Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Workforce Housing Wins Unanimous Approval

Hey, just wanted to offer some major props to the Montgomery County Councilmembers who unanimously(!) passed a "workforce housing" measure yesterday! The bill essentially requires 10% of new market rate residential units near Metro stations to be set aside for residents who earn between 80 and 120% of the county's median income, a range that targets middle-income workers like teachers, nurses, police officers, etc. This would be in addition to the 12.5% moderately-priced dwelling units (MPDU; affordable housing for lower income workers) currently required.

I supported this measure when it was first introduced and I still believe it will help make our communities a better place. That is not to say that it's going to solve the problem of sky-high housing costs in Montgomery County, but it does offer another tool in that regard. Much more needs to be done!

This measure targeted areas around Metro stations to encourage the use of mass transit and to take advantage of higher housing densities (good things!), but it doesn't apply to most of the county. What about development that occurs outside of Metro station areas? Perhaps it should be expanded to include all new developments, an idea recently floated by Action In Montgomery (AIM).*

Also, the new measure leaves a gap between residents who qualify for MPDUs and those who would qualify for the new workforce housing units. That hole must be addressed! Additionally, the MPDU program, though ground-breaking when it was introduced years ago, is not sufficient to meet the needs of the people it was designed to serve. Somehow it needs to be revamped and expanded.

Other affordable housing ideas worthy of consideration include looking at the increasing numbers of condo conversions (we're losing affordable rental properties at an alarming rate), housing density (though infrastructure needs - transportation, roads, schools - must be addressed in step with any increased density proposals), and improving accessory apartment regulation (why is it so difficult to rent out a spare room in your own house?).

Any thoughts? Is the housing cost in Montgomery County an issue for you? How would you address it?

Update: Mike over at Outside the Beltway has some thoughts on the workforce housing bill as well.

*Disclosure: I am a former Co-Chair of AIM.

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