Friday, January 19, 2018

“move to the cheaper area” is good individual advice, but not a solution to our housing shortage

As house prices around Washington have risen over the past few years, everyone from friends to real estate agents offer the same advice: “Have you considered a cheaper area?” However, this advice really only works for an individual person looking for a house. Applied to an entire city, county, or region, this advice doesn’t work very well.

Welcome to Wheaton
Wheaton may be more affordable than other parts of Montgomery County, but it's not guaranteed to stay that way. Image by the author.

Last week, candidates for Montgomery County executive spoke to the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors, a group that represents real estate agents in the county and the District of Columbia. (Full disclosure: I am a member of GCAAR, though I didn’t attend the event.) As David Alpert wrote last week, each of the candidates were asked where they’d recommend a young couple making $100,000 per year should live in the county. Two of the candidates, Roger Berliner and David Blair, suggested that they look at Silver Spring or Wheaton.

Would our hypothetical couple actually be able to do that? $100,000 seems like a lot of money and it is, though it’s actually a little lower than the county’s median household income of $100,352 per year. But what can they actually afford here?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

what does discovery leaving mean for silver spring?

Tuesday's announcement that Discovery Communications plans to close and sell its headquarters is a huge blow to Silver Spring, whose revitalization Discovery helped kickstart 20 years ago.
Chompy and Hippie Guitarist
Discovery in 2010. Photo by the author.
Discovery, which operates TV channels such as TLC, Animal Planet, and OWN, currently employs about 1,300 people at its headquarters, which occupies a giant city block across the street from the Silver Spring Metro station and is known for its iconic Shark Week-themed displays. It’ll move their global headquarters to New York, while their US headquarters will go to Knoxville, Tennessee, home to Scripps Networks, which Discovery agreed to purchase last year.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said in a statement that the county and state of Maryland sought to keep Discovery in the area: “The County and State made a substantial proposal designed to accommodate Discovery’s challenges. Together, we were ready to provide considerable incentives to retain their presence in the County. I know this was a tough decision for Discovery. I respect the contributions Discovery has made over the last 15 years to Silver Spring and Montgomery County. We will miss them.”

Read more in Washingtonian.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

ten very silver spring things that happened in 2017

Outside of East County, 2017 was a tumultuous and often disturbing year. But here in East County, we found opportunities to be grateful, to celebrate, and to come together with our families, friends, and neighbors to make our corner of the world a better place. In keeping with our annual(ish) tradition, let's take a look back at the big stories of the past year here in Silver Spring:

That's Governor Larry Hogan, knocking down a building at the Purple Line groundbreaking. Photo by Aimee Custis on Flickr.

  1. The Purple Line is officially a thing. After a 2014 lawsuit was finally resolved, the light-rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton finally broke ground in August at a ceremony where Governor Larry Hogan used an earthmover to tear into a building. Construction is well underway in Silver Spring: trees are coming down on the Capital Crescent Trail, the Spring Center shopping center has been roped off and stores have moved out; and Arliss Street in Long Branch will be closed for the next few years. While the work is disruptive, it’ll be worth it. To see all the places the Purple Line will connect, my friend Sean Emerson and I took a trip on the route this summer, which you can watch.
  2. MoCo’s biggest campaign in a long time. Voters approved term limits last year, which means that for the first time ever, three County Council seats and County Executive are all open at the same time. Not only did the 2018 campaign season start early (many candidates announced last summer), but it’s huge, with over 40 people either running or considering a run for County Council alone. To say this is a consequential election is an understatement, as it could bring in a number of new, fresh faces to local politics - or take us a big step backward.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

here's why new homes in silver spring are so expensive, and how we can fix it

Why do new houses in the DC area cost as much as they do? One of the biggest factors is the cost of land. There’s a way to fix that problem and make it easier to build more homes on a piece of land — but in most cases it isn’t available.

These two vacant lots in Silver Spring were for sale this summer. Image by the author.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Say you’re a smalltime developer who builds one-off houses in close-in, established neighborhoods. You’ve got access to a construction loan from a local bank, which you have to pay back in one year — enough time to build the house and sell it.