Montgomery County on Thursday announced an agreement in which it is giving up 1.99 acres to preserve affordable housing at an apartment complex just outside Rockville.
The agreement applies to Halpine View Apartments, a 564-unit complex off Twinbrook Parkway, south of Veirs Mill Road.
It is part of the county’s Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan, which sets “No Net Loss” provisions for naturally occurring affordable housing. That type of affordable housing involves no tax breaks or other financial incentives from the government to developers.
Preserving that type of housing is critical in meeting the county’s affordable housing goals, County Executive Marc Elrich said. In 2000, the county had 45,000 naturally occurring affordable housing units, he said. By 2018, that number was down to 25,900 units.
Current projections show that the county is slated to lose another 7,000 to 11,000 of naturally occurring affordable housing units by 2030, Elrich said.
The county owned land splitting the complex because it previously planned to build a road. In exchange for getting the 1.99 acres, the property owners must:
- Offer all current residents affected by redevelopment to remain at the complex at similar rents
- Replace each unit affected by a redevelopment plan with an income-restricted unit of comparable size
- Build 18 units of “deeply affordable housing” as part of the redevelopment. That means six units each affordable to residents with household incomes under $35,000 (30% of area median income), under $45,000 (40% of area median income) and under $57,000 (50% of area median income)
- All remaining units must be affordable at incomes under $65,000
Aseem K. Nigam, director of the county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs, said in an interview that the land transfer agreement is a good example of a policy to satisfy the “No Net Loss” provisions in the Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan.
The price of lumber and other construction costs are starting to stabilize and come down, after increasing due to supply shortages during the coronavirus pandemic, Nigam said. But they’re still higher than before the pandemic, he added.
Nigam said that factors such as how large a development proposal is, its location and market conditions pose challenges in creating affordable housing projects.
Doug McKeever, one of the owners at Halpine View, said in an interview that the density of the 1.99 acres will help the owners meet the affordable housing stipulations in the agreement.
Currently, the 564 units sit on roughly 38 acres, but the apartments were split by the county-owned land near Besley Court, McKeever said. By adding those 1.99 acres, redevelopment of the property is now easier thanks to land density, he added.
McKeever said the redevelopment isn’t guaranteed if the project doesn’t make financial sense. But the land transfer makes the odds better.
“You can look around, it’s beautiful, but the buildings are 60 years old,” McKeever said. “And buildings usually have a build life of about 50 years, 60 years, is what they’re designed for. We can keep maintaining that, and probably have them another 40 years. But instead it would be nice to remove these, and replace them with more modern apartments.”
McKeever and Nigam said they were unaware of how much the land would have cost, but McKeever added that given the shape and location of the parcel, it didn’t hold much value to anyone except Halpine View.
Nigam said the land transfer announced at a news conference Thursday is just one tool of many the county has to achieve affordable housing goals. Others include payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreements (PILOT), the Housing Initiative Fund and tax credits and other types of financing.
“Here, just by transferring the land, it was icing on the cake. … There’s no other financing coming from the county, and we are creating deeply affordable housing on this property in years to come,” assuming the redevelopment occurs, he said.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com