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

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

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