Berliner Proposes Affordable Housing Bill
County Council President Roger Berliner today introduced a bill that would require the county to assess whether affordable housing could be attached to any capital project. Berliner referenced an affordable housing development on top of a new fire station in Alexandria, Va., as an example of the type of project that could result from the legislation. Montgomery County has made increasing the amount of affordable and workforce housing for an increasing population of working class and elderly residents a policy goal. But some have questioned whether the county is gaining any traction in the effort. In September, the Council approved a zoning change on Battery Lane that will allow the apartment owner there to rebuild what are widely known as some of the most affordable units in Bethesda into three high-rise buildings with the required 12.5 percent of moderately-priced dwelling units or MPDUs. The apartments, while significantly cheaper than the average Bethesda rental rate, are more expensive than affordable housing rates. Still, Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park, said approving the Battery Lane rezoning and risking an increase in the apartment rates was not consistent with the county's affordable housing policy. Berliner hopes his bill, which has broad Council support, would serve as a promotion tool of that policy. "This is intended to just bring a certain discipline and a certain realness to the situation," said Berliner. "It doesn't demand [affordable housing.] It doesn't require it. But it requires a look at it." He encouraged the county to look at building affordable housing for the elderly as part of Library construction or renovation projects, citing the popularity of the county's libraries with senior residents. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Jan. 17.