In early 2018, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) noted the need to provide a sufficient supply of housing to reduce strains on the transportation system caused by workers commuting to jobs in the region from communities located beyond its boundaries. TPB analysis determined that additional housing in the region would significantly improve transportation system performance, particularly if those units were strategically located in Activity Centers and near High-Capacity Transit Stations.
As part of the initiative, local housing and planning directors worked together with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) to determine that the region needed an additional 75,000 units beyond what was forecasted by 2030 to address the region’s housing shortage. They focused on the amount, accessibility, and affordability of additional units needed.
The County Council is now seeking to refine the effort to identify local housing targets for smaller geographic areas in the county. Montgomery Planning will develop, with Planning Board and County Council input, new unit and affordable housing targets for 22 Planning Areas. This project is being developed in collaboration with the Planning, Housing and Parks Committee of the Montgomery County Council and Montgomery Planning.
About the Local Housing Targets project
The Local Housing Targets project allows both community members and countywide decision makers to better contextualize and understand the housing shortage at a more local level—and to drive strategies that help us meet the housing goals.
Like Washington, D.C., Montgomery Planning is now taking a deeper dive into the countywide housing target and looking at how to apply that target in different areas throughout the county, using 22 planning areas, Montgomery Planning will develop housing targets for smaller areas, for both new units and affordability.
To keep the effort simple, Montgomery Planning staff used metrics that have previously been created or used to guide or analyze county growth patterns. The resulting methodology involves an index focused on five factors: Thrive Montgomery 2050 Growth Area, Household Forecast, Zoned Residential Capacity, Activity Center Density, and a Premium factor.
Thrive Montgomery 2050 Growth Area
The concept of corridor-focused growth is a fundamental organizing element for Thrive Montgomery 2050, as it recognizes not only that intensively developed centers of activity and preservation of land both play a vital role in our quality of life but that neither pattern can exist without the other. Three growth contexts were identified in Thrive Montgomery 2050:
- Corridor-Focused Growth. Encompasses the most developed part of the county with highest-density population; should have the highest share of new growth.
- Limited Growth. Contains the mainly suburban residential communities where limited, organic growth is envisioned to meet localized needs for services, provide a diverse range of housing choices, and increase racial and socioeconomic integration to achieve Complete Communities.
- Rural Areas and the Agricultural Reserve. Will continue to be dedicated primarily to agriculture, rural open space, and environmental preservation; can absorb some growth as agriculture evolves and existing residential communities’ needs change over time.
For this factor, the index targets growth within the Corridor-Focused Growth area with a smaller emphasis on the Limited Growth area.
In June 2023, MWCOG adopted the Round 10.0 Cooperative Forecast. The forecast is based on an analysis of data from a variety of sources, including local development, population and economic trends, models of the region’s population and economic base, and published state and federal statistical resources. The new Montgomery County forecast is available for different time intervals between 2020 and 2050, and at a geographic scale that matches the Planning Areas used for the Local Housing Targets project. As such, index points were allocated to each Planning Area based on its share of the Round 10.0 2020 to 2030 household forecast.
Zoned Residential Capacity
As part of Thrive Montgomery 2050, Planning staff prepared a Residential Development Capacity analysis that estimates the total residential development that may be built in Montgomery County based on existing zoning and master plan recommendations. The analysis, which serves as a baseline estimate of current residential capacity in Montgomery County, also accounts for market trends, zoning rules and existing policy decisions. For the Local Housing Targets project, the analysis was updated to include recently completed master plans (like the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities plan) and used in the index to place an emphasis on areas where our master plans call for growth.
Activity Center Density
Thrive Montgomery 2050 proposes redoubling and refining efforts to concentrate context sensitive growth in centers of activity. Centers of activity range from large downtowns to medium-sized town centers, to rural villages and neighborhoods. The local target methodology places an emphasis areas with large and (to a lesser degree) medium activity centers identified in Thrive Montgomery 2050.
The premium factor focuses on Planning Areas that have a high share of their land in a Corridor-Focused Growth area but have seen little recent housing growth. Planning areas that have more than 40 percent of their land in the Corridor-Focused Growth area but have built less than the county’s average density of new units since 2013 (excluding the Agricultural Reserve Planning Area) received additional points in the index calculation.
Through Fall/Winter 2023/2024, Montgomery Planning staff will continue to refine and polish methodology. The PHP Committee will select a methodology in Winter 2024.
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Frequently Asked Questions
In 2019, the Regional Planning and Housing Directors worked together with COG to see what it would take to increase housing supply in the face of a housing production shortage that has been growing since the Great Recession. This was a collaborative effort to address the region’s housing shortfall; now, Montgomery County is refining the broader effort for smaller designated geographic areas in our county. Because we know that overarching change does not stem from a one-size-fits-all approach, the localized targets will help the county pursue appropriate strategies and interventions at a local level as well that are tailored to the conditions in different communities.
The Local Housing Targets project allows both community members and countywide decision makers to better contextualize and understand the housing shortage at a hyper-local level—and to drive strategies that help us meet the housing goals.
We do not expect hitting the targets will alleviate the entire housing crisis, but it will be a critical beginning to shrinking the broader affordability gap and increasing the production of new housing units to better meet demand. In doing so, we’ll be better equipped to keep pace with new growth and to align housing production and availability with projected needs.
People want and need housing. We should continue to zone for the housing we want to see in the places we want it built, but we’re never going to get all the housing we need through zoning changes alone. Zoning isn’t a guarantee that the amount of housing that can be built under zoning will be built. Zoning sets a maximum. Similarly, for the current development pipeline, a project’s development approval is not a guarantee that those units will ever be realized—and, again, we simply need more housing.
The county’s zoning capacity or approved development pipeline is not necessarily enough to meet projected demand for housing, given the variability in projects’ viability. People want and need housing. We should continue to zone for the housing we want in the places we want because we’re never going to get all the housing we need through just zoning. A project’s development approval is often not a guarantee that those units will ever be realized. Those who argue against expanding the housing supply because there’s plenty of zoning capacity and approved development pipeline should realize that these metrics are not the best indicators of meeting housing demand. Neither reflect the economic reality of a project’s viability.
November 2019The Montgomery County Council signed on to MWCOG’s housing goals through a resolution that called on the county (including the cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville) to increase its share of housing built by 10,000 above the forecasted amount of 31,000 household units.
March 27, 2023
July 10, 2023
July 20, 2023
February 12, 2024Montgomery Planning staff will present the selected methodology to the PHP Committee.