Poll: Affordable Housing Shortage Worries Montgomery Co. Voters

    How big a problem is the lack of affordable housing in Montgomery County?

    It’s so significant that a recently-completed poll of county residents listed affordable housing as the issue they’re most concerned about other than education.

    The poll of 425 county residents, taken Oct. 16-Nov. 2 for the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, showed 16% of Montgomery County residents listed the scarcity of affordable housing as their No. 1 issue (29% listed education).

    A full two-thirds of the survey respondents agreed that there isn’t enough affordable housing in the county, and 54% characterized the lack of supply and affordability of housing as “a major problem” or “a crisis.”

    More than half of those surveyed said they support additional growth “if it’s managed well” — a key talking point for advocates of more affordable housing in the county.

    Asked what’s contributing to the affordable housing shortage in the county, residents listed the influx of new people moving into the area; opponents who delay or block the development of new apartments; stagnant wages that make it difficult for people to afford apartments; government-imposed zoning, permitting, taxes, and fees that add to the cost of housing; the high cost of land for new apartment buildings; and an aging stock of apartments that need expensive maintenance.

    Asked for possible solutions, 66% favored providing rental assistance from the local government to help more people afford their rent; 46% favored reducing some regulations; 57% favored establishing a public comment process that prevents individuals from unreasonably blocking
    new rental housing; 63% favored reducing property taxes to offset the costs of maintaining and preserving existing rental housing; and 69% favored creating affordable housing on excess public land through a public-private partnerships.

    Asked whether they’d be comfortable locating a new apartment building that serves renters with a mix of incomes within a few blocks of their home, 65% of Montgomery County residents answered in the affirmative, while 20% said no and 16% weren’t sure.

    The Annapolis-based survey research firm OpinionWorks conducted the poll. It had a 4.8-point margin of error.

    The apartment association conducted a similar poll at the same time that surveyed Washington, D.C., residents about the lack of affordable housing in that city.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.