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Montgomery County Planning Board Continues Attainable Housing Efforts

November 5, 2021

The Shulman Rogers Land Use and Zoning Team closely monitors the news from the Montgomery County Planning Board and would like to share an important update with you:

At its November 4, 2021 meeting, the Montgomery County Planning Board continued to refine its recommendations on attainable housing strategies for the County.  The effort is being undertaken at the request of the Montgomery County Council.

Since the Planning Board’s last work session, planning staff revised its recommendation for density under the new Attainable Housing Optional Method (AHOM) and now recommends: in the R-90 Zone, increase the base density from 9 to 10 units/acre and provide an incentive of a 2 percent increase in density for every 1 percent decrease in average unit size; and in the R-60 Zone, increase the base density from 12 to 13 units/acre and provide a uniform 2 percent increase in density for every 1 percent decrease in average unit size.

Planning staff also revisited its recommendation for a new “cottage courtyard” housing type and is now recommending that single-family detached houses be allowed in the AHOM with minor modifications
to the data standards table.  These modifications would (i) restrict detached dwelling units to 1,500 SF or smaller; and (ii) establish a lower building height for detached dwellings of 25 feet rather than 35 or 40 feet. In staff’s view the lower maximum building height would still accommodate a full 2 story dwelling, but would also assure the height will not exceed two stories, keeping the detached dwellings smaller and, in theory, more affordable.

Regarding development impact taxes, planning staff advised the Board that the most appropriate impact tax category for the new attainable housing types is multifamily low-rise. Staff believed that because the units will be smaller than a typical townhouse, they will generate students at a rate similar to multifamily low-rise units.

Regarding parking, staff recommended baseline on-site parking reductions by a factor of either 0.50 or 0.25, depending on specific circumstances, including the availability of on-street parking and proximity to transit, and also discussed the possibility of other potential alternatives.  Staff advised the cost of parking can be a significant component of overall project cost, and believed a reduction in the requirement for on-site parking would help reduce production costs leading to more affordable housing for the consumer. 

Staff also reviewed the potential for streamlining the subdivision process to facilitate the creation of more attainable housing.  Staff recommended the Administrative Subdivision Plan process be available to create up to eight lots under the standard method of development for attached units in duplex or multiplex building types. Staff also recommended a new Minor Subdivision process for up to four lots that would apply in situations where the proposed subdivision is limited in size to only one pre-recorded lot.

Lastly, planning staff identified several incentives to encourage the creation of attainable housing.  These included: a potential property tax refund if a homeowner converts an existing detached home or vacant lot to multiple attainable housing units; a potential homeowner loan program; and a potential community grant program to fund items such as stormwater management improvements, fire safety improvements, and energy efficiency upgrades for housing within the community.

The Planning Board will hold its final work session on December 2, 2021, when it will review staff’s final report, recommendation, and draft zoning text amendment.  The Planning Board will then forward its recommendations to the Montgomery County Council for consideration and potential action through the adoption of new legislation.

The Planning Staff Report can be viewed in its entirety HERE.

For additional information on the County’s attainable housing efforts or for other information about land use regulation, planning and zoning in Montgomery County, please contact Shulman Rogers Land Use attorneys, Todd Brown or Nancy Regelin.