Yes, you can build your way to affordable housing.

A lengthy but informative article shows how many other cities utilized diverse strategies to make housing affordable. While any one particular strategy may not work for Montgomery County, combining the best of these strategies may help make housing affordable in our beloved county. I’ve quoted a few paragraphs below that summarize the article, but you can read the entire piece here.

“Houston, Tokyo, Chicago, Montreal, Vienna, Singapore, Germany—all these places have built their way to affordable housing. They’re not alone. Housing economist Issi Romem has detailed the numerous American metro areas that have done the same: Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, and more. Many more. They have done so mostly by sprawling like Houston.

“Houston, for example, can be Cascadia’s model for how easy it ought to be to get permits to build homes—if we believed, as Houston does, that building homes is in itself a good thing, our permitting processes would encourage rather than discourage it through endless months of hoop-jumping and politicized reviews. Tokyo, meanwhile, reminds us that placing control over development at senior levels of government, and making development of urban property a right of its owner, helps to elevate the broad public interest in abundant housing choices over parochial opposition to change. (Leaders in California have recently succeeded in passing a raft of new laws to act upon this lesson.) Chicago teaches that a pro-housing political orientation can provide abundant housing even under conventional zoning in a deep blue city, while Montreal offers Cascadia a model of a cityscape no longer of single-family homes but of three-story rowhouses, walk-up apartments, and condominiums on quiet, tree-lined streets close to transit and neighborhood centers. Singapore’s lesson is the promise of erecting high-density, park-like “new towns” on underused city land. And Germany shows us that a future is possible where housing is no longer an investment vehicle but “a very durable consumption good that provides a stream of housing services, not a ticket to financial gain.”

“And it is simple: Yes, you can build your way to affordable housing. Aside from economic decline and depopulation, it is the only strategy that actually works. You can do it through a state monopoly as in Singapore, an array of public and limited-profit associations as in Vienna, or private developers as in Chicago, Germany, Houston, or Montreal. But to have affordable housing, you have to build homes in great abundance, and without that, other affordability strategies such as rent control and inclusionary zoning can be fruitless or counterproductive, as in San Francisco. Building plenty of housing is not just one way to affordability, it is the only way—the foundation on which other affordability solutions, measures against displacement, and programs for inclusion rest.”

Will there be housing for all income levels near transit?

You might want to read this interesting article in The Washington Post about the intersection of suburbs, transit, and affordable housing. The article discusses how to prevent the benefits of transit-oriented living from going primarily to the well-to-do — and pricing out the very people it’s most intended to serve, lower income folks.  Quick aside, I (Amy Ginsburg, Executive Director) disagree with their premise that transit is not for higher-income people. But ensuring transit it close to affordable housing as well as luxury housing is an important concern.

The Post article says, “The issue, which some experts call “transit-induced gentrification,” is gaining new attention in Montgomery and other once auto-centric suburbs building light-rail and rapid bus lines to revitalize older areas, attract younger workers, and help an increasing number of lower-income residents reach jobs. Focusing growth around transit stations has become the way many inner suburbs plan to thrive without adding to the sprawl that has left them drowning in traffic.”

“Suburban transit-oriented living, in high demand from millennials and empty-nest baby boomers looking to downsize, is in such short supply that it commands premium prices — and can encourage property owners to cash in by selling, redeveloping or raising rents,” said The Washington Post story.

You can read the whole article by clicking here.

 

Make Way for the Fire Station!

BethesdaNow.com reports, with a photograph, that demolition has begun on Randolph Road and Maple Avenue to make room for the eventual ‘governmental hub’ of White Flint.  Montgomery County will build the White Flint fire station (which will replace the station currently on Rollins Avenue) and police substation on Randolph Road between Rockville Pike and Maple Avenue.  The building will also contain some public space, including office space for whatever entity ends up managing the urban district, and a senior affordable housing component.  The goal is for the whole project to be completed by 2020.

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Image from the Planning Department’s Biennial Master Plan Monitoring Report

Read more at BethesdaNow.com and see a photo of the demolition area.

Friends Around Town

Your Friends have been out in the community over the last month and we’re grateful to our partners for engaging us in these fascinating opportunities.  Dan Reed and I were both panelists during a Montgomery Housing Partnership breakfast focused on social media in community engagement.

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Rob Goldman (President of MHP), Brandon Jenkins (Popularise.com/Fundrise.com), Dan Reed (FoWF and JustUpThePike.com), Lindsay Hoffman (FoWF) & Evan Glass (Moderator & MHP Board Member)

Montgomery Housing Partnership’s mission is to expand and preserve affordable housing in Montgomery County – something that will become an issue in White Flint if the county truly wants to draw a younger demographic.  MHP doesn’t just advocate, they also walk the talk by “acquiring, rehabilitating, building and managing quality affordable housing.”

Friends of White Flint was very proud to be part of Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Walking Tours and Forum Series.  “White Flint: From Drag to Desirable” was the topic that kicked off this season of walking tours – and to a sold out crowd!  Nearly sixty people joined Stewart Schwartz of CSG, Nkosi Yearwood of the Planning Department, Tommy Mann from Federal Realty and me on a beautiful morning’s trek through the past, present and future of White Flint.

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Photos by Aimee Custis for Coalition for Smarter Growth

 

The tour was a great way to feel and see the differences between streets that solely car-focused, as opposed to those that consider all travelers.  Features like tree buffers, bike lanes, benches and trash cans equalize priorities among pedestrians, bikers and drivers.  Many of our main White Flint streets still have a long way to go in becoming truly walkable.

Friends of White Flint also hosted a Developer Showcase on April 30th in the Whole Foods Rockville café.  It was an opportunity for the community to browse new projects in White Flint’s future, and meet the people behind the ideas.   Paladar Latin Kitchen, Montgomery County Parks Department (Wall Park), LCOR (North Bethesda Center), Lerner Enterprises (White Flint Mall), and Federal Realty Investment Corp (Pike & Rose) were all available to chat, show their plans and share guacamole.  Friends of White Flint member Chevy Chase Land Company was also present with information about their plans for Chevy Chase Lake.

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Over 100 visitors checked out the exciting plans for White Flint and appreciated seeing the images up close.  If you weren’t able to join us that rainy morning, let us know if you’d like us to host a similar event on an upcoming evening!

Finally, Friends of White Flint has begun a monthly presence at the Pike Central Farmers Market!  Find us among the food trucks and produce and learn more about your community while you browse!

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And, wherever you see us – don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on the plans for White Flint.  We’re here to have a positive and consensus-building conversation.  Join in!