Addressing the housing affordability gap

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By Lisa Govoni and Jason Sartori

Today we introduce a new series of blog posts on the housing market in Montgomery County, a series we hope will address some misconceptions, and clarify Montgomery Planning’s position on how to address one of the county’s most difficult challenges: the high price and limited availability of high-quality housing to serve our county’s racial equity/social justice, environmental, and economic needs.

We thought it would be helpful to start this blog series by discussing Montgomery Planning’s position on housing and sharing some of the core tenets that guide our work program.

Montgomery County is a leader in housing policy, but we can and should do more. Montgomery County has long been a leader in … Continue reading

Growing inclusively is possible…if we build enough housing

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By Benjamin Kraft and Casey Anderson 

The conventional story about development and displacement goes something like this: new luxury housing gets built in a neighborhood, driving up rents for existing residents who then must leave to find less expensive housing elsewhere. To be sure, displacement does happen and it can be a serious problem, but our Neighborhood Change research shows that this conventional story of displacement doesn’t correspond to what is happening in Montgomery County. Specifically, the study shows that displacement of lower-income residents is not inevitable, and that where it occurs is not driven by new housing development. In fact, displacement is associated with the failure to build new housing in neighborhoods experiencing an increase in demand. Our … Continue reading

Key insights from “Lessons learned: A conversation on expanding housing types from across the country”

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By Jason Sartori, Lisa Govoni, and Karen Blyton

It has been widely reported that Montgomery County is facing a shortage of housing options that meet the size, price, and location needs of our increasingly diverse population. This issue is not specific to Montgomery County—places across the country are looking to expand housing types in their area.

To better understand what other regions have done to make homeownership more attainable for their residents, Montgomery Planning held a virtual event during the Montgomery County Planning Board’s February 24 meeting featuring an esteemed panel of housing experts. Called “Lessons learned: A conversation on expanding housing types from across the country,” it featured former Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, HUD’s Regina C. … Continue reading

Small increases in density make homeownership more attainable: A case study of Habitat for Humanity’s Garland Avenue Duplex project in Takoma Park

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By Sarah Reddinger, Vice President of Community Development, Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland

In September 2020, Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland was approached by the City of Takoma Park to partner on the redevelopment of a single-family home into an affordable homeownership opportunity. The home happened to be located in a zone that allowed for duplexes, which is rare in Montgomery County, so we saw this as the perfect chance to demonstrate how duplexes can fit into existing single-family neighborhoods while also driving down the cost per unit. The City assigned its Right to Purchase to Habitat and generously provided $200,000 to from its Housing Reserve Fund to help subsidize the project. And so, the Garland Ave Duplex … Continue reading

Despite the Headlines, Renters Never Left Dense Downtowns During Pandemic

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Written by Todd Fawley-King, Lisa Govoni

During debates and testimony about the proposed Attainable Housing Strategy, multiple participants have wondered about the housing landscape following the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to allow for more housing in established single-family zones. Will people want to live in denser housing? Will we be able to satisfy our housing needs with the empty units sitting in our downtowns? Certainly the headlines from newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post gave that impression: “America’s biggest cities were already losing their allure;” “The Pandemic is making people reconsider city living.” These newspapers even verged on fearmongering: “Which cities are renters fleeing, and where are they going?;” “They can’t leave the Bay … Continue reading

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

Montgomery County Needs ‘Cookie Cutter’ Urban Design to ‘bake’ a Better Future

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By Todd Fawley-King and Atul Sharma

Introduction

You’ve probably heard someone criticize a neighborhood or shopping area as “cookie cutter.” This description, often used to identify construction that has standardized or repetitive features, usually implies the buildings lack character and will diminish their surroundings. There is a lot to like about “cookie-cutter” construction; sameness can be enriching, and this type of design can help build great places quickly and affordably.

Good cookie-cutter design is ingrained in the urban fabric of America, enabling the rapid settlement and expansion of the United States. In New England the repeated “cookie” is the 6-by-6 mile square township administered by a central village. These townships were organized around the quintessential church, meeting house, and … 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

Small Backyard Houses, Big County Benefits

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By Paul Mortensen and Njillan Sarre

Called backyard cottages or granny flats, accessory dwelling units can help remedy our housing shortage

The Montgomery County Council is in the process of considering changes to the existing laws that allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These secondary housing units are located on the same lot as an owner-occupied single-family home. They are significantly smaller than the main house and can be a stand-alone structure in the backyard, a basement apartment, an addition or an apartment over the garage. ADUs go by many names, such as accessory apartments, backyard cottages or granny flats, among others.

Under current law, homeowners in Montgomery County who want to have an ADU face several restrictions. A detached … 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 … Continue reading