New Bill Would Provide Tax Incentive for Housing on WMATA Property

Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Andrew Friedson introduced legislation Tuesday that would extend Metro’s existing property tax abatement for 15 years for new high-rise development.

Bill 29-20, the “More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act,” would require the Director of Finance to offer a payment in lieu of taxes for a high-rise building constructed by a private developer on property leased from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority at a Metro station. The payment would exempt 100% of the real property tax that would otherwise be levied, according to council’s staff report.

“We want development and housing to help lead us out of the recession and into recovery,” said Riemer (D-At Large) during a press conference Monday, “and this legislation is going to help do that.

Citing the prevalence of parking lots and garages on WMATA-owned land, Riemer said, “The problem is the market is not working to support the development of new high-rise housing. And we have got to change the game for development at Metro sites, because if there’s one place that we can all agree we want as much housing as possible, it’s on top of a Metro station.”

Currently, WMATA does not pay property taxes on that land, though a property tax can be levied against a lessee using it for a private purpose.

Developers would continue to pay impact taxes, and residents living in the housing would pay personal income taxes, according to a council press release. Bill 19-20 also would apply to a qualifying commercial high-rise development.

“According to Metro, station properties in the County have the capacity to deliver at least 8,600 units of housing, which would provide a significant contribution to the County’s long-term housing shortage. The high-rise buildings also would include between 1,200 to 1,300 units for the County’s Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) affordable housing set-aside programs,” the release states.

Locally, WMATA owns land at the Forest Glen station and Silver Spring Transit Center (much of which is currently being used for Purple Line-related construction).

Riemer and Friedson are co-leads on the bill, which is cosponsored by all other councilmembers except Councilmember Craig Rice (D-District 2).

A public hearing on Bill 19-20 is tentatively scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on July 28.

Screenshot of Councilmember Riemer from County Council YouTube recording of Monday’s press conference

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