Does DC area have room for 100K more housing units than currently planned?

The D.C. area has the room to handle housing for all the new jobs and workers expected to arrive over the next 26 years, according a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments study.

The issue was in question because growth in the region by 2045 is expected to lead to a shortfall of 100,000 housing units beyond what localities already are planning to build.

“We have more than the capacity for that additional 100,000,” Paul DesJardin, Council of Governments community planning and services director, told the COG board Wednesday. “It’s good news from a planning perspective.”

And 77,000 of that 100,000 could be built collectively in Montgomery, Fairfax and Prince George’s counties according to their current comprehensive plans, the study finds.

To accommodate the growth, new types of housing might need to be considered, such as boardinghouses or courtyard-centered cottages. 

“I know Montgomery County recently is considering accessory dwelling units,” DesJardin said. “Opportunities where you can have a granny flat or you can have a tenant.”

The study projects that most of the growth will happen near high-capacity transit stations and activity centers so people don’t have to travel far distances for work, daily needs or entertainment.

COG has identified three challenges to building enough housing to accommodate growth, such as market pressures and political will.

Another obstacle is what DesJardin euphemistically called “community dynamics,” which is similar to the NIMBY — “not in my backyard” — philosophy, where current residents who like where they live resist density, development or new residents they feel might spoil what they are already enjoying.

WTOP’s Kristi King reported from D.C.

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