Action In Montgomery for Senior Issues

On March 20th I attended the Action In Montgomery forum on seniors issues, featuring County Executive Leggett and Council President Berliner. This was without a doubt one of the most impressive community action events I have attended in Montgomery County. I knew I was in for something special when the organizer welcomed the crowd with a rousing speech about how “people working together can change the world.” I felt right at home. Then they put their values into action by bringing a representative from every faith group that was participating in the event to announce how many people they pledged to bring and how many they actually brought. Most of them exceeded their goal.

The purpose of the forum was to unveil the seniors agenda and have a public accountability session with the County Executive and Council President on the terms of the agenda. Here is the County Executive discussing the issues with them:

The AIM seniors agenda includes the following four points:

· Senior Housing: Require developers of housing projects built on county-owned land to set aside a portion of affordable and market rate units for 60+ residents. County also to leverage senior housing on private projects.

· Affordable Housing Money. Phase in full funding of the Housing Initiative Fund with general fund property tax dollars rather than bond funding beginning in FY 2014.

· Senior Housing Plan: Create a senior housing plan with AIM that includes yearly measurable goals.

· Transportation. Work on and fund creative senior transportation solutions that support Aging in Place.

These are all initiatives we can and must proceed with. For my own part, I am working with Council President Berliner on an initiative to promote mobility for seniors through transportation policy solutions. I have had some preliminary meetings with folks from the Commission on Aging and the plan is to have proposals this year that will address transportation issues.

On the question of housing, the perception out there is that when the county creates urban areas with condo and apartment buildings, we are just trying to lure young adults to the county. The reality, as anyone who knows the population of residents that currently lives on the 355, from Friendship Heights to Rockville, is that seniors are a huge market for this housing.

As the county’s population ages, boomers who are in single family houses today would transition to the condo/apartment lifestyle, opening up single family housing for millennials in search of a little more space for the family. Over lifespans, we need enough of each type of housing for everyone to trade places. Today, however, I do not believe the county has enough multi-family housing to make this possible.