I was taken aback by the responses to Tuesday's post on the Millennial generation (today's twenty-somethings) and affordable housing, both here and on Greater Greater Washington, where it got 176 comments as of last night.
The comments I received could be organized in one of three categories:
1) People who think I'm being "entitled" and/or "whiny" in calling for an increase of reasonably-priced housing in close-in neighborhoods.
2) People who may agree that housing is expensive, but suggest that I just live with their parents/in a group house/commute from the suburbs/live in an on-the-edge urban neighborhood while saving up to move somewhere better.
3) And, finally, people who sympathize with my argument, which was that it's in the interest of Montgomery County (or D.C., or any of the counties around the Beltway) to ensure an ample supply of housing for its workforce by making it easier to build more and different types of housing, not by providing subsidies. Otherwise, they'll either commute from further out, which causes traffic and creates suburban sprawl, or they'll just leave the region altogether.
These are all valid opinions. Maybe I'm being whiny. In order to save money, I have lived with my parents while commuting an hour each way for work, in a group house on the far side of Petworth, and in apartment shares, including the one where I currently live in Philadelphia. People often have to make compromises in where they live, but this is only part of the solution. The study I cited says that there's a need for 60,000 new homes in Montgomery County in coming years just to accommodate new households, whether it's a single person renting a studio apartment or four people sharing a house.
I was especially struck by the sentiment that living in a close-in neighborhood, particularly one where you can walk to things as I suggested, is some kind of luxury deserved only by wealthy people who can afford it. I'm not saying that 20-something entry-level workers should all be able to live in Logan Circle for free. But I am saying that 20-something entry-level workers, or better yet anyone, be able to afford to find decent housing (whatever that may be) in a place where they can get to work, the grocery store, or other amenities without driving there. By not having a car, you're saving money. That alone makes housing more affordable.
We can make that happen by allowing the development of more housing in areas where that already exists, like downtown Silver Spring, and by creating more walkable, amenity-served neighborhoods, like in White Flint. This is a good thing. It keeps workers in Montgomery County; creates shorter commutes, thus reducing traffic; and drives investment to established neighborhoods rather than to the region's fringe.
Increasing the housing stock isn't about entitlement. It's about creating a stronger region and ensuring that the next generation can be a part of it.