ALERT: Proposed Housing Related Legislation in Montgomery County

Bob HarrisBob Harris

County Councilmember Will Jawando has introduced two pieces of legislation relating to affordable housing.  One is aimed at expanding housing development potential in certain areas, while the other would impose rent control measures for various properties.  Both were the subject of a County Council hearing on February 11.

Zoning Text Amendment 20–07 would allow owners of R-60 zoned property, located within 1 mile of a Metro Station, to build duplexes, townhomes and multifamily structures provided the construction remains within the current R-60 lot coverage, building height, setback, minimum lot size, and minimum parking requirements.  There would be some additional flexibility for such sites within 1/2 mile of a Metrorail Station.  The ZTA received mixed reactions at the County Council hearing.  A number of housing advocates and smart growth proponents supported it as a step towards creating more missing middle and affordable housing near transit.  Others, however, questioned the real benefits, and some flat out opposed it.  The Montgomery County Planning Board, raised questions about the ZTA, stating that the issue of creating such housing opportunities is significant enough that a more comprehensive analysis and broader provisions should be considered, rather than a smaller, piecemeal approach.  They pointed to their ongoing work with a comprehensive General Plan for the County which would include provisions for missing middle housing (also referred to as “Thrive Montgomery 2050”).  No date has been set for Council or Committee worksessions on the General Plan update yet.

The other proposed legislation, Bill 52–20, would impose a form of rent control on rental housing within 1 mile of Metro stations and 1/2 mile of Bus Rapid Transit routes.  Lerch Early & Brewer testified against the Bill as did other housing providers, explaining that over the past 10 years, and in particular the past two years, rents have been stable and even declining.  No one at the hearing presented evidence of any “rent gouging,” which the Bill purportedly seeks to address.  Perhaps most significantly, the Montgomery County Planning Board spoke against it, providing data regarding stable and declining rents, the need for new housing construction, and the adverse impacts on housing supply that rent control measures create.  The Bill was initially scheduled for consideration by the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee on March 15 but has been removed from the current calendar.

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