Council President Albornoz: Affordable Housing is “A Fundamental Issue”

The 31st Annual Affordable Housing Summit brought together members of government and affordable housing activists and experts Friday at the North Bethesda Marriott Conference Center.

Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz called affordable housing “a fundamental issue” that results in economic development, closing of the educational achievement gap and assistance with safety net programs.

“We need to balance growth” and maintain and add to the affordable housing stock, especially in locations near jobs and public transportation, he said.

County Executive Marc Elrich stressed that “simply doing more rental will not deal with the fundamental problem.” Home ownership is what will improve a person’s life.

Protecting, preserving and producing affordable housing is the strategy he prefers.

Montgomery County Park and Planning estimated that the county will lose 7,000 to 11,000 affordable units by 2030, Elrich said. “That’s an enormous loss in affordable housing with no replacement.”

The way things are going, the county is producing “nowhere near” the number of affordable units it will need in the future.” What you build in housing matters to the long term needs of this county,” Elrich said.

The county has 18 properties on the market, including parking lots. Elrich said he wants developers to build affordable housing there. “The county does not need the money from the sale of the parking lot,” he said, noting that the county will replace the parking spaces. It is more important to add affordable housing, he said.

“We have to secure more property,” Elrich said.

In the proposed Montgomery County Fiscal Year 2023 to 2028 county budget, a total of $157 million is set aside for the Affordable Housing Acquisition and Preservation Project and $6 million will be used by the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund in Fiscal Year 2023 to support development and preservation of affordable housing. The capital budget provides $40 million for the Preservation of Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) Project to preserve existing affordable housing in high-growth, transit-oriented corridors from rising rents.

Overall, Albornoz said, the proposed $6.3 billion operating budget and a $5.3 billion FY23-28 capital budget includes a 14% increase in affordable housing programs. However, he said, “We know that this is not enough.”

Gregory Hare, acting assistant secretary and director of community development for Maryland, also listed the state’s funding for affordable housing. “It’s not just about bricks and mortar. It’s really about the lives we transform.”

Barbara Goldberg-Goldman, cochair of the Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County, praised both the state programs under Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration and those under the Democratic Montgomery county council for their efforts. “Affordable housing is not a wedge issue. We cannot allow it to be a wedge issue.”

Some of the conference sessions centered on redlining, racial inequity, affordable housing and jobs, public transportation, financial options and seniors. The day-long conference features a debate between the candidates running for county executive.

Listen here to Elrich’s remarks.

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