Takoma Park Adopts Housing, Economic Development Plan

The Takoma Park City Council has adopted a long-term housing and economic development strategic plan, city officials announced.

The 2019-2030 Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan is designed to be a “coordinated approach needed to move Takoma Park towards a ‘Livable Community for All’ for this and future generations,” according to the introduction.

The plan grew out of an initial effort to look at housing after she took office about five years ago, said Mayor Kate Stewart.

“One of things was really thinking about housing affordability,” she said. “What does that look like in our region and what does that look like in the city?”

The city began to review the types of housing, local and regional housing policies and more through a series of expert panels and community conversations seeking residents’ input. The city also hired outside consultants to analyze the housing situation and make recommendations.

One of the early results, Stewart said, was the establishment of a housing reserve fund that now has close to a $1 million, set aside in anticipation of implementing an eventual plan.

As the city went through the process, they realized that economic development was linked to housing development, land use and related issues, and they needed to consider both topics at the same time, Stewart said.

“The goal of the plan is really for the next 10 years to provide us with a road map on our housing and economic development plans,” she added.

“We grouped things under three categories,” Stewart said. “Produce, preserve and protect.”

The plan then includes various strategies to meet those goals.

“Under ‘Produce,’ we understand that not just in Takoma Park, but in the region, we need more housing,” she said.

That housing must be available in a range of pricing for affordability, she said, especially the so-called “missing middle” housing. That often includes townhouses or condos that a resident could purchase as a step toward owning a single-family home.

Another historically typical path to a single-family home purchase is the ability to rent a house, consider where to eventually settle, and then make the purchase.

“That kind of pathway to home ownership in this region doesn’t really exist anymore,” Stewart said. “And for some people, it never existed. There are some people who because of a history of discrimination and racism—just being able to have the wealth to do the down payment just wasn’t available.”

The city does have a down payment grant assistance program, and that’s an area that will be looked at as the city begins to implement the plan, she said.

Some of the other objectives under the “Produce” section of the plan include:

  • Encouraging the construction of new moderate and higher density infill commercial, residential and mixed-use development and redevelopment
  • Cultivating entrepreneurship among city residents, and
  • Attracting new businesses to Takoma Park and facilitate the growth of existing businesses, focusing on those that help to meet various workforce development and local ownership goals.

“Preserve” considers that many people now want to age in place and stay in their homes, but may need some forms of assistance in order to do so. That assistance should include preserving affordability, perhaps through community land trusts or other programs, the mayor said.

“Some of that is thinking about how we can have programs for home repairs, if people need those types of things done,” Stewart said. “This also intersects with our climate change work, thinking about how we can make older homes energy efficient.”

The city will also take a look at the rent stabilization program, Stewart added.

“I think that has really helped keep housing affordable in the city, and really in the county, quite frankly,” she said. “We have the lowest rents of anywhere around when you do the comparison. How do we continue to maintain that when most of our buildings are pretty old?”

Other objectives in this section of the plan include:

  • Retaining and strengthening local businesses, especially businesses impacted by the Purple Line
  • Implement and enforce antidiscrimination and race equity provisions in the city, county and state, as well as federal policies and regulations, and
  • Looking for local, county, state and federal decisions, policies, legislation, regulations, partnerships and funding that support the city’s objectives.

“Under ‘Protect,’ one of the things that we want to be very conscious about is making sure that as home prices regionally go up—we see them going up in our community as we have Purple Line development and other things happening—that people are protected in terms of their displacement or their rights are protected for folks that want to stay in their homes,” Stewart said.

This section of the plan also includes a focus on environmental sustainability, “including climate change resiliency and greenhouse gas reduction.”

The city staff has already begun working on an implementation plan, the mayor said, which will take place over the next few years. That plan will consider what programs and/or policy changes might be needed to reach the overall goals, such as workforce development and support for small businesses (many of which are owned by local residents).

The city also has hired an economic development manager, Stewart said, “so that we can really build into our local city government the support that our local businesses needed [and be] thinking about people who live here who need employment.”

Read the full text of the resolution adopting the plan here.

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