Fascinating Report on Montgomery County Demographic and Economic Trends

Now, I’m not usually one who dives deep into numbers … or even someone who wades in the shallow end of numbers. But the just released report from Montgomery Planning entitled Montgomery County Trends A Look at People, Housing and Jobs Since 1990 is an utterly fascinating look at the people and economy of Montgomery County.

I highly recommend you grab a cup of coffee and peruse this report (the maps alone are worth it) but if you don’t have the time, here are some highlights:

Population

Montgomery County’s population grew 38 percent from 765,476 to 1,058,810 people between 1990 and 2017. This growth was driven primarily by births to residents and increasing international migration.

The county has grown increasingly diverse with people of color comprising more than 56 percent of the total population in 2016. Thirty-three percent of the population in 2016 versus 19 percent in 1990 are foreign-born. The proportion of foreign-born residents is the highest in the region. By 2045, the proportion of people of color in the county is expected to be 73 percent.

Fifty-nine percent of county residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 50 percent regionally.

Over the decades, Montgomery County shifted from predominately married-couples-with-children households to a broader mix of household types including single parent, couples with no children under 18, singles, and unrelated cohabitation.

The age 65-plus population is expected to double from 120,000 in 2010 to 244,000 by 2040, increasing from 12 percent to 21 percent of the total population. The county’s aging population may assert downward pressure on household incomes.

A median household income of just under $100,000 in 2016 places Montgomery County 17th among counties across the nation and ranks 5th in the Washington, D.C. area. Median household income, stagnant since 2010, has not recovered from the 2007 to 2009 recession, and remains below its adjusted 1999 median at $103,143.

Housing

The number of housing units in Montgomery County increased by 32 percent from 295,723 to 390,563 units between 1990 and 2016. This figure is lower than the 50 percent increase in housing supply in the Washington, D.C. region over the same period. Most of this growth took place in the 1990s and 2000s, with average annual growth rates exceeding 1 percent. In contrast, the average annual growth rate was only 0.7 percent from 2010 to 2016.

The home ownership rate among households under age 35 declined dramatically from 45 percent in 1990 to 28 percent in 2016. Only one age cohort – households aged 75 and older experienced an increase in homeownership rates during this period, going from 65 percent to 74 percent.

The number of renters grew significantly as a result of the changing mix of housing units and household types in Montgomery County. In 1990, only 32.1 percent of households (90,595) were renters. By 2016, this figure increased to 35.3 percent of households (131,791 renter households.)

Demand for owner-occupied units continues to strongly favor detached homes as well as homes that are closer to the urban ring, walkable to community amenities, and homes with strong transportation connectivity.

The percentage of households in the county that are spending at least 35 percent of their income on housing costs has continued to grow since 1990, with growth particularly acute among renters. Forty percent of renters and 40% of households making the median income are spending more than a third of their income on housing.

Employment

Two industries—education, health and social services, and professional, scientific and management services—employed the largest number of residents in both 1990 and 2016. Their combined share as a percentage of overall employment increased from 33 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2016. In contrast, the percentage of residents employed by the federal government declined from 15 to 13 percent, although the number of federal workers grew slightly from 65,506 in 1990 to 73,587 in 2016.

The private sector accounts for around 81 percent of total jobs located in Montgomery County.

About three-fifths of county workers also live in the county, up slightly from 1990, with 65 percent driving to work in a personal vehicle. Carpooling decreased from 13 percent to 9 percent while about 6 percent of people walk, use public transportation or bike to work.

Report: More Than Half of County’s Renters Are Saddled With Excessive Housing Costs

From Bethesda Beat

More than half of Montgomery County renters are paying too much for housing, with costs often gobbling up more than 50 percent of their annual incomes, a new study found.

The report slated for delivery to Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday also showed that the county is suffering from a shortage of 20,000 affordable rental units. But a menu of recommendations included in the study will offer county officials with ideas for tackling the housing needs.

High development costs have contributed to the region’s lack of moderately priced housing, said Lisa Govoni, research and special projects manager for the Montgomery County Planning Department.

“We understand that affordable housing is expensive [to build], but we think it’s important that people be able to afford to live here,” she said. “We’ve come up with a variety of ways to do that. We want to be flexible, but we also want to be predictable.”

The assessment, which has been a couple years in the making, will be presented to the board before heading to the Montgomery County Council for review in July, Govoni said. The planning department and Montgomery County Department of Housing hired consultants RKG Associates and Lisa Sturtevant & Associates to conduct the study.

One of the report’s major findings is that almost all county renters earning less than 50 percent of area median income—$96,300 for a family of three—are cost-burdened, Govoni said.

“Most are severely burdened, spending more than 50 percent of their annual income on housing. In other terms, a household earning approximately $50,000 (before taxes) is likely to be spending at least $25,000 of that income for housing,” the report stated.

To address the report’s findings, county leaders could consider overhauling the county’s moderately priced dwelling unit program, which requires developers to include affordable housing in their projects. Currently, at least 12.5 percent of homes must be moderately priced in developments of 20 homes or more, although the standard is 15 percent in downtown Bethesda and other specific parts of the county, Govoni said. Officials could consider expanding the 15 percent minimum to other areas or even make it countywide, the study suggested.

They could also look at shifting the program away from its sole focus on unit count. Most developers satisfy the MPDU mandate by constructing lofts or one-bedroom apartments and create few affordable options for families with children. Basing the MPDU requirement on square footage instead of unit count could encourage the development of two- or three-bedroom homes, Govoni said.

The county could also ease parking-space requirements in exchange for building moderately priced units.

Other suggestions are to look at using public land for housing and colocating affordable housing on properties with fire stations and libraries. Officials could keep track of affordable rental properties that are at risk for redevelopment, could offer financial education and credit counseling to lower-income renters and establish a fee or tax charged to property owners for demolishing apartments, according to the study.

Grosvenor-Strathmore Minor Master Plan Amendment Preliminary Plan

The Planning Staff will present to the Planning Board on Thursday their preliminary recommendations for the Grosvenor-Strathmore Minor Master Plan Amendment.  You can see all the slides by clicking here and you can see a few select slides below.

 

The staff is recommending a density of 1,145 dwelling units and a Floor Area Ratio [FAR] of 2.5. This was the second lowest of four possible density levels outlined in December and lower than the level requested by the developer.

The staff is recommending four different height maximums:  (1) On Tuckerman across from Strathmore Park, 45-feet or four stories, comparable to Strathmore Park;  (2) Starting 40-feet back from Tuckerman across from Strathmore Park, the buildings can gradually rise to 85-feet;  (3) Starting 200-feet back from Tuckerman across from Strathmore Park and also immediately along Tuckerman in front of the garage, the buildings can not exceed 160-feet; and (4) no more than two “signature,” architecturally significant buildings can be built on the west side of the site [closer to the tracks] not to exceed 260-feet.

The staff is recommending a civic green, retail plaza, and an expanded arts walk/plaza; they also are recommending a potential small park on Tuckerman across from Cloister Drive and a recreational space on the roof of the garage.

East Village at North Bethesda Gateway Preliminary Plan

There’s been a major step forward for East Village at North Bethesda Gateway on Nicholson Lane and Huff Court, located just half a mile from White Flint metro. The Planning Board will review the Preliminary and Site Plan tomorrow, and the Planing Department staff recommends approval with conditions of the Preliminary Plan  and the Site Plan

East Village will be built in two phases. Phase 1 will have up to 382 residential units, 416 parking spaces, and up to 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Phase 2 adds up to another 232 residential units. Eventually, there could be up to 34,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space at East Village along with 701 parking spaces. As always, 12.5% of the residential units will be MPDUs. Both residential buildings will be up to 85 feet high.

The main residential lobby will be located along Nicholson Lane, with a secondary access from the plaza, and access to individual units along the through block connection. A private dog park will also be provided as well as swimming pools, a tot lot, and a gym for residents.

A great community amenity will be an urban plaza that includes a fountain. The plaza will be surrounded by retail and restaurants and unite the two phases of the East Village at North Bethesda Gateway project. The plan also includes cycle tracks for bikes and plenty of bike parking spaces. More than 23% of the project’s land will be open space.

Now enjoy these pictures of the what will be another great addition to the Pike District neighborhood.

 

The Planning Staff’s White Flint 2 Briefing Memo and Recommendations

The Planning Department staff have released their official White Flint 2 Sector Plan: Briefing and Preliminary Staff Recommendations in preparation for their presentation to the Planning Board on Thursday. It’s well worth reading as it describes what they suggest should be the plan for the White Flint 2 area. You can read the memo by clicking here: RevisedWF2PreliminaryRecommendationsMemoFINAL)  At the end of the memo, you’ll see a few letters from property owners or their attorneys describing changes they’d like to see in the plan, most of which concern increasing density.

Friends of White Flint very much wants to know your thoughts on this plan. What do you like? What do you want to change? Please email us your comments to info@whiteflint.org.

But it is 33 pages long, so if you’re on deadline for your big project or just can’t bring yourself to read the entire memo, here are their key recommendations.

Land Use and Zoning

 Promote the transformation of single use commercial shopping centers into mixed-use places along Rockville Pike (MD 355).

 Integrate new residential and non-residential uses in the Executive Boulevard office park and promote mixed-use neighborhood centers at the Loehmann’s Plaza and Randolph Hills Shopping Centers.

 Retain existing multi-family residential development as an important resource of market rate affordable housing.

 Retain light industrial properties to provide important services to down County residents, offer opportunities for small scale businesses, entrepreneurs, and vocational and entry-level employment.

Mobility

 Extend the Rockville Pike (MD 355) Boulevard concept to the City limits of Rockville with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

 Provide new streets that permit alternative ways to navigate in the Plan area and to link to adjacent communities.

 Support the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan recommendation for a MARC Station but recognize that Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) must develop criteria for infill stations in Montgomery County.

 Support the expansion of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan street network, where feasible.

 Accommodate new bikeways that link to the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan area and the City of Rockville.

Urban Design

 Provide design direction that recognizes the unique context and development challenges of individual areas such as Executive Boulevard, Rockville Pike, and other neighborhood centers identified by the Plan.

 Encourage design excellence for new development, including quality public use space that complements the guidance of the White Flint and Twinbrook Urban Design Guidelines.

 Promote walkability with new streets and enhanced streetscape to define the public realm.

 Promote variety in new building height and massing to maximize access to natural light and air circulation for building occupants, those of neighboring buildings, and surrounding communities and public open spaces.

Affordable Housing

 Promote a diverse mix of housing options for residents at different stages of life.

 Retain existing multi-family residential development that furthers Montgomery County’s Housing Element of the General Plan (2011) to provide a broad range of affordable housing options.

Parks and Open Space

 Create new parks and open spaces for public use to promote a livable environment for existing and future residents, visitors and employees, and to expand the network of interconnected open spaces envisioned by the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

 Link new parks and open spaces with existing and proposed bikeways and trails.

 Develop at least 12 acres of public use in the Plan area.

Public Facilities/Community Facilities

 Support the community facilities recommended in the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

 Provide recommendations to address school capacity issues in the Walter Johnson cluster.

 Promote the co-location of public facilities to reduce public expenditures and minimize land area.

 Encourage new prototypes for public facilities that promote innovate design.

Sustainability

 Promote energy efficiency and encourage net zero energy building design.

 Improve the urban ecology, including goals to reduce heat island effect and promote Environmental Site Design (ESD) in stormwater management practices.

 Retain existing wooded areas where designated, and provide increased tree canopy throughout the Plan area.

 Include sustainable solutions in the design of an attractive public realm, to integrate green features, enhance mobility options, and promote walkability.

Neighborhood Compatibility

 Provide adequate transitions between new development and existing neighborhoods through appropriate building heights and development intensities.

 Promote new pedestrian paths and bikeways between existing residential communities and new mixed-use development.

WF2 zoning WF2 street network

Best Practices for Suburban Bicycling Planning

The Montgomery County Planning Department hosted the second event in its 2016 Winter Speaker Series with a presentation by Jennifer Toole, president of the Silver Spring-based Toole Design Group. This firm is currently assisting the Montgomery County Planning Department as it updates its Bicycle Master Plan.

View the  video presentation featuring Jennifer Toole on February 23.

View the short video news recap about the February 23 event.

Toole discussed the need to provide high-quality bikeways, now evident in cities, for suburban areas where the demand for safe bicycle conditions is growing. “Due to higher speeds on suburban roads, there is a greater need for separation between bicyclists and adjacent motor vehicle traffic,” said Toole. “There is also a greater need to address issues at intersections, driveways and property entrances in the suburbs.”

Drawing on her own experience, Toole discussed projects in the Netherlands and other locations to demonstrate the potential of bike travel in the suburbs. “Some designers throw up their hands when it comes to making suburban roads more bike-friendly, but it can be done successfully as shown in other countries,” she notes.

Toole debunked the myth that conditions in the Netherlands had always been primed for good bicycling. She compared cycling in the Greater Washington, DC region to Rotterdam, where bicycling has proven to be compatible with a lower density environment. As noted in her presentation, it took a concerted effort to transform a country with wide roads like the Netherlands into a bicycle-friendly society.