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Posts about Rent Control


Takoma Park progressives are for progress

Tim Male, a City Councilmember in Takoma Park, Maryland, sent us this response to Dan Reed's recent article, "Sometimes, it's okay for progressives to embrace progress."

Dan Reed wrote recently about the link between development and progressiveness in and around the area of Takoma Park, but the narrow coverage missed the real story of what is going on.

Takoma-Langley Crossroads, at the edge of Takoma Park. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Its true that City residents worked to oppose a proposed development that would have eliminated green space at the Takoma Metro in favor of townhouses with two car garages and less bicycle and bus access. Somehow that didn't sound like smart or progressive growth to us.

However, at the same time, development plans on nearby previously developed but underused sites have been moving forward near the Metro.

Elsewhere, the City of Takoma Park has been working to facilitate mixed commercial and residential space along the University and New Hampshire Avenue corridors to make more housing and affordable housing available on mass transit and future Purple line routes. These are developments that take advantage of underutilized commercial and retail space to build new capacity and energy into an area—and new housing.

In both cases, the City is supporting more density where it makes sense. In fact, if you actually watch the video about Melbourne, Australia's urban development plans that Alex Steffen refers to, they did precisely what Takoma Park has been promoting—Melbourne avoided developing on any green space or historic areas and reused vacant commercial and retail to get more housing density.

And in reference to the claims of Takoma Park pushing poor people out, we have great data from the Community Indicators Project that shows just the opposite. We have a higher proportion of low and moderate income families than the rest of Montgomery County—34 percent of our households are low income compared to 19 percent for the County and the average rent for a vacant unit in Takoma Park was more than $400/month cheaper than the County.

Part of this is because since 1980, the City has had a rent stabilization policy in place that has been an effective way to keep rents down and not without sacrifice from other residents who end up paying a higher property tax burden.

The point is, not all development is progressive and if you look a little deeper, you will see a lot more evidence that Takoma Park knows how to balance quality of life, diversity and development far better than Mr. Reed suggests.


Vince Gray talks IZ, New Communities, and rent control

At the recent blogger roundtable, Mayoral candidate Vince Gray talked about his goal to unite residents in "One City."

Photo by Geoff Hatchard.

He noted that while DC is currently "very divided by geography, age, gender, and race," ultimately "people have got to feel like there's a place for them." While education, economic development, and workforce education are pieces of this puzzle, without suitable and ample housing for all, we will continue to struggle as a divided city.

Gray noted that he pushed for inclusionary zoning from the start of the two-and-a-half year struggle to get the regulation on the books, working through one emergency legislation after another while the Fenty administration delayed implementation. Lamenting the loss of potentially hundreds of affordable housing units during the hold-up, Gray says that if elected mayor, he will "aggressively implement" IZ.

Another housing issue we discussed was rent control. Under current legislation, which Gray co-sponsored, rent control is up for re-authorization every five years. Gray promised that, as mayor, he would work to make rent control permanent, though he acknowledged it could potentially be challenged as unconstitutional.

Avoiding displacement is perhaps one of the most daunting challenges to housing equity. Under federal programs like HOPE VI, new mixed-income, and sometimes multi-use, developments are built with the intention of providing homes for both current and new residents of the community. A hiccup comes when low-income residents "temporarily" move to make room for new construction.

Under the New Communities Initiativeestablished at the end of Anthony Williams' administration—Barry Farm (Ward 8), Lincoln Heights/Richardson Dwellings (Ward 7), Northwest One (Ward 6) and Park Morton (Ward 1) are to "transform [from] highly concentrated low-income neighborhoods into healthy mixed-income neighborhoods." Perhaps the most important component of this initiative is the guiding principle of "build first" which "calls for new housing on publicly-controlled lands to be built prior to the demolition of existing distressed housing to minimize displacement."

When asked how best to retain current residents while improving housing, education, and economic opportunities, Gray pointed immediately to New Communities. While not a new initiative, it is one we seem to have lost track of as the economic boom turned into a bust. The reality is that while most of us are facing challenges in the current climate, many residents in our city who were struggling at the peak are in further distress now.

Gray, at least on the campaign trail, is able to recognize this gulf that continues to divide DC, and he seems to be genuinely interested to continue to push for solutions that have been staring us in the face for years now. Issues like inclusionary zoning, rent control, and New Communities are all ways the city can help bridge that gulf—they just need to truly be championed in order to work. It will take serious sustained effort from all the city's leadership to accomplish these goals.

Cross-posted at The District Curmudgeon.

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