One third of Montgomery County, Maryland, is made up of single family home neighborhoods where families have porches and yards for gathering. But if the Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan is put into place by the Montgomery County City Council by the end of the year, residents could see those neighborhoods transformed with the introduction of multi-unit housing.
The DCist reported:
But a foundational policy outlined in the plan — a proposal to open up some single-family neighborhoods to a mix of housing types, such as duplexes and triplexes — has ignited furious opposition. Neighborhood associations and homeowners have published op-eds, approved resolutions, started petitions, waged comment wars on social media and online forums, and submitted public testimony raising alarm about what they believe “upzoning” could do to their neighborhoods. Some worry the plan will raise property taxes and worsen traffic congestion; others spread unfounded rumors about a ‘social engineering’ plot to wipe out single-family homes and replace them with low-income apartments.
The DCist, because it is part of the left-wing tax-payer funded National Public Radio (NPR), accused opponents of the plan of spreading disinformation about it, including County Executive Marc Elrich, who “warned that adopting Thrive would give lawmakers carte blanche to phase out single-family zoning and set off a storm of new, expensive development countywide.”
But a closer look at the plan reveals that it embraces the narrative the single family neighborhoods are inherently racist and that to create “equity” requires giving access to them through the installation of affordable housing, mostly in the form of apartment buildings.
The plan also mentions the need to address climate change 21 times.
The Thrive plan says, in part:
Today, however, we find ourselves facing new challenges and The combination of rapid social, environmental, technological, changing circumstances that require us to rethink approaches that served us well in the past. Montgomery County has tremendous assets, including a highly educated workforce, proximity to the nation’s capital, and a culture of openness to newcomers, but we also are struggling to attract businesses and house our residents, grappling with a legacy of racial and economic inequality, and facing the effects of climate change.
At the same time, the demographic characteristics of Montgomery County residents have changed. As a group our residents are older, more diverse, and less likely to live in traditional family arrangements. We have evolved from a bedroom community to a complex jurisdiction with major employment centers, urban hubs, mature residential neighborhoods, and rural landscapes. We compete with the District of Columbia and neighboring jurisdictions for talent, jobs, and economic development.
The combination of rapid social, environmental, technological, demographic, and economic shifts at the national and global levels along with changes in our community require us to take a clear-eyed look at our strengths and weaknesses and to challenge the assumptions that have guided us to this point. While the Wedges and Corridors Plan was visionary, its implementation also had some unintended consequences such as inequitable investment between the eastern and western parts of the county, excessive reliance on automobiles, and zoning of more than one-third of the county exclusively for single family homes. Discriminatory land use and planning-related practices, including the legacy of redlining and racial covenants combined with exclusionary zoning, produced inequitable patterns of development.
Some of the bulleted items in the Thrive plan include:
• Promote racial and economic diversity and equity in housing in every neighborhood
• Develop targeted strategies to minimize gentrification and displacement while promoting integration and avoiding the concentration of poverty.
• Refine regulatory tools and financial incentives with the goal of avoiding a net loss of market-rate and income-restricted affordable housing stock without erecting disincentives for the construction of additional units. The DCist continued:
The ideas outlined in Thrive reflect policies now gaining ground in cities and suburbs across the U.S. as housing prices rise and climate change sets in. They emphasize building walkable communities, encouraging alternatives to driving, investing in subsidized affordable housing, and selectively introducing denser residential development in transit-adjacent neighborhoods where it’s now illegal to build anything other than single-family homes.
Indeed, the Pacific Research Institute reported on the effort in California in a piece entitled: “Single Family Zoning Is Dead in California. Now What?”
In September, the Democrat-majority state legislature passed SB 9 that effectively ended single-family zoning in California.
The Institute likes the law, but it reveals the ongoing war against the American suburbs, which it claims isn’t happening:
While a laudable step in the right direction, it’s hardly a silver bullet for the state’s ongoing housing crisis. According to researchers at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, many homeowners cannot or likely will not utilize its provisions for one reason or another. The authors estimate that around 714,000 new housing units will be feasible as a result of SB 9, well-below the 1.8 million units that the state needs to build by 2025 just to keep up with population growth, to say nothing of Governor Newsom’s campaign promise of 3.5 million new homes.
The unexciting truth—not exactly the stuff of breathless headlines—is that SB 9 will likely make a small, slightly positive impact. It won’t destroy California’s suburbs, nor will it solve our housing crisis. And that’s okay. At most, a steady procession of duplexes will slip mostly unnoticed into historically low-slung suburbs.
According to the National Association of Homebuilders March 2021 study, 67 percent of home buyers would like to purchase a single-family detached home.
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