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Montgomery Planning announces launch of Attainable Housing Strategies initiative to help address Montgomery County’s housing crisis

March 15, 2021

Brick residential building
In partnership with the County Council, initiative aims to identify viable housing options for existing and new residents at the right size, location, and price point for their needs.

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), announced the launch of its Attainable Housing Strategies initiative in response to a March 4 request from the Montgomery County Council to help address the county’s housing crisis. Through this new initiative, Planning staff will review zoning and planning policies to come up with a comprehensive strategy for achieving new housing opportunities in Montgomery County. This 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.

Attainable Housing is market-rate housing that is appropriate and suitable for current and future Montgomery County households. 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.

“We are excited by this opportunity,” said Montgomery Planning Director Gwen Wright. “We are more than up to the challenge as addressing the county’s housing needs is already a critical part of our work. Through our Attainable Housing Strategies initiative, we will provide the County Council with clear guidance on how to ensure our housing meets Montgomery County’s evolving needs.”

Montgomery Planning will oversee a collaborative process with extensive stakeholder engagement to better understand the real challenges to providing Attainable Housing in Montgomery County. This includes creating the Housing Equity Advisory Team (HEAT), comprised of external stakeholders from various perspectives and areas of expertise. The team will host multiple public meetings, hold staff office hours, and conduct multiple work sessions before the Montgomery Planning Board.

Planning staff’s recommendations to the County Council, which will incorporate the public’s feedback, may include zoning text amendments, guidance on how to incorporate more housing types into master plans, and methods to encourage more housing types to be built in Montgomery County. 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.

In addition to launching the Attainable Housing Strategies initiative, Montgomery Planning has also developed or supported the following efforts to increase the county’s housing production:

  • The 2020 Growth and Infrastructure Policy, developed by Montgomery Planning,  eliminated the residential development moratoria, right-sized development impact taxes and provided impact tax discounts and exemptions in desired growth areas.
  • The County Council passed Bill 29-20, which encourages the construction of high-rise residential buildings at WMATA stations in Montgomery County.
  • Montgomery Planning’s update to the county’s General Plan, Thrive Montgomery 2050, which contains wide-ranging policies to help make housing more attainable, including increasing housing production and preserving existing affordable and attainable housing. Thrive Montgomery 2050 will be transmitted to the County Council in April.
  • In support of Thrive Montgomery 2050 and in conjunction with partner agencies, Montgomery Planning led several efforts to assess the county’s housing needs, including the Housing Needs Assessment, the Preservation of Affordable Housing Study and the Residential Development Capacity Analysis.
  • The Department’s Missing Middle Market Study supports the Silver Spring Downtown & Adjacent Communities Plan and analyzed zoning, entitlement, affordability, and market feasibility of Missing Middle Housing in Montgomery County.

The first virtual community forum on the Attainable Housing Strategies initiative is scheduled for March 29 at 7 p.m. Planning staff will share the project scope and deliverables, as well as existing conditions. The public can RSVP for this event here.

Montgomery Planning will hold work sessions with the Montgomery County Planning Board in June, with the goal to transmit the Attainable Housing Strategies recommendations to the County Council by the end of June.

Frequently asked questions

What is Attainable Housing and how is it different from Missing Middle Housing?

Attainable housing is unsubsidized market-rate housing that is appropriate and suitable for the households that live here. Implicit in this idea of attainability is that a range of housing options (type, size, tenure, cost) exists in the local market for a range of household incomes and preferences.

Attainable Housing includes, but is not limited to, Missing Middle Housing.  Learn more about Missing Middle Housing in Montgomery County.

After Montgomery Planning Staff develop recommendations, then what?

Through the Attainable Housing Strategies Initiative, the Planning Department will provide additional opportunity for public input and present to the Planning Board and the County Council a series of recommendations to create more opportunities for Attainable Housing. Recommendations may include zoning text amendments, guidance on how to incorporate Attainable Housing into master plans, and methods to encourage Attainable Housing production.

After draft recommendations are released, the Planning Board will hold public meetings and work sessions on the recommendations before transmitting the recommendations to the County Council. Then, the County Council will determine which recommendations to pursue and hold public hearings and work sessions accordingly.

What is the Zoning Text Amendment process, and will it mean change right away?

Zoning changes can come in the form of a map amendment, which changes the designation of land from one zone and set of uses to another, or a zoning text amendment, which changes how a zone is defined, the uses allowed in a zone, or how development standards and zoning in general are applied. Any Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) resulting from the Attainable Housing Strategies Initiative would entail at least two public hearings (one held by the Planning Board and one held by the Montgomery County District Council), as well as work sessions before any changes are made. Learn more about the Zoning Text Amendment Process.

If a ZTA is adopted by the District Council, it would not require any landowner to change how their property is used. It would only allow landowners to build different types of units on their properties—but there is no obligation to do so.

Additional resources