Budget Part 2: Taking action on affordable housing

Dear Resident:

Montgomery County needs more affordable housing! It is becoming extraordinarily difficult for young workers and families to get a foothold here, or for retirees to stay here.

I Wanted to Stay Here,” was the title of a recent article about affordable housing that was tough to read. To help tackle this crisis, we need more action on affordable housing. Our regional housing plan calls for us to double our annual housing production to alleviate a serious housing shortage.

That is why I am so pleased that the County’s budget for next year makes some enormous strides on housing. In the second part of this series on next year’s budget–the first was on education and workforce–we take a closer look at record funding for affordable housing.

Addressing the high cost of housing and getting our economy rolling again have been my top priorities since taking over as Chair of the Council’s Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee. I am greatful that my colleagues on the Committee–Councilmembers Will Jawando and Andrew Friedson–have been excellent partners as we have tackled these tough issues.

Good news: the Council approved a proposal I made with support from my colleagues to add $50 million to an affordable housing construction loan fund for the Housing Opportunities Commission, taking to $100 million a revolving loan fund for their innovative housing model.

HOC has plans to create housing that can make a significant dent in our housing supply, in some years providing as much as one-third of the housing that we need to meet our regional housing targets. The housing follows the innovative “social housing” model that the PHED committee explored in 2019. Already projects are breaking ground using this fund including the West Side at Shady Grove and Hillandale Gateway in Silver Spring.

I have also been pushing hard to create a $100 million fund to preserve affordable housing in the Purple Line Corridor. Working closely with a community coalition, we have identified $100 million as the amount needed to promote adequate long term affordability in the corridor by buying existing buildings and then putting them under non-profit ownership. I am pleased that we now have $40 million in our preservation fund (I appreciate the County Executive responding favorably to our plan here) — and the Council supported my request to identify options to take us to $100 million later this year.

And we have existing affordable housing that has been purchased for preservation taking advantage of innovative tax credit legislation that Councilmember Friedson and I proposed and the Council adopted. Not to mention the exciting project moving forward at Grosvenor, thanks to the WMATA tax incentive that the Council adopted and that Councilmember Friedson and I authored, that will include hundreds of affordable housing units, some financed by Amazon.

To promote home ownership, we added $1 million to our down-payment assistance programs, bringing that fund to $2 million again for the second year in a row. The executive had proposed reducing that funding but our committee and the Council did not agree and identified resources to restore the full $2 million fund.

These budgetary housing strategies work together with the visionary master plans adopted by this Council, including the no-net loss of affordable housing initiatives in the Veirs Mill Corridor plan, Forest Glen Plan, and Silver Spring plan, and forward-thinking zoning changes like Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or basement apartments/ backyard cottages.

There is much more to be done, of course, but the historic investments and policy achievements made by this Council are going a long way to meet our housing goals.

Next up is transportation and climate.

Hans Riemer