Two new county bills would allow multifamily housing near Metro stations and protect renters in transit areas from price gouging.
Council Member Will Jawando will propose the changes at a County Council meeting on Tuesday to continue addressing the county’s need for more affordable housing.
The proposed zoning change would specifically allow multifamily housing on R-60-zoned residential property within a mile of a Metrorail station. The structures would have to be within the building height, lot coverage, setbacks, minimum lot size and minimum parking requirements allowed in an R-60 zone.
More flexibility would be allowed for projects within half a mile of a Metrorail station. Those sites would be excluded from infill lot coverage limits and have decreased minimum parking requirements.
Jawando said in a phone interview Monday evening that four smaller units on a single-family lot would be more affordable for residents.
“There’s been an ongoing discussion not only here in the county, but also across the country on how to address the shortage of housing and affordability and homeownership in particular,” he said. “One of the issues is there’s not a lot of entry points to homeownership. It’s either very expensive condos in some scenarios or large single-family homes, and there’s not a lot in between.”
Jawando referred to the “Missing Middle Housing” concept, which looks at multifamily units that are compatible in scale, form and construction with single-family homes. He’s calling the effort the “More Housing for More People” initiative.
“I think one of the things that I like about it the most is it’s an opportunity to get small and mid-sized developers involved in the housing game here in the housing market,” he said. “These aren’t going to be large multifamily buildings or high-rises. … This will bring some more competition in the market and bring some different types of housing and in a transit-oriented development way.”
Jawando said he’s heard “rumblings” of concerns about the bill. He said most are from residents of the single-family-zoned areas near transit concerned about how the new structures would change the character of their neighborhood.
He hopes the restrictions, such as on the height of the buildings, addresses those concerns.
Jawando is also spearheading another potential change in housing for the county.
He plans to introduce legislation on Tuesday to protect renters against rent gouging in transit areas.
The bill would require landlords to comply with county Department of Housing and Community Affairs rent guidelines if the property is within a mile of rail transit stations and within half a mile of bus rapid transit stations. The rent guidelines can change each year.
The regulated rent could be increased by an allowable increase once a year. The landlord could also choose to “bank” the allowable increase and apply it another year. Annual reports on rent would need to be submitted to the county.
A public hearing and vote on the bill is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 12.
Jawando said landlords could delay the yearly increase limit if there are major renovations to properties.
Certain owner-occupied properties, religious and nonprofit organizations and licensed facilities could be exempt.
“[Transit] is a public benefit that developers and owners don’t pay for that is paid for by taxpayers and through the government,” Jawando said. “It is the primary [reason for] increased prices and rents.”
Jawando said he hopes the bill would help limit gentrification and displacement. The county will have to make changes, such as the two proposals, to have a chance at providing housing that’s affordable for everyone, he said.
“My message with introducing both of these now at a critical time, when people are struggling to stay in their homes, is that we need more housing and we need more affordability for more people,” he said.
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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