Thrive Explained: Why we need more of every kind of housing

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Written by Casey Anderson and Lisa Govoni

The basic problem with housing in Montgomery County is easy to summarize: We haven’t been building enough of it for quite some time.

We’re building less and less over time

In every succeeding decade since the 1980s, the number of residential building permits issued here has steadily declined, both in absolute terms and relative to the rest of the region. Home construction has fallen well short of the 4,200 units per year that the Council of Governments (COG) estimates that the county needs to keep up, even with relatively modest population and job growth.

Here’s a chart that shows what we’re talking about:

Montgomery County Building Permits

Limited new construction creates supply … Continue reading

El lugar donde vive determina su salud y prosperidad económica

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Por Natali Fani-González

Este contenido apareció originalmente en la sección de opinión de The Washington Post el 4 de marzo de 2021.

En 30 minutos, un viernes por la tarde en el otoño de 2020, pude capturar la agonía de la experiencia estadounidense:

“[La vivienda] es demasiado costosa a menos que gane más de $60 mil”.

“Usted obtiene lo que paga… siempre y cuando tenga un salario estable”.

“La mitad de mi salario mensual se destina a pagar el alquiler”.

“Aproximadamente un 70 % de mi salario mensual se utiliza para pagar el alquiler”.

Thrive Explained: Transportation Networks for Livable, Accessible Communities

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Even the most forward-thinking land use policies will fail if they are not supported by transportation infrastructure and services that reinforce – or at least don’t undermine – their objectives. As the Wedges and Corridors plan recognized more than half a century ago:

“An efficient system of transportation must include rapid transit designed to meet a major part of the critical rush-hour need. Without rapid transit, highways and parking garages will consume the downtown areas; the advantages of central locations will decrease, the city will become fragmented and unworkable. The mental frustrations of congested highway travel will take its toll, not to mention the extra costs of second cars and soaring insurance rate. In Los Angeles where an … Continue reading

Thrive Explained: How Design Can Add Value and Build Community

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Written by Casey Anderson and Nicholas Holdzkom

Design of the built environment strongly influences our quality of life. The pattern of development across a city, county, and region; the configuration of neighborhoods and districts; and the architecture of individual buildings collectively shape our perception of places and influence how we choose to travel, recreate, and socialize.

This series has explained how Thrive Montgomery 2050 addresses design at each of these scales. The post on compact growth outlined a countywide framework for concentrating development along corridors. The post on complete communities addressed design at the level of neighborhoods and districts, describing how a mix of uses and amenities can be built – literally and figuratively – on the foundation … Continue reading

Montgomery Planning Celebrates Earth Day: A Roundup of Five Key Environmental Blog Posts

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As a steward of Montgomery County’s natural and built environment, Montgomery Planning strives to create a sustainable future for all community members. In honor of Earth Day, we are rounding up five key blog posts from The Third Place written by Montgomery Planning staff over the years that highlight our committment to environmental resilience. This is especially important as we plan for the county’s next 30 years through the General Plan Update, Thrive Montgomery 2050. Also, check out more on how Montgomery Planning is planning to keep Montgomery County green on our website.

Setting the standard for Montgomery County’s sustainable development with the new M-NCPPC Wheaton Headquarters

By Paul Mortensen

In this blog post, Senior Urban Planner Paul … Continue reading

Thrive Explained: Complete Communities and 15-Minute Living

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Written by Casey Anderson and Jessica McVary

A compact form of development – discussed in this post on corridor-focused growth – is necessary but not sufficient to ensure the emergence of great places, because a tight development footprint is only the first step. The combination of uses and activities in each of these communities must add up to a cohesive whole, allowing people who live and work there to meet as many of their needs as possible without the need to drive long distances. This combination, which Thrive Montgomery calls, “complete communities,” not only helps to reduce the need for driving but makes these centers of activity more diverse, interesting, and appealing.

Wedges and Corridors and the separation … Continue reading

Compact Growth: Corridor-Focused Development and “The Map”

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As I explained in the previous post, a compact form of development is a pillar of urbanism and Thrive Montgomery’s approach to land use. Now I want to show how Thrive Montgomery applies this idea and how this aspect of urbanist thinking represents continuity with – not a departure from – the Wedges and Corridors plan and the map that gave that plan its name.

Polycentric urbanism and the original Wedges and Corridors map

The Wedges and Corridors map specifies where growth should be focused and what kinds of development should be allowed in different places. It has gone through a series of “refinements” – I’ll discuss some of these changes and why they matter – but here’s the … Continue reading

Public Engagement During a Pandemic

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I’m interrupting our regularly-scheduled programming (explaining Thrive Montgomery 2050) to share some fresh data on public engagement with our agency during COVID-19 along with some thoughts about the use of technology as a tool for participation in government.

Thanks to our crack IT staff, we have continued holding hearings on development applications throughout the pandemic – in fact, we have not cancelled a single Planning Board meeting, delayed any master plans, or stopped any other project.

This chart shows the number of people who participated in Planning Board meetings remotely over the course of the year when COVID-19 restrictions on in-person public gatherings have been in effect and the number who participated in person over the previous twelve months:

Continue reading

Thrive Explained: Urbanism Without Apologies

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Thrive Montgomery includes dozens of recommendations touching on land use, transportation and many more topics. In the following posts I will describe what I see as the most interesting and important concepts in the plan, but first I want to outline the general approach that informs this plan’s specific proposals – an approach that can be summarized as “urbanism.”

The plan applies the principles of urbanism – a term used as shorthand for a set of ideas about what makes human settlements successful – to frame recommendations about the location, form, and design of development; policies on transportation and housing; and the kinds of parks, recreational facilities, and public spaces we need in the future.

What we mean … Continue reading

Thrive Explained: What’s the Problem?

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Montgomery County’s first General Plan, the “Wedges and Corridors” plan, helped make this one of the most desirable places to live and work in the United States. We built excellent parks and schools, preserved land for farming, facilitated the growth of urban centers and construction of mass transit, and shaped the development of attractive suburban subdivisions.

Today, however, our residents are older, more diverse, and less likely to live in traditional family arrangements. We have evolved from a bedroom community to a complex jurisdiction with urban hubs, mature residential neighborhoods, and rural landscapes. Competition for talent, jobs, and economic opportunities is much more intense. Technology is changing how we work, shop, and live, influencing planning and real estate … Continue reading