More on Housing as Infrastructure

Casey Anderson, the Chairman of the Planning Board, is writing a enlightening series of posts on the economics and trends that affect Montgomery County on The Third Place. Two recent ones are important enough that I want to repost them on the Friends of White Flint blog. We posted the first one titled,  Real Estate Development *Is* Infrastructure, yesterday.

Today, we discuss More on Housing as Infrastructure. Highlights of this interesting post are below, but it’s worth your time to read the entire article.

If we don’t have enough housing, workers will continue bidding up the cost of existing residences until only the very affluent will be able to afford decent housing in convenient locations. Lower-income residents will either be priced out entirely or face crowded, substandard housing conditions in remote locations with long and difficult commutes.

The problem is that restrictive land use policies tend to hurt the poor and middle class while discouraging businesses from locating and expanding here, because their workers are squeezed by the high cost of housing. This might drive some people away and discourage others from coming in the first place, but it would do so only by raising the cost of living and degrading the quality of life of all but the wealthiest residents – not to mention weakening our tax base by reducing our economic competitiveness.

Along with roads, transit, schools and parks, the provision of housing sufficient to support a high quality of life at affordable prices is a fundamental building block of an equitable and sustainable economy. It might seem counterintuitive, but in addition to exacerbating inequality by keeping out the poor or forcing them into substandard housing far from employment opportunities, high housing costs are also bad for the economy because they drive out younger workers who are priced out of the market and then move to lower-cost areas, leaving behind older residents and a shrinking tax base.

The DC region now has the highest cost of living in the entire US, and Richard Florida has made the point that housing costs are the main driver in cost of living differences. In the above chart, for example, you can see that the main difference in cost of living between Montgomery County and several other jurisdictions comparable in population is represented by housing – food and transportation costs don’t vary all that much. In other words, our high cost of living is almost entirely attributable to housing.

Read the rest of this post here.

Are we building enough homes?

In a recent post on Greater Greater Washington, Dan Reed for Just Up the Pike shows that White Flint is second in Montgomery County for the number of residential units in the pipeline with 3,827 homes waiting  to be built.

If you add all of the county’s master plan or sector plan areas up, there were about 47,000 homes that have been approved to be built as of May 2018. This is what county officials call “the pipeline.” Of those 47,000 homes in the pipeline, 15,000 of those homes have building permits and are in some stage of construction. That leaves about 32,000 homes that are waiting to be built.  Nearly all of these homes are located in  urban areas with access to transit.

The pipeline may not be enough to meet current and future population growth. Montgomery County grew by 70,000 people since 2010, or about 25,000 households. But the county only added about 21,000 homes, leaving a deficit of 4,000.

On top of that, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), we expect about 208,000 new people to move here in the next 20 years, and we’ll need about 87,000 new homes for those people. So we need about 91,000 homes, and we’ve approved 48,000. That’s 43,000 houses that we need to build.

And the homes we’ve already approved to build may not be where we need them to be. It can take decades to build all the homes in the pipeline — there are homes that were approved in the 1980s and 1990s still waiting to be built — and, as a result, the pipeline doesn’t always match current trends.

Twenty years ago, most of the county’s growth and investment was happening on the suburban fringe, while closer-in urban areas were declining. Today, that trend has basically reversed, and it’s in those closer-in areas where home prices are rising the fastest due to demand.

You can read the rest of the article, including a more detailed analysis of what’s preventing homes from being built in certain areas of the county as well as the consequences of this housing shortage at https://ggwash.org/view/68435/heres-where-montgomery-county-is-and-isnt-growing

Will White Flint Fair Well with the Apartment Building Boom?

There has been an apartment boom in the Washington, D.C. area in the recent years. 39,122 apartments are being planned or built right now, which is the highest number ever recorded in this area. With this record number of apartments, “there is now a fierce competition to find people with the income to afford living in them.” Amenities that were once luxuries, such as stainless steel kitchens, spas, pools, and gyms, are now necessary for developers to even think about competing with others.

Local management companies and developers such as Bozzuto and LCOR, which both are or will be leasing apartments in the White Flint district, have found that they need to raise the stakes a bit. Bozzuto, managing Per Sei apartments in the Pike & Rose development, offers “a calendar full of activities for residents, including discounts to local restaurants, movie nights and wine tastings,” as well as specialty cupcakes for resident’s birthdays. LCOR, who has built the Wentworth and office buildings including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission building, is building the Aurora that will offer a room with a foosball table, shuffle board, and a golf simulator.

In addition, more people are opting to rent instead of buy in urban areas. As urban areas continue to attract more millennial gen individuals, especially the Washington, D.C. area, the millennial generation will look for more flexible housing, giving them room to move around more freely. Renting is a sound option for the millennial generation. But urban areas consist of all types of individuals. Management or leasing companies must find a way to appeal to all types of potential tenants from millennials to empty-nesters. We hope that certain factors such as proximity to the Metro, amenities, and services will help attract more residents to the White Flint district and the new apartments popping up in the area.

Baby Boomers, Will They Reside in White Flint?

In past posts, we have focused on White Flint, and Montgomery County in general’s, efforts to attract younger generations to live, work, and play in the cities throughout the county. Though the younger, millenial generation is important for White Flint to draw in, it seems the aging baby boomer generation may find their place in White Flint’s new multifamily units and apartments first. According to Ben Leubsdorf, the baby boomer generation is moving out their single-family homes to live in multifamily apartments in more mixed-use communities. This trend may also affect the construction of homes, leading developers to focus more on multifamily units than single-family homes.

This trend may allow for two important elements to happen, both elements on which White Flint hopes to capitalize:

White Flint will offer multifamily units, retail space, public space, recreational space, public transportation, and other amenities, all the elements baby boomers are searching for. White Flint is an ideal location for baby boomers looking for a convenient community that is walkable, safe, and easy to navigate.