Montgomery County Planning Board held its fourth Attainable Housing Strategies initiative work session on a new optional method of development

October 13, 2021

Attainable Housing Strategies
Final two work sessions in support of this initiative will be held on November 4 and 18; community event on the Montgomery Planning Board’s recommendations scheduled for December

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), held its fourth work session for the Attainable Housing Strategies initiative on October 7. During the latest work session, Montgomery Planning staff sought direction on a new optional method of development. This follows two work sessions the Planning Board held on this initiative in July and one in September. Once the fifth and sixth work sessions are held on November 4 and 18, Planning staff will present the initiative’s recommendations to the community at an event to take place this December.

During the October 7 Planning Board meeting, the Board supported the idea of a new Attainable Housing Optional Method. This is an optional development review process that provides the opportunity for additional density and increased flexibility in exchange for providing additional smaller housing units that will be attainable to more households than most new construction today. The geographic eligibility for the new Attainable Housing Optional Method of Development applies to properties in the R-90 and R-60 zones that abut a corridor planned for BRT in the 2013 Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, as well as Connecticut Ave and River Road inside the beltway, or are recommended for a Residential Floating Zone.

The Board also supported the concept of Cottage Court Living as part of the Attainable Housing Optional Method of Development, which is a living arrangement made up of multiple small one or two detached houses that are centered around a common private open area.

View the October 7 Attainable Housing Strategies staff report and presentation

“We have spent the last few years determining how the county can provide more types of housing that are attainable to a wide variety of current and would-be homeowners,” said Planning Director Gwen Wright. “Providing duplexes and triplexes, courtyard cottages and even smaller apartment buildings can help bridge the gap and offer more housing choice for our current and future residents – enabling a more equitable future.”

The Attainable Housing Strategies effort launched at the direction of the Montgomery County Council on March 4, 2021 to “consider zoning reforms that would allow greater opportunities for Missing Middle Housing in Montgomery County.” Since that time, Montgomery Planning staff has reviewed zoning and planning policies and conducted community outreach to come up with a comprehensive strategy for providing options for residents to find homes at the right sizes, locations and price points for their needs in Montgomery County. During the Attainable Housing Strategies work sessions, Planning staff have presented their recommendations to the Planning Board on developing tools that can encourage the creation of a more diverse range of housing typologies.

Summary of the last four Planning Board Attainable Housing Strategies work sessions

The previous four Attainable Housing work sessions from July 8 and 22, September 9, and October 7 have focused on the following elements and the Planning Board made a number of recommendations:

Definition and scale: The Planning Board was supportive of the goals of the initiative following a refinement that added more direct language and included a focus on economic development. The Planning Board also supported a definition of attainable housing that includes a focus on the intent of attainable housing, to provide more diverse housing options.

Product Type: Per guidance from the Planning Board, staff will produce draft Zoning Text Amendments to transmit to the County Council for introduction. The ZTAs would detail the recommendations as edits to Chapter 59.

Thrive Growth map: The Planning Board was not supportive of connecting the AHS recommendations to the Thrive Growth map, given that it is not yet adopted. Instead the boundary of zoning blocks will be used.

Applicable Residential Zones: The Planning Board recommended allowing, by-right, house scale:

  • duplexes in the R-40, R-60, R-90, and R-200 zones;
  • triplexes in the R-40, R-60, and R-90 zones; and
  • quadplexes in the R-40, R-60, and R-90 zones within the Priority Housing District.

Priority Housing District: The Planning Board was supportive of defining the Priority Housing District, in which quadplexes would be allowed and parking requirements would be reduced. The Board defined the Priority Housing District using a straight-line buffer of 1-mile from Red line, Purple Line, and MARC rail stations,1plus 500 ft from a BRT Corridor plus River Road (inside the beltway) and Connecticut Avenue.

Existing Optional Method: The Planning Board agreed to update the existing MPDU and Cluster Optional Methods of Development to allow the use of triplex and quadplex buildings.

Pattern Book: The Planning Board was supportive of creating a Planning Board approved pattern book which will be mandatory for the creation of new attainable housing.

  • The Planning Board agreed with staff that the pattern book should  mandatory guidelines that would be adopted by the Planning Board and that would apply to small scale attainable housing typologies, which includes duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes.
  • The pattern book should also include non-binding guidance on other building types such as townhomes and small apartments.
  • The Planning Board directed staff to engage with DPS to ensure creation of an easy to apply pattern book with minimal room for ambiguity around form standards.

Data Tables: The Planning Board supports staff’s direction of including duplexes and multiplexes within the residential zones noted above, with standards table modifications as necessary.

  • Substandard lots that currently allow single-family detached homes should not have restrictions placed on them prohibiting duplexes or multiplexes.
  • The zoning standard tables should not place a limit on building size, but rather the design requirements of the pattern book should be utilized to help with compatibility.

Attainable Housing Optional Method (AHOM): The Planning Board was supportive of the idea of the AHOM and middle density attainable housing. The intent of the AHOM is to allow greater density and great development flexibility in exchange for attainability.

  • Cottage Court Living: The Planning Board was supportive of the concept of Cottage Court Living, which is a living arrangement made up of multiple small one or two detached houses, centered around a common private open area.
  • AHOM geographic applicability: Properties in the R-90 and R-60 that abut a corridor planned for BRT in the 2013 Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, and Connecticut Ave and River Road inside the beltway, or are recommended for a Residential Floating Zone are eligible for the AHOM.
  • Average Unit Size: The most practical means of ensuring some attainability is to establish average unit size across all unit types within a development project. The Planning Board recommended 1,500 as the average unit size.

View the September 9 Attainable Housing Strategies staff report and presentation

View the July 22 Attainable Housing Strategies staff report and presentation

View the July 8 Attainable Housing Strategies staff report and presentation

Next Attainable Housing Strategies work session scheduled for November 4

During the next Attainable Housing Strategies work session, which will take place on November 4, staff will discuss and seek Planning Board direction on the following:

  • Affordability
  • Displacement
  • Trees
  • Parking
  • Subdivision
  • Desired elements of a pattern book
  • Suggested catalyst policies
  • Property Assessment

The community is invited to submit written comments to the Planning Board via email at mcp-chair@mncppc-mc.org. You can consult the Planning Board’s agenda, posted 10 days before the meeting for more information. Watch the meeting online via live stream or review previous meetings on demand.

Following Planning Board review and approval, the Attainable Housing Strategies recommendations are expected to be transmitted to the Montgomery County Council.

The AHS initiative’s timeline has been revised so that transmission of the Planning Board’s recommendations will follow final County Council action on Thrive Montgomery 2050 later this fall.

About Attainable Housing Strategies

Attainable housing offers more diverse types of housing beyond single family homes and large apartment buildings. This effort includes Missing Middle Housing, which refers to a range of building types that are compatible in scale, form and construction with single-family homes, but offer multiple housing units. Attainability in housing is the ability of households of various incomes and sizes to obtain housing that is suitable for their needs and affordable to them.

As noted in Montgomery Planning’s recent Montgomery County Housing Needs Assessment, county residents have a wide range of housing needs related to size, transit access, and price, yet almost half of the homes in Montgomery County are single-family houses. The Attainable Housing Strategies initiative aims to identify viable housing options for existing and new residents at the right size, location, and price point for their needs. This is critical as Montgomery County will need to increase its housing supply to meet the demand of an estimated 200,000 more residents by 2045.

Strategies to implement Missing Middle housing are a major part of this effort, as are opportunities for new housing around transit stations, within transit corridors, and near activity centers across the county. The Attainable Housing Strategies effort, as part of Montgomery Planning’s Equity Agenda for Planning initiative, also helps to create more equitable, mixed-income communities. More details on the Attainable Housing Strategies initiative, including Frequently Asked Questions, can be found on Montgomery Planning’s website.

Graphic showing housing scales.Small scale:House-scale duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, and accessory dwelling units 2-2.5 stories. Medium scale: Stacked flats apartment buildings (three stories), townhouses 3-4 stories. Large scale: Mixed-use Live/work buildings, stacked flats apartment buildings (four stories) 4-5 stories

To inform development of recommendations, Montgomery Planning provided the community with multiple opportunities to provide feedback. Videos and presentations from three community meetings and four Housing Equity Advisory Team (HEAT) stakeholder meetings are available on the Attainable Housing Strategies Initiative website. Montgomery Planning also provided office hours on June 3, held a Twitter “Housing Day” on June 14 and ran a social media campaign requesting community members to share their #MyMoCoHome stories. Additionally, Montgomery Planning staff have met with several community and other organizations to discuss the Attainable Housing Strategies initiative.