Attainable Housing Strategies initiative

Struggling to find a home in Montgomery County? You are not alone. The county is facing a serious housing shortage and is expected to add over 200,000 residents by 2050. Unless we grow our housing supply to make room for these new residents, our existing communities will become more expensive, less diverse, and it will be difficult to attract and retain a skilled workforce. The county is also mostly built out, with very little land available for new development to help us build enough housing fast enough to keep up with this growth.

On top of a growing population with little land left available, we also have a zoning issue. Zoning determines what can be built where and consequently limits housing options in certain neighborhoods. We have a lot of land zoned for single-family homes, which are largely demanded by families, but we have a growing diverse population that may want smaller, or more types of housing than the county currently allows. So how can we fix this? Through Attainable Housing Strategies.

We launched the Attainable Housing Strategies (AHS) initiative in response to the Montgomery County Council’s request on March 4, 2021 to review and study housing options in the county for current and future residents.

What is Attainable Housing?

Attainable Housing is unsubsidized market housing that is appropriate and suitable for the households that live here. Attainability is being used in recognition that our housing needs go beyond a sole focus on affordability of the housing unit. As noted in the recent Montgomery County Housing Needs Assessment, Montgomery County residents have a wide range of housing needs, with size, transit access, price, and other factors playing a role.

Implicit in this idea of attainability is the idea 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 will help Montgomery County grow its housing supply even where space is a concern—a critical consideration as we anticipate population growth in the coming decades.

This graphic demonstrates the relative physical scale of the attainable housing targeted by the Attainable Housing Strategies initiative. Attainable housing 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.

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

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The Attainable Housing Strategies initiative’s preliminary recommendations to address Montgomery County’s housing crisis

At the root of the Attainable Housing Strategies initiative is an effort to make communities more equitable and more inclusive by countering the historical exclusionary aspects of zoning. Making homeownership more attainable – with more equitable, mixed-income neighborhoods – is one way that the county can work to reverse existing historical inequities. Revisiting land use and zoning is also integral to implementing the county’s 2019 Racial Equity and Social Justice Law and Montgomery Planning’s resulting Equity in Planning effort. Building Attainable Housing will require us to reassess the county’s longstanding pattern of exclusively single-family neighborhoods.

Through the Attainable Housing Strategies initiative, we reviewed existing single-family zone standards, including the usable area, size, setbacks, height, density, and parking requirements, as well as the process for development review and approval.

After reviewing these policies and conducting community outreach, we created 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. View the preliminary staff recommendations.

The preliminary recommendations for the Attainable Housing Strategies initiative support the housing recommendations in the update to the county’s General Plan, known as Thrive Montgomery 2050.

Watch Planning staff present the preliminary recommendations to the Planning Board:

The Planning Board held two work sessions with Planning staff in July 2021 and will continue to refine the Attainable Housing Strategies recommendations through additional work sessions in September, October, and November 2021. The community is invited to submit written comments to the Planning Board via email at mcp-chair@mncppc-mc.org.

Following Planning Board review and approval, the Attainable Housing Strategies recommendations are expected to be transmitted to the Montgomery County Council.  The initiative’s timeline has been revised to allow more time for Thrive Montgomery 2050 to be finalized prior to the transmission of the Planning Board’s approved Attainable Housing Strategies recommendations.

Learn more about the Attainable Housing Strategies Initiative through the Scope of Work.

Last Updated: September 10, 2021