Montgomery County considers using public building projects to solve affordable housing crisis

Trying to figure out how to build more affordable housing is an issue that’s been both difficult and controversial for many DMV governments, but in Montgomery County officials believe the solution to the problem may be in their own firehouses, police stations and rec-centers.

A new bill proposed by Montgomery County Councilman Andrew Friedson is aiming to evaluate whether housing can be added during the construction of a public building.

To do so, the bill would create a requirement that before public buildings, like libraries, recreation centers, or police stations, are built, the site would have to be assessed as a possible site to add affordable housing.

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"We’ve got an opportunity every time we build a recreation center, every time we build a library to build a community in and of itself and we can’t afford to pass up those opportunities because it’s too hard or it’s too challenging," Friedson said. "The key to addressing our housing crisis is to use every single tool that we have at our disposal and we need the county government to be a leader when it comes to this challenge of housing affordability in Montgomery County." 

The press to build more housing comes as the area continues to experience a shortage of affordable units.

Montgomery County officials believe that over the next 10 years, the county will need 47,000 more units of affordable housing.

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"We are in a housing crisis, we aren’t building enough homes, and we aren’t building enough affordable homes! Home prices are rising and people can not stay here or move here if they want to," said Dan Reed from Greater Greater Washington. "Most of my friends who grew up in Montgomery County don’t live here anymore because they can not afford it and every household priced out of this county is a loss for our county."

FOX 5 spoke with residents in the area, who expressed mixed feelings about turning public buildings into low-cost housing. Some people believe that the area needs more affordable housing, while others believe there is enough in place already.

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One viewer tells FOX 5, "I say no! Why? Because this library is a good library and I don’t want them to."

Another countered that "I think we need to do a lot of creative things to allow it, as long as you still have the functionality, whether it’s a fire station or a library, I think we should do a lot more for that."

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Despite the requirement, it is still not given that every single new public building project would contain an affordable housing project. But, officials say the new rule would make developers have to at least think about it before a project is green lit.