Why over 100K items make up the DC region’s 2019 to do list

WASHINGTON — There are numbers of 2018 victories to celebrate locally according to the outgoing chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), but he also noted on Wednesday that housing is a looming challenge for the region in 2019.

“We had a pretty good year,” said Matthew F. Letourneau who also represents the Dulles District on the Loudoun County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors.

Among the accomplishments: finally establishing the local Washington Metrorail Safety Commission; Maryland, Virginia and D.C. agreeing to dedicate capital funding for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority/WMATA; and Amazon choosing Northern Virginia for half of its HQ2 headquarters expansion.

“When we started the process with HQ2, the Council of Governments — right away, within days of that announcement, mobilized,” Letourneau said. “We provided a baseline package that every jurisdiction in the region submitted as part of their bid.”

That report detailed local strengths related to education, transportation, health care and all the advantages localities share in the region.

Now, that Amazon is coming — the region faces a new challenge.

“We’re not going to have enough housing units,” Letourneau said.

Compare what localities have planned and what’s needed and Letourneau said there’s a gap of some 100,000 housing units by 2050. He also noted that new residents won’t all settle in the same spot.

“So, as a region it’s not going to be on one jurisdiction to come up with 100,000 more housing units. But, throughout the region — we’re going to have to figure out a way to do that. And to be able to move people between where they’re moving and where they want to work.” Letourneau said.

The need for localities to work together to solve issues, such as housing and transportation, was also discussed by newly elected Montgomery County, Maryland, Executive Marc Elrich at COG’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

“We all battle the devil of parking and congestion. But if one jurisdiction decides to constrain parking more than the other, then the other jurisdiction can be viewed more favorably. But none of us can handle the traffic and all of us need transit solutions,” Elrich said.

Telling the room it’s easier to come up with reports and policies than it is to implement related legislation across jurisdictions, Elrich said he hopes leaders regionwide cooperate to adopt transportation initiatives to create a level playing field.

“And (then) we’re all able to go forward with, I think, more sensible transportation plans,” Elrich said. Also referencing the housing issue that’s already on COG’s radar he added, “I hope we take the same approach with affordable housing.”

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