Montgomery County Considers Exceptions to Housing Moratorium

By Nena Perry-Brown posted April 23rd, 2019 on dc.urbanturf.com

A week after news broke that Montgomery County is likely to extend a housing moratorium amidst imbalances in public schools and housing availability, the County Council is exploring loosening some restrictions in the moratorium.

Map of moratorium areas, courtesy of WUSA9. Click to enlarge.

On Tuesday, Montgomery County Councilmembers Craig Rice and Hans Riemer introduced an amendment to the 2016-2020 Subdivision Staging Policy, which outlines the basis of the current moratorium. The amendment would permit approval of housing developments within the moratorium area if the development would house no more than 10 students to the affected school and meets either of the following conditions:

  • Over half of the housing units would be for households earning up to 60 percent of area median income, or
  • The development is either near or in an Opportunity Zone and will either repair or replace a blighted property.
Map of county’s 14 Opportunity Zones. Click to enlarge.

“Moratoriums were put in place for a good reason and I do not want to diminish the purpose they serve,” Councilmember Rice wrote in an introductory memo to the council. “This SSP amendment ensures that any new development would not significantly add to the overburden of capacity of schools in moratorium by enacting a strict limit of (10) or less students that any new development might generate.”

Since January 2017, the county has required that any new development applications could only be approved if they demonstrated that nearby public facilities, including schools, would not be over-burdened. A moratorium on new residential development is established in any area feeding into a public high school at 120 percent capacity; this same capacity applies to middle and elementary schools, although these would also factor in middle schools going 180 students over capacity, and elementary schools going 110 students over capacity.

The amendment and debate surrounding the moratorium come amidst efforts to study school boundary redistricting and mitigate the impacts of a housing shortage in the county. The County Council will hold a hearing on the amendment June 11.

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