Floreen Questions Council’s Commitment To Affordable Housing

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Some of the most affordable rental housing in Bethesda is on the way out and Montgomery County Councilmembers can’t seem to agree on how to create more.

On Hampden Lane, 12 rental units that run from $1,150 to $2,405 a month will be replaced by The Lauren, which has announced its pending arrival with signs on the property that proclaim the luxury condo will be offering “Residences from the several millions.”

On Battery Lane, four garden-style apartment buildings have been approved for new zoning which would allow property owner Glen Aldon to raze the buildings and build three new, likely more expensive ones on the land.

On Tuesday, Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda) moved to table a bill that would have given tax breaks to developers who offer at least 25 percent affordable housing units in their projects. The county requirement is 12.5 percent.

That caused the sponsor of the bill, Councilmember Nancy Floreen, to question the Council’s commitment to affordable housing. Floreen introduced the bill in 2011.

“This is the sort of thing that makes me very angry,” Floreen said. “I’m sitting here with eight other colleagues, who time and time again, in every other context that involves not making a decision says they’re all for affordable housing. But when it comes time to actually do something we can come up with reasons. Everyone is very smart. Everyone wants to think some more.

“This has been before us for a year-and-a-half, so to suggest that we’re rushing to judgement is breathtaking,” Floreen said. “I just got to say, ‘Fine, be who you are,’ but I think it’s outrageous that my colleagues will not take any action on this.”

Councilmember Marc Elrich opposed the bill without a sunset because it would have exempted developers from paying school impact taxes, which Elrich argued the overcrowded school system needed.

“If that building were in Bethesda, or say another area where we’re having a real problem, where we don’t have any space to put the kids, so what does this do to our ability to fund school construction projects in places like that,” Elrich asked. “Can I afford for this to actually be successful and then have no money to actually pay for schools or transportation projects?”

Councilmembers Valerie Ervin, Phil Andrews and George Leventhal joined Berliner and Elrich in providing a 5-4 majority to table the bill.

Earlier this year, the Council unanimously approved a Berliner-sponsored bill that requires the county to assess whether affordable housing can be added to new capital projects such as libraries or fire stations.

“I am one who supports affordable housing, and I want to make sure that we spend the resources in the most effective way,” Berliner said Tuesday.

Video via Montgomery County Council

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