Montgomery County Council Overrides “More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act” Veto

The Montgomery County Council has overridden a veto of the “More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act,” a major housing initiative for Metrorail stations, according to a county press release.

Originally enacted on Oct. 6, the new act has “the potential to generate thousands of affordable housing units and help spur economic growth,” the statement claims. The act will impact the viability of building housing on Metro station property.

Taking effect in Jan. 2021, the law incentivizes new housing development by providing a property tax abatement for new high-rise developments that include at least 50 percent rental housing. In addition, the new developments would need to include “at least 15 percent affordable housing, with 25 percent of that figure being housing affordable to people making 50 percent or less of the median income in the County.”

“Montgomery County has a lot riding on getting high-rise development going at our Metro stations,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer.

“Our housing market is not producing enough new housing and that is creating affordability problems for young and working families and putting rent pressure on market affordable housing. With the potential for more than 8,000 units of housing, these measures should help us take a big stride towards our regional housing goals.”

County Executive Marc Elrich vetoed the More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act, but the council voted 7-2 on Tuesday to override the veto. Councilmember Will Jawando and Council Vice President Tom Hucker voted against the veto override.

“I’m pleased that the Council today stood strong in our continued commitment to meet ambitious housing and transit-oriented development goals so more people will have the chance to live in and contribute to our County,” Councilmember Andrew Friedson said.

“While some who oppose new people moving into our community remain satisfied with the status quo of empty lots and parking spaces on top of Metro stations, we made it clear that we won’t wait to address our housing and climate crisis or to invigorate our local economy.”

According to projections by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Urban Institute, Montgomery County is expected to grow by more than 60,000 additional households by 2040. Yet, the prices for homes are growing faster than incomes. The median household income of $108,188 was below the $125,621 required to afford a home priced at the midpoint, according to the Montgomery County Planning Department.

Council enacts the More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act (including White Flint and Grosvenor)

This week the Council, by a vote of 7-2, enacted Bill 29-20, called the “More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act,” a major new housing initiative for which Friends of White Flint advocated.

Councilmember Hans Riemer, chair of the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee, and Councilmember Andrew Friedson, member of the PHED Committee, were the lead sponsors of Bill 29-20. Councilmembers Evan Glass, Nancy Navarro, Council President Sidney Katz, Councilmember Gabe Albornoz, Council Vice President Tom Hucker and Councilmember Craig Rice were cosponsors .Councilmember Will Jawando and Council Vice President Tom Hucker voted against the bill. 

Presently, there are no high-rise developments underway on any Metro station property in Montgomery County, nor have there been for many years. The legislation will respond to this problem by providing a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for a period of 15 years for new high-rise development that includes at least 50 percent rental housing. The PILOT would exempt 100 percent of the property tax that would otherwise be due for a project constructed on property leased from WMATA at a Metro Station in the County. WMATA does not pay property taxes to Montgomery County. The legislation allows a new development on a Metro station property to retain that property tax exemption for 15 years. The developers would continue to pay impact taxes and to pay into the special White Flint Taxing District.

According to Metro, station properties in the County have the capacity to deliver at least 8,600 units of housing, which would provide a significant contribution to the County’s long-term housing shortage. The high-rise buildings also would include between 1,200 to 1,300 Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDU). 

“This effort is about turning housing targets into actual housing units, making ridership goals actual transit riders, and transforming outdated parking lots into vibrant communities for actual people,” said Councilmember Andrew Friedson. “It’s about building modern, sustainable, inclusive communities in true smart growth fashion. Few things would be more impactful to meeting our affordable housing, environmental and economic development goals than maximizing transit-oriented development at Metro stations.”

Montgomery County is not producing nearly enough housing to keep up with demand. Since 2010, the County’s population has grown by approximately 8,000 people per year, but the County has only added about 2,700 new housing units per year. 

Our testimony on Bill 29-20 that creates incentives to build housing at metro stations

July 20, 2020

Dear Councilmembers:

Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization composed of residents, property owners, and businesses, writes today to urge you to pass Bill 29-20. This legislation will encourage development at both the White Flint and Grosvenor-Strathmore metro station, something we enthusiastically support. This legislation should increase the available stock of housing and spur economic development, both of which are essential to ensure Montgomery County and the Pike District prosper.

We support exempting 100% of the real property tax that would otherwise be levied for a period of 15 years beginning in the year a use and occupancy permit is issued for the qualifying development with the important caveat that the property owner must still pay into the special White Flint taxing district. The special taxing district funds essential infrastructure and is integral to fulfilling the promise of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

With the hope that Bill 29-20 will create incentives to redevelop property at the White Flint and Grosvenor-Strathmore metro station, Friends of White Flint advocates for the passage of this important legislation.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Friends of White Flint if you have any questions or would like additional information.

Thank you,

Amy Ginsburg. Executive Director