Ability to lose 162
units, low demand at
Halpine View raise new
questions about MoCo's
How serious is the affordable housing "crisis" in Montgomery County? We've been hearing off-and-on about the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission's development plans for the Ambassador Apartments in Wheaton since 2012. At one point, it was said that a new building would be constructed on another part of the property, allowing current residents of the Ambassador to remain in their homes. But now, the building - a former Best Western hotel at the corner of Veirs Mill Road and University Boulevard - has been shut down and fenced off. Businesses in the ground floor have also been vacated.
Residents have supposedly been relocated by the HOC to other properties around the county. However, the HOC declined to respond to media inquiries made earlier this week by press time. From what I can find in County documents, it appears the building will be demolished at a cost of up to $1.5 million, a cost that will be picked up by County taxpayers. HOC has previously requested the funds from the County Council for that purpose.
Demolition was to have begun this year, and construction of the new development was to break ground in 2019. It appears that would still be possible if demolition occurs soon.
The loss of 162 low-income housing units near Metro - and the apparent ability of the HOC to find that many vacant units for the departing tenants - raises questions about just how serious the affordable housing "crisis" is in Montgomery County. Last year, the owners of Halpine View in Rockville off Veirs Mill Road stated that demand for their affordable apartments was declining, and that they had a substantial number of vacancies.
Beggars cannot be choosers, as they say. A modest, older apartment at Halpine View or the Ambassador would beat being homeless any day of the week. There should not be vacancies at Halpine View, and it should not have been possible to find vacant homes for 162 families before closing the Ambassador. Dogged apartment hunters would surely have found these affordable gems in their desperate housing searches. What is going on here?
County residents are being told we must now throw traditional, common-sense zoning rules out the window to address a housing "crisis," a move that will destroy existing single-family home neighborhoods. It appears further study of just what is going on here is clearly needed before making such irresponsible planning and fiscal decisions, especially with the County facing a structural budget deficit every year as far out at the forecasts go. More transparency is also needed. How many vacant affordable apartments are there countywide as of today? Taxpayers and homeowners deserve to know before accepting the new onerous costs, and reduced quality of life, that would come with adding multifamily urban housing within residential SFH neighborhoods.