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Attainable Housing Strategies initiative

Montgomery County is experiencing a serious housing shortage. The county has over 1 million residents and is expected to add 200,000 more people over the next 25 years but we are not building enough housing fast enough to keep up with this growth. Housing prices and rents have skyrocketed in recent years, forcing current residents and prospective residents to look elsewhere to live. This trend puts the county at an economic disadvantage in the Washington, DC region due to losses in tax revenue and prospective workforce talent. 

The Attainable Housing Strategies project was started in 2021 to be part of the solution to the county’s housing woes. The project’s primary goal was simple: develop recommendations to increase options for property owners to build more housing types in the county, particularly along the county’s growth corridors defined in Thrive Montgomery 2050. Large apartment buildings don’t work in the context of every neighborhood and that more than a third of the county is still zoned exclusively for single-family housing. AHS provides an opportunity to look at our zoning laws and see if there was a middle-ground to increase the number of units that could be built while maintaining neighborhood character. 

After years of conversations with the community, stakeholders, and other county agencies, planners have recommended a set of zoning modifications that would allow for structures such as duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, small apartment buildings, and other types of Middle housing to be built within single-family zoned areas in the county. 

These recommendations are not a mandate that these new housing types must be built in existing neighborhoods, rather it allows property owners the flexibility to build different types of housing if they choose to.

Attainable Housing Strategies for a range of types and scales

details of small scale, medium scale and large scale AHS.

small scale:
Found within single-family zoned neighborhoods with pattern book conformance.

Examples:
House-scale duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, and accessory dwelling units

Size:
2-2.5 stories

medium scale:
New optional method of development found along growth corridors.

Examples:
Stacked flats apartment buildings (three stories), townhouses


Size:
3-4 stories

large scale:
These are mixed-use buildings and stacked flats apartment buildings. Any large scale AHS need additional consideration through the master plan process.
Examples:
House-scale duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, and accessory dwelling units


Size:
4-6 stories

Small Scale

Small scale attainable housing includes house-sized duplexes and multiplexes (triplexes and quadplexes). Small scale attainable housing is what will be found in single family neighborhoods. The Planning Board recommends allowing, by-right with pattern book conformance, small scale attainable housing as follows:

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

Examples

Medium Scale

Medium scale is a Attainable Housing Optional Method (AHOM) of development that will be found along growth corridors. The Planning Board supports the AHOM and middle density attainable housing. The intent of the AHOM is to allow greater density and development flexibility in exchange for attainability. The Planning Board recommended 1,500 SF as the maximum average unit size and a gross density of 10 units/acre for the R-90 zone, and 13 units/acre for the R-60 zone.

Examples

Large Scale

Large scale attainable housing includes buildings such as four to six story apartment buildings or condos. Large scaled attainable housing will require additional consideration through the master planning process to rezone properties along the county’s primary growth corridors.

Examples

The Pattern Book

The Planning Board recommends requiring that certain new house-scale attainable housing created by-right in the R‑40, R‑60, R‑90 and R‑200 zones comply with the elements of a pattern book. The primary goal of the pattern book is to facilitate the construction of duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes that maintain a house-scale size and form. The pattern book will graphically illustrate the development standards for the underlying residential zones and provide multiple options for building placement and orientation, massing, frontage design, and parking layout based on a variety of lot configurations and sizes (narrow, deep, large etc.).

The form-based standards within the pattern book will ensure that duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes contribute positively to the public realm and create safe and attractive streetscapes that are not overwhelmed by parking or that unintentionally look like small apartment buildings.

Frequently asked questions

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Timeline

  • March 24, 2021
    HEAT Meeting #1
  • March 29, 2021
    Community Meeting #1
  • April 9, 2021
    Virtual Office Hours
  • April 14, 2021
    HEAT Meeting #2
  • April 21, 2021
    Community Meeting #2
  • April 27, 2021
    Virtual Office Hours
  • April 28, 2021
    HEAT Meeting #3
  • May 19, 2021
    HEAT Meeting #4
  • June 2, 2021
    Community Meeting #3
  • June 3, 2021
    Virtual Office Hours
  • June 14, 2021
    Social Media Day
  • June 24, 2021
    Presentation to the Planning Board with opportunity for the public to provide comment
  • July 8, 2021
    Planning Board Work Session #1
  • July 22, 2021
    Planning Board Work Session #2
  • September 9, 2021
    Planning Board Work Session #3
  • October 7, 2021
    Planning Board Work Session #4
  • November 4, 2021
    Planning Board Work Session #5
  • December 9, 2021
    Planning Board Work Session #6
  • December 13, 2021
    Community Meeting #4
  • February 24, 2022
    Panel Discussion on Expanding Housing Types Across the Country
  • March 21, 2024
    Attainable Housing Strategies Public Listening Session
  • April 11, 2024
    Attainable Housing Strategies Work Session #7
  • April 25, 2024
    Attainable Housing Strategies Work Session #8
  • May 16, 2024
    Attainable Housing Strategies Work Session #9
  • May 30, 2024
    Attainable Housing Strategies Work Session #10 (wrap-up)
  • June 13, 2024
    Attainable Housing Strategies Work Session #11 (wrap-up)
  • Early Summer 2024
    County Council Planning, Housing, and Parks Committee Briefing