- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government (COG) on Wednesday voted to accept regional goals to address the region’s affordable housing crisis.

“The reality is that housing affordability is inextricably linked to economic development opportunity, our transit system and taking care of the people that make up the workforce of tomorrow,” said Prince George’s County Council member Derrick Davis, chairman of the COG Housing Strategy Group. “And so we as we move forward here in COG, collectively together, we know that this is the tackle of the generation to come.”

The greater Washington area is expected to add more than 400,000 jobs by 2030 but is on trend to create only 245,000 new housing units, according to a COG study.

To address the gap between job growth and available housing, the COG Board of Directors voted to adopt three goals for the elected officials to take back to their municipalities to start working on:

⦁ Create at least 320,000 new housing units in the region by 2030, which is 75,000 units more than what is projected.

⦁ Ensure that 75% of new housing be in high-capacity transit areas.

⦁ Ensure that 75% of new housing be affordable to low and middle income households.

“Local governments are already getting to work on these challenges — from revamping their comprehensive plans, to adopting housing strategies, to implementing policies that collectively contribute to the regional targets we set today,” said COG Executive Director Chuck Bean. “It will take a range of tools like those to meet our targets over the next decade, but with the partnership of the business, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors, we’ll create a region where everyone can live and thrive.”

For example, a real estate company executive, AJ Jackson of JBG Smith, briefed the board on the Washington Housing Initiative, a public-private effort to purchase and preserve affordable housing in the region and create opportunities for people looking to invest in affordable housing.

Mr. Davis said that, like many of the jurisdictions, Prince George’s County already is working to meet the goals since lawmakers rewrote the county zoning code in 2014. He added that he plans to introduce a resolution to address the goals as well.

“Many of the jurisdictions in this area will far exceed the expectations,” Mr. Davis said.

This summer, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a private-public partnership to raise $35 million to create 36,000 affordable housing units in the District by 2025.

One of the challenges to achieving the goals of growth is resistance from residents, and Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton raised questions about the region’s approach to address that.

“This climate of fear is out there,” Ms. Newton said. “When people hear [about] more housing, they are immediately panicked about the roads and the schools.”

D.C. Council member and COG Chairman Robert White Jr. said that making sure residents understand that the “cost of inaction is continued displacement and economic slowdown in our region”

“I do believe we can get residents on board but only if they are a part of the conversation,” Mr. White said.

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