On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council passed the “More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act”, a bill aiming to incentivize high-density residential transit-oriented development.
Under the bill, new high-rise developments on land leased from Metro that are at least half rental apartments will be exempt from property taxes for the 15 years. Typically, WMATA does not pay property taxes, but developer-lessees on WMATA-owned land are subject to those taxes.
Metro estimates that 8,600 housing units could be built at Montgomery County’s Metrorail stations, including up to 1,300 moderately-priced dwelling units (MPDUs). Over the past decade, roughly 2,700 new housing units have been produced per year while the county added about 8,000 people annually.
The bill was introduced three months ago, and three amendments were added during yesterday’s deliberations, including an expiration date for the incentive at the end of 2032. Another approved amendment by Councilmember Will Jawando required that 25% of the MPDUs at each development be reserved for households earning up to 50% of area median income.
“This effort is about turning housing targets into actual housing units, making ridership goals actual transit riders, and transforming outdated parking lots into vibrant communities for actual people,” Councilmember Andrew Friedson said in a statement. “Few things would be more impactful to meeting our affordable housing, environmental and economic development goals than maximizing transit-oriented development at Metro stations.”
Council Vice President Tom Hucker voted against the bill despite being a co-sponsor, as did Councilmember Jawando, who felt the county wasn’t getting enough to forgo the property tax revenue. Hucker stated he’d prefer incentives be doled out on a case-by-case basis, and that he didn’t believe projects weren’t getting done on Metro-owned land solely because of the market.
“The developers I’ve spoken to who have considered developing at Metro say their reluctance has a lot to do with Metro’s bureaucracy and leasing costs and not the property itself,” Hucker stated while explaining his opposition to the bill. “This is less about the market than the cost of dealing with Metro financially and the hassle of having them as your landlord.”