Affordable Housing Incentives Get Pushback in Maryland

Montgomery County's plan for Bethesda calls for height bonuses in return for affordable housing. Residents neighboring the proposed incentive zones have successfully resisted that idea.

1 minute read

August 1, 2017, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

"Montgomery County wants to encourage developers to build more affordable housing in downtown Bethesda. But due to pressure from neighbors, the County Council voted to allow less affordable housing and shorter buildings instead," reports Peter Tomao.

The vote is the latest twist in the county's ongoing housing policy process, following the approval of a new plan for Downtown Bethesda earlier this year, as reported by Michael Neibauer at the time.

Now, however, the rubber is hitting the road, and the County Council spent the last week debating which areas in the master plan would be allowed new affordable housing incentives—namely, additional height in return for affordable housing allotments.

The proposed height bonuses inspired resistance from local residents. "Groups like the Coalition of Bethesda Area Residents (CBAR) wanted firm height caps on properties at the edge of downtown," according to Tomao. "After a lengthy discussion, the Montgomery County Council voted on a compromise plan that would add a handful of properties at the edge of downtown Bethesda, while reducing heights and affordable housing allotments elsewhere."

Tomao concludes the article by arguing that the decision will exacerbate an existing rental housing affordability problem in Bethesda and the region. 

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