Montgomery County Continues to Lead in Affordable Housing

Montgomery County is one of the wealthiest counties in the country, and its elected officials have long recognized the need to provide affordable housing.

Since Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) legislation was passed in 1974, more than 11,000 affordable units have been built in Montgomery County. This landmark legislation to provide more affordable housing has been copied by other jurisdictions.

Photo | Montgomery County Council Montgomery County Council President Hans Reimer sponsored a bill to increase the percentage of moderately priced dwelling units from 12.5 to 15 percent in areas with high income.

Photo | Montgomery County Council
Montgomery County Council President Hans Reimer sponsored a bill to increase the percentage of moderately priced dwelling units from 12.5 to 15 percent in areas with high income.

The Montgomery County government website shows between 1976 and 2016 on an annual average basis, the MPDU program has produced 244 for sale and 124 rental units. This is an average of 368 affordable housing units per year built in the county.

Recognizing a need to update and strengthen the legislation, Montgomery County Council passed two bills unanimously on July 24. This is the first update of the MPDU legislation in 13 years.

Council President Hans Reimer (D at-large) sponsored and Councilmember Sidney Katz (D-district 3) cosponsored Bill 38-17 that will increase the percentage of affordable units required in new developments located in areas with higher income from 12.5 to 15 percent.

A Montgomery County Council press release dated July 27 states, “Research shows that lower-income students who attend lower-poverty schools achieve better academic outcomes and have more opportunity in life. For example, a landmark 2010 study by the Century Foundation and Rand Corporation of low-income children housed in MPDUs in Montgomery County found that children who attended lower-poverty schools significantly outperformed children in higher-poverty schools in reading and math.”

Reimer said, “There are parts in Montgomery County that are very expensive to live and the high price in new developments are more out of reach for working class families. … Developers in these areas can absorb a higher mandate. I prefer economic integration and feel this leads to a healthier community.”

“Affordable housing is one of our biggest challenges,” he added. “We cannot continue to think of Montgomery County as a welcoming place of opportunity unless working (class) families can afford to live here. This bill will not solve this problem, but it is a tool that will help take us in the right direction.”

Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D at-large), who is running as an unaffiliated candidate for county executive, and Councilmember Craig Rice (D-district 2) sponsored Bill 34-17. This bill requires that new developments consisting of 11 to 19 units pay a fee to the Housing Initiative Fund (HIF). Before the passage of this bill, developments under 20 units were not subject to MPDU requirements.

In addition, Floreen’s bill gives the director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) authority to accept HIF payments in lieu of including MPDUs in a development. Also, an alternative site near the original development would be allowed to provide more rental units without the expensive fees found in many condominiums.

In a press release issued July 25 by the Montgomery County Council, Floreen said, “We know and understand the increased demand for affordable homes within the county. Bill 34-17 modernizes our MPDU program, so it can provide even more affordable homes to meet our ongoing and growing demand.”

Councilmember Craig Rice said, “As co-sponsor of the bill, I’m pleased with its passage today as our county needs to continue to improve and expand our supply of affordable housing while providing the flexibility needed to truly meet the various needs of our residents.”

To learn more about the MPDU sale and rental programs, visit the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA/housing/singlefamily/mpdu/index.html or call 240.777.0311.

George Wenschhof writes from Frederick and is publisher of FrederickPolitics.com.

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