The Future of the Montgomery County Office Market, Part 3: Attracting Office Users Post COVID

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The first and second entries of this series on the future of Montgomery County’s office market examined how widespread telework will change the value of office space and explored various scenarios for future office demand. In this third and final part of the series, let’s dive further into what will be needed to convince office users to continue to rent physical space in Montgomery County as we enter an era in which employers can more readily work from home at substantially lower cost. The competitiveness of our more than 74 million square feet of office space is a significant factor contributing to the $1.8 billion in property taxes Montgomery County collects (from both commercial and residential properties), the largest … Continue reading

Moratorium Damages County’s Competitiveness and Affordability, Fails to Fix School Capacity Shortfalls

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The Montgomery County Council has the chance to better the County’s future by voting to approve the County Growth Policy

We’ve grown accustomed to the idea that developers are expected to pay a large part of the cost of building schools, based on the eminently reasonable theory that the construction of new housing generates demand for classroom space as families move into the housing, have children, and send them to local schools. If the schools get too crowded, county rules impose a moratorium on the development of new housing until classroom space is made available to “catch up.”

The logic behind this approach appears unassailable. If new housing produces a need for more seats in schools, it follows … Continue reading

Does Montgomery County Have What it Takes to be Economically Resilient During & After COVID-19?

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Keys to Building Economic Resilience in Montgomery County Post-Pandemic

As we await post-pandemic life and speculate about our economic future, the idea of economic resilience—how quickly and easily we as individuals and society can adapt to and recover from a devastating economic blow—is on everyone’s minds. So let’s examine the idea of economic resilience: what the term “resilience” means for a local economy, what characteristics and conditions make local economies resilient in the face of economic challenges and how Montgomery County can position itself to be more resilient.

Local Economies, Adaptive Resilience, and Relationships

Economic resilience is adaptive resilience. This is different from the type of resilience we expect from our physical infrastructure, which “bounces back” to normal functioning … Continue reading

Five ways to support the retail and restaurant sector battered by COVID-19 restrictions to recover

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The retail that helps define Montgomery County’s character is struggling. The necessary COVID-19 restrictions that reduce crowds will continue to challenge retail in Montgomery County even after the lockdown eases, but the county has policies and programs that could help landlords, retailers, employees and the customers they serve.

Montgomery County’s extensive retail sector with 40.6 million leasable square feet across 2,390 properties (Source: CoStar) serves a diverse population and is a key amenity for the County. In their 2017 Retail Trends Study, the Montgomery County Planning Department highlighted vibrant, small retail businesses and recommended that the County would “benefit from focusing on the development and support of these unique small businesses, as these businesses are market differentiators for the … Continue reading

COVID-19 and the Economy: People Employed in Montgomery County’s Service, Retail, and Hospitality Occupations and Industries Hit Hard by Pandemic

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Several weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, it has already become cliché to say that we are living in unprecedented times, but it is still too early to understand exactly how severe the economic damage will be, and how it will effect Montgomery County and its residents. While hundreds of thousands are already suffering the direct health effects of the COVID-19, the indirect economic fallout from the near closure of the economy is also becoming apparent. From the weeks ending March 21 through April 11, over 22 million people filed for Federal unemployment insurance in the U.S., including over 38,600 people in Montgomery County. This volume has far surpassed all previous records. The $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program created by … Continue reading

Over-housed: Number-Crunching Montgomery’s Housing Crunch

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By now I think –or hope, anyway – that just about everyone who has spent any time studying the region’s housing realizes that we are not building enough of it. One part of the housing supply problem that has not received as much attention is the mismatch between the types of housing already built (and being built) and the kind needed for a changing population who are adopting different living arrangements.

The proportion of householders living alone has increased significantly while the proportion of households consisting of an adult couple with young children has decreased. In 1960, single-member households made up 7 percent of all households in the county. By 2018, that proportion had reached 25 percent, or about three-and-a-half … Continue reading

Montgomery County Is (Literally) Well-Positioned for the Future – But Will We Take Advantage of the Opportunity?

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Land use and transportation planning are the responsibility of local government, but economic changes at the regional, national and even global levels are forcing us to adapt to forces outside of our control – including automation, international trade, and even competition for natural resources as basic as the sand used to mix the concrete in large apartment and office buildings.

Among the biggest changes is what some economists have called the trend toward a “winner-take-all-economy.” This is the idea that wealth, talent and innovation are increasingly being concentrated in a small number of places, typically large metro areas anchored by cities capable of attracting people and capital from around the world. Nationally we can see this trend in the … Continue reading

Technology’s Influence on the Work of the Future

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Fears of robots replacing humans are overblown. A diverse and adaptable economy is key to keeping Montgomery County competitive and equitable.

There has been no shortage of foreboding warnings in the media about the economic and social dangers posed by robots and artificial intelligence technologies. With titles like “The Robots are Coming,” “The Rise of the Robots” and “The Robocalypse,” this coverage has sparked collective anxiety over the future of work and whether human labor will eventually be displaced in an automated economy.

However, technology is not destiny. With thoughtful, proactive planning, the harmful consequences of 21st century technology can be avoided and opportunities for increasing fulfillment at work, income equity and quality of life can be seized.

This … Continue reading

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

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