Elrich: Proposed Thrive Montgomery 2050 Plan has No Remedy to Address Racial Equity

During his weekly press briefing Wednesday, County Executive Marc Elrich had harsh words for the proposed Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan that will update the county’s planning.

The plan, which must be adopted this summer, is a policy document that will not change zoning but instead recommends such things as transportation, housing, parks and recreation goals throughout the county.

Designed by Montgomery County Planning, it outlines strategies for future growth, noting that 85% of the land here is developed or constrained.

“There is not a single, concrete remedy for how to address equity,” Elrich said. He noted that all county council bills must be analyzed for racial equity, but this was not. However, he noted, Council President Gabe Albornoz has recommended that be done.

“This plan is utterly silent on what you need to do” for affordable housing, Elrich said.

At the very least, Elrich said, Thrive 2050 should state that there will be no net loss of affordable housing. “We are projected to lose between 7,000 and 11,000 units in the next 10 years,” he said, adding that the proposed policy does not include recommendations on how to solve this.

In terms of housing, the plan does recommend there be housing diversity that includes duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and apartment buildings. It also recommends converting old office buildings into housing.

According to a letter sent by Councilmember Hans Riemer, who is running against Elrich for county executive, Thrive 2050 suggests future growth be located where infrastructure can best support it, including along major transportation corridors.

“Think for example of roads like Georgia Avenue, Rockville Pike, or New Hampshire Avenue. ‘Thrive’ envisions these as places where new housing should be more dense, not unlike what you see on upper Connecticut Avenue in DC.,” Riemer said in his letter.

Elrich said he plans to support amendments by such groups as Silver Spring Justice Coalition aimed at keeping affordable housing in mind.

Other groups, including Montgomery County Racial Equity Network, Jews for Justice and Action Committee for Transit, have expressed their support.

“We believe that one of the best ways to achieve the goal of racial equity & social justice in #MoCo is by dismantling exclusionary zoning. The current draft of the County‚Äôs general plan, #Thrive2050, constitutes a significant first step towards that goal,” the group tweeted.

A JU4J spokesperson said that the group supports the goals of Thrive 2050 but also has “deep concerns” and would like to see improved outreach to communities of color.

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