Schools and Growth, Part Three: New Development and Overcrowding

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When schools are overcrowded, it doesn’t much matter to children (and their parents) whether developers are paying their share of the cost of adding capacity, because kids need space in classrooms (along with gymnasiums and cafeterias) in order to learn and thrive. That’s why the county’s growth rules, known as the Subdivision Staging Policy or SSP, prohibit new residential development in any school cluster where the schools are at 120 percent of capacity.

The “annual school test,” which determines whether a school cluster goes into a residential development moratorium, is applied in July of each year. The impact of a development moratorium is felt as new residential projects in an area are put on hold and, in some cases, … Continue reading

Schools and Growth, Part Two: Student Generation Rates and Children Who Live in Apartments

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I often hear claims that the school impact tax rates charged to developers are based on faulty assumptions about the number of children who live in new housing units. While no one can predict exactly how many kids will live in a specific dwelling in the future, the methodology used to produce the generation rates used in school impact tax calculations is far more sophisticated and comprehensive than most people realize.

Every other year, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) provides the Planning Department with a dataset that includes the address and grade of every MCPS student (with all other identifying information scrubbed from the dataset). The Planning Department then cross-references this information with parcel data that identifies the type … Continue reading

Schools and Growth, Part One: Impact Taxes and School Construction

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Few topics in local government generate as much controversy and misunderstanding as the relationships among population growth, real estate development, school enrollment and impact tax revenue. I want to provide the data and background information needed to understand how – and how much – new development contributes toward the cost of providing classroom seats for schoolchildren.

I often hear people say that new residential development “doesn’t pay for itself,” by which I take them to mean that the cost of providing capacity for additional students coming from new development exceeds the revenue raised through school impact taxes.

In Montgomery County, school impact taxes are calculated to cover 120 percent of the cost of each additional seat generated by a new … Continue reading

Housing Stock Snapshot

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Soon to be released county trends report shows number of teardowns of existing single-family homes and multifamily developments

Montgomery Planning’s Research and Special Projects Division will be presenting Montgomery County Trends: A Look at People, Housing and Jobs Since 1990 to the Planning Board on January 31. This is a look at Montgomery County’s demographics, housing stock and employment base since 1990. I wanted to share a few highlights of the trends report related to housing stock before this is released on January 24. Here are some key takeaways of what the data shows.

Limited downcounty development opportunities and the high demand for housing locations near public transit and amenities has resulted in significant teardown of existing single-family home … Continue reading

Man-made and Environmental Constraints on Development in Montgomery County

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Numerous Constraints Limit the Availability of Developable Land

In my last post, I showed how new development can help us meet our environmental sustainability goals, including the county’s commitment to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions entirely by 2035 and reduce stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

I also have discussed (here, here and here) the ways in which New Suburbanism adds needed housing while satisfying consumer demand for walkable urban places, even in areas that aren’t transit-oriented or adjacent to existing urban centers like Silver Spring and Bethesda.

Now I want to direct your attention to a related problem: While we know that we need to add more than 20,000 housing units over the next five years to accommodate additional job … Continue reading

The Environmental Benefits of New Suburbanism

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My last series of blog posts explained some of the challenges facing Montgomery County’s economy. I discussed how encouraging walkable, compact, mixed-use development can help us grow our tax base, control housing costs and improve the quality of life for all our residents. This “New Suburbanism,” however, is about more than economic competitiveness. It helps in addressing our most challenging environmental issues, including climate change and pollution from vehicle emissions and stormwater runoff.

Take a look at these charts from the Planning Department’s most recent Mobility Assessment Report:

Between 2005 and 2015, Montgomery County grew by more than 100,000 people. While our total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has increased in the last few … Continue reading

Lessons Learned from ULI Fall Meeting: Authenticity is key to great places

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In October, I was fortunate to attend the 2018 ULI Fall Meeting in Boston as a recipient of a scholarship for local public officials from the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use. The conference attracted over 6,000 industry leaders in real estate and land use and was a wonderful opportunity to get out of the day-to-day bubble of planning and land use in Montgomery County and learn about trends in other parts of the country to inform our work.

Particularly valuable were the site tours and sessions offered by the ULI Placemaking Council during the Council Day on Wednesday. The program comprised visits to the new Seaport District in South Boston adjacent to the Convention Center and Kendall … Continue reading

New Suburbanism: Not Just for Millennials

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Investing in more transit and walkable, amenity-rich neighborhoods will attract more residents and employers to Montgomery County

Both businesses and residents in Montgomery County increasingly show a preference for walkable, compact neighborhoods with a mix of uses. This kind of development is commonly described as “urban” in form, but its underlying design principles can be applied at lower densities and at smaller scale in suburban settings.

In Montgomery County, we have been encouraging this kind of development near existing Metro stations and our future Purple Line light rail stations. But we’ve also scaled down and used the same concepts  – walkability, diversity of uses and compact design – where redevelopment offers an opportunity to add badly-needed housing and new amenities … Continue reading

More on Housing as Infrastructure

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In the previous post I made the case that we need private infrastructure in the form of housing and office buildings for the same reasons we need public infrastructure such as roads, transit, schools, and water and sewer pipes. In particular, if we don’t have enough housing, workers will continue bidding up the cost of existing residences until only the very affluent will be able to afford decent housing in convenient locations. Lower-income residents will either be priced out entirely or face crowded, substandard housing conditions in remote locations with long and difficult commutes.

It may be possible to limit population growth by throttling the construction of new housing through regulation and higher fees on development (I’ll have more to … Continue reading

Real Estate Development *Is* Infrastructure

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I often hear people say things like:

“Real estate development just makes developers rich – it doesn’t do anything to help our economy,” or

“I understand why we need to bring more employers to Montgomery County, but building more housing just adds to the overcrowding of our schools – we should be pushing for more office projects,” or

“I’m not against growth but we shouldn’t allow more development until we have the infrastructure to support it.”

If you’ve read the previous posts in this series, you have some idea why I think these statements reflect mistaken premises about the relationship between real estate development and Montgomery County’s ability to attract high-quality jobs and the workers to fill them. The basic … Continue reading