Top stories of 2021: Residents of a rich Montgomery County neighborhood provide a helpful list of places where cheaper homes can go – Greater Greater Washington – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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A view of Woodside, in Montgomery County, with a view of dense housing in the background.

This was one of GGWash’s most popular articles in 2021. We’re sharing some of our hits again over the holiday season. This article was originally posted on August 31.

Montgomery County has a chronic housing shortage, particularly for low- and middle-income people. In Silver Spring’s Woodside Park neighborhood, nearly 200 residents signed a letter listing other places where those homes can go. It’s part of an ongoing campaign to keep affluent neighborhoods from opening up to new homes and new people.

The price of homes in Montgomery County are rising steadily

Home prices in Montgomery County increased 14% last year, and for the first time the median home price topped $500,000. For a single-family home, it’s nearly $800,000. This isn’t unique – jurisdictions across the Washington region and around the nation are struggling with rising home prices. What all of these places have in common is a chronic shortage of new home construction, particularly for lower-priced homes. Montgomery County needs to build over 80,000 homes in the coming decades to fill the gap. In 2020, it permitted just 1500.

It’s easy to lose track of all the things county leaders are doing to address high housing costs: tax incentives, rent stabilization,lifting a ban on new homes near crowded schools, letting people build accessory apartments. Now, they’re targeting what might be the biggest obstacle: in most of Montgomery County’s residential land, you can only build one house per lot due to single-family zoning.

Land uses in Montgomery County, courtesy of Montgomery Planning.

For the past few years, the county has looked at ways to allow modestly-priced duplexes, townhomes, and apartments (among other house types) in single-family zoned ar

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