FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 4, 2021
Jane Lyons, CSG Maryland Advocacy Manager
Closing the door to the American Dream?
Coalition for Smarter Growth Responds to Anti-Housing Protesters at Planning Board
Montgomery County, Md – “Montgomery County’s Thrive 2050 General Plan update is imbued with the progressive and creative spirit that has long been at the core of the community’s values,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG). “This is why we are so saddened to see the strident opposition to the county’s efforts to address a housing crisis through Thrive 2050 and a separate study of Attainable Housing Strategies.”
Today, a group of community members plans to gather at the Montgomery County Planning Department in Wheaton to protest Thrive 2050 and the mere discussion of Attainable Housing Strategies. The Planning Board is meeting to discuss how the county could enable a more diverse range of housing options including duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, to meet the urgent need for homes for the county’s residents.
Meanwhile, the County Council is showing reluctance to pass the plan by the end of this year, even though the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) committee has given its stamp of approval.
The county is expected to add 200,000 more residents by 2040, but is falling far short of the average 4,200 new homes they need to add per year. House prices have risen out of reach of large sectors of the population. “We know from the county’s own research that diverse housing types are needed, especially in areas near transit, to create more housing opportunities for young people, people with moderate and low incomes, and families just starting out,” said Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager for CSG.
One vignette from a recent DCist article by reporter Ally Schweitzer on those protesting Thrive 2050 stands out: where a homeowner praises a neighborhood homeowner who did a teardown, replacing an older home with a 6,000 square foot house (yes, 6,000 sq ft) within walking distance of downtown Silver Spring. This house could easily top $1 million in value. Yet, this same homeowner is opposing the possibility of duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes that could occupy the same space with the same good design that the homeowner praises, and in the process provide more attainable housing for people seeking the opportunity to step on the ladder of homeownership and wealth building.
“These teardowns replaced by massive new houses are increasingly common in the county, making housing even less affordable. They represent a lost opportunity to provide more housing in walkable neighborhoods with good transit and access to nearby jobs and services,” said Schwartz. “Failure to provide enough housing for all levels of the workforce will discourage companies from locating in Montgomery County and discourage talented and motivated people from creating a future in the community. Even today, the adult children of current residents find it hard to afford to live in the community in which they grew up.”
“You cannot read Thrive 2050, without feeling great pride in the County and the vision and strategies it offers for a future that is more sustainable and equitable through better land use, transportation, and housing policies,” said Lyons. “It is exactly what our region needs to address racial and economic inequity, to offer access to opportunity and the American Dream, reduce our traffic challenges, and fight climate change.”
“Thrive 2050 is a vision and a guide. It is not zoning. It is a great vision and plan developed after comprehensive study and extensive outreach over two years. It is filled with important strategies for walkable, transit-oriented communities, affordable housing, access to opportunity, protecting the local environment and fighting climate change. It is worthy of the support of the community, the entire Council, and County Executive,” said Schwartz. “We urge its passage by December.”
“Meanwhile, the Attainable Housing Strategies including potential zoning tools is an ongoing discussion and we are confident that by working collaboratively the community can find ways to gracefully provide for greater diversity of well-designed housing options,” said Lyons.