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

Housing Alternatives Needed for County Residents

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First session of Winter Speaker Session focuses on infill possibilities as land becomes scarce for conventional developments.

Here is a question to discuss over your next dinner party: where can Montgomery County fit an additional 87,100 households?

Our county, like many jurisdictions across the nation, has a housing problem. Demand for homes is persistent and space for new dwellings is limited, forcing families to consider too many tradeoffs, such as paying higher housing costs or selecting homes in communities far from their employment.

The good news is that there are solutions to this problem that can be applied in Montgomery County, as revealed in the first session of the Planning Department’s Winter Speaker Series on the Economic Future … Continue reading

Study of rental housing in Montgomery County reveals shortage of affordable dwellings

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Initial findings show that Montgomery County’s housing market is unbalanced, particularly for low-income residents

Low income residents in Montgomery County face a shortage of rental units matching their ability to pay, according to an ongoing study of rental housing. So far, the study has found that the existing rental housing market in the county is unbalanced at both the lowest and highest ends of the market. The market is short 20,000 units priced appropriately for households earning less than 30 percent of area median income (AMI) or $28,900. In addition, it is short 13,000 units priced to target households earning more than 120 percent of the area median income or $115,560.

 

Figure 1.) Supply/Demand Equilibrium for All … Continue reading

Some Recent Articles & Links

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On Housing

A report from the Brookings Institution: restrictive (read, “exclusionary”) zoning may lead to lower test scores for kids.

“As the nation grapples with the growing gap between rich and poor and an economy increasingly reliant on formal education, public policies should address housing market regulations that prohibit all but the very affluent from enrolling their children in high-scoring public schools in order to promote individual social mobility and broader economic security.”

Report.

An analysis by US Today shows the recession accelerated trends towards urbanization.

“The shift to more urban housing development has been growing slowly during the past couple of decades and thanks to the recession and housing crash, this trend has accelerated. It is probable … Continue reading