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  • Lucia Zegarra

CHEER documents affordable housing for all neighborhoods in Takoma Park

In preparation for the first Takoma Park forum “Community Conversation” on affordable housing on February 6th, CHEER prepared a one-pager about community and housing profiles in the city. The document discusses several points of data that are relevant to the current state of housing policy and affordability in Takoma Park. First is a discussion of the differences between two types of rent-controlled units: rent stabilized and exempt-from-rent-stabilization units. While the title of the latter sounds as though units are not subject to some rent control policy, that is not the case.

To quickly define:

Rent stabilized units in Takoma Park: are subject to small rent increases based on a specific number derived from agreed upon cost-of-living percentages approved by the City Council. In 2015 that number was .2%; in 2014, 1.6%; in 2013, 1.4%; in 2012, 2.8%; and so on. Rent stabilized units are subject to the statutes outlined in City Code Chapter 6.20.

Exempt-from-rent-stabilization units in Takoma Park: are buildings that would have otherwise been subject to the rent stabilization laws in Takoma Park but were granted an exemption with the understanding that they must abide by a different set of rent control rules. These buildings are subject to rent control of another type based on the area median income (AMI) of Montgomery County, determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In buildings that are exempt, there is a requirement for rent of a certain percentage of units to be no greater than 40% of the AMI, another fraction to be no greater than 50% of the AMI, again still no more than 60% of the AMI, and another fraction to be no greater than 80% of the AMI. There is also a percentage of units allowed to be market-rate rents which are determined by the landlord.

It is important to note that there are approximately 300 units in Takoma Park that are not subject to any rent control laws because they do not fall under the definition outlined in the City Code. Generally, these are single accessory units found in single-family homes where the owner still lives in a different part of the house.

In the one-pager, CHEER found that of the 3,044 units subject to some rent control policy, rent stabilized units were far more accessible and affordable to individuals at every level of AMI by percentage than the exempted units. Further, CHEER also identified problematic data usage. Because HUD sets the AMI standards at the national level the data can only be narrowed down to the county. Thus Takoma Park is being held to the AMI standard of the entire Montgomery County. Yet, Census data shows that Takoma Park has consistently shown significantly lower AMI than the county – on average about $35,000 lower – over the past two decades. Thus, when rents are being set by the county AMI the ceilings are already higher than the city AMI, making rents naturally higher than if the Takoma Park AMI had been used.

Fear not, though. There is good news. Since before 2004, Takoma Park has shown consistently cheaper rents than both the adjacent Silver Spring and Montgomery County as a whole. While rents are going up, they are going up slightly and more slowly than the rest of the county. Furthermore, the number of available units hasn’t changed since 2009, except by increasing numbers. Essentially, since 2009 Takoma Park has had no net loss of rental units within the city.

On the backside of the prepared one-pager, CHEER also captured basic neighborhood demographics surrounding household income and affordability. Defining “Housing Cost Burden” as a household spending 30% or more of their income on housing costs, such as rent or a mortgage, and breaking neighborhoods down to the Census blockgroup levels, areas such as Flower Avenue north of Carroll are able to see that their area median family income is $61,204 with 25% of residents owning their homes, while 75% are renters. Of those owning their homes in this neighborhood, 30% suffer from housing cost burden as do 44% of renters. Each area in Takoma Park has a brief neighborhood profile.

To view the full one-pager, please click here (PDF).

What does your neighborhood profile look like?

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