into uses that bring people closer to their daily needs?
• Malls – this building form — as a strip mall or full-fledged mall — is struggling around the country. The White Flint model of phasing development by first building on the surface parking while the malls continue to operate is a fiscally sound way to approach redevelopment that benefits the owner and the existing community. How many of our 100+ strip malls could benefit from a remake into a neighborhood center that offers more services and options for people who live in the neighborhood?
• Process – Have our processes resulted in development that is better than what we see elsewhere with a fraction of the time needed to get through the approvals? The answer is no. Our arterial roads and shopping areas are the same as places that don’t have zoning. There is a pressing need to rethink how we approach land use approvals. Instead of being so focused on the steps of a process, we should start with what we want the outcome to be, then work backward.
MoCo will grow. MoCo needs to grow to support what we have built and the style of living people have become accustomed to. The future pattern of growth will be different and more sustainable, in the form of multi-unit living with mixed use on infill sites. This better matches the changing demographics of the county and fits our need to diversify our housing to make the county more affordable and attract new people.