Study Find Shortage Of Affordable Housing In Frederick County

It calls for changes to the MPDU program.

Frederick, Md (KM)  A housing report for Frederick County was released on Monday. The Affordable Housing Market Study found that there has been a decrease in naturally affordable rental units in the county between 2000 and 2014. “As rents have increased, income has not kept up. You basically have rents increasing almost twice as fast as incomes,” says Phillip Kash, a consultant with HR&A Advisers, which put together the report.

He says “naturally affordable rental units” are those that are constructed as affordable housing without any government incentives.

Kash  says in 2000, those families earning less than $25,000 annually faced a gap in the number of affordable housing units. By 2014, the gap had expanded to those earning less than $50,000 a year.

The study finds those most in need of affordable housing are young people just starting their careers, senior citizens and persons  with disabilities.

But Kash says the situation is not all dire, and there were a few positive trends over that 14-year period. Population growth was concentrated among higher income households, and there is a large residential pipeline of homes that have yet to be constructed. In addition, there’s been an expansion in the production of public assisted housing.

The study has a number of recommendations, including some changes to the county’s  Moderately Price Dwelling Units program. Established in 2003, it requires developers to set aside a portion of their projects for affordable housing. Kash calls it the county’s largest source of local funding for affordable housing. “Where it hasn’t been as successful is it has not produced as many units actually built as part of a development,” he said. “Only one development has actually had the units build as part of the development.” Instead, developers have opted to pay a fee in lieu of building the affordable units.

The report calls for an increase in the MPDU fee by 250%. “Obviously, this would be a significant increase in fee. There might be good reason to not go forward with it because you don’t want to discourage any development,” he said. “We have a housing pipeline that’s going to deal with the affordable housing. We want to take funding and be able to support housing, but we also don’t want to discourage the creation of housing through market rate mechanisms.”

Another recommendation calls for expanding the development of accessory dwelling units, such as garages and basement being converted into homes. Kash says the county allows these types of housing to be sold, but not rented. “It’s a way to add density. It’s a way to add affordable units. And they tend to be naturally affordable because there’s not as nice. They’re smaller units and they’re not quite as nice. So they tend to have a lower rental price point,” he says.

And the report says the county should take advantage of federal rental assistance programs for low income tenants.

County Executive Jan Gardner said many of these recommendations will be debated over the next year.

The study does not deal with homelessness.


By Kevin McManus