Thursday, December 6, 2018

With affordable units vacant in Rockville & countywide, does MoCo really have a housing "crisis?"

Ability to lose 162
units, low demand at
Halpine View raise new 
questions about MoCo's 
supposed affordable 
housing "crisis"

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.


  1. I think moderate income residents can be forgiven if they choose not to live in 50 year old slum like apartment blocs which adversely affect their health and safety.

    Considering the mile long waiting lists for MPDUs in all the newer projects, there is no shortage of demand for affordable housing, and it's illogical to suggest otherwise.

    1. 12:07: So you are giving HOC a free pass for not maintaining their buildings? And the County Council for not exercising their oversight authority over HOC?

      Why are there "mile-long waiting lists" if units were available in Halpine View and 162 units were deemed disposable at the Ambassador?

      It looks like taxpayers are being played for fools by the MoCo cartel.

  2. Your blog would be a heck of a lot better if you didn't put in so many photos of the same thing. Makes it very difficult to look at on the phone. Take web design 101 and you will see what a lousy job you are doing. One photo would have been sufficient. The duplicates do nothing to add to your site. They just make it look amateurish.

    1. 4:02: I think long-time residents appreciate a few photos of this famous landmark hotel before it is demolished. They sure aren't going to find this coverage in the other local media around here.

  3. My recollection is that these units are SRO units, and the building itself has structural issues, as does the parking garage that is attached to it. That building was a disaster that no one knew what to do with when I was working for the HOC.

  4. i lived at halpine view for 2 years. after the first year, they raised my rent 6% and sent me the required notice from the county that 'suggests' (moco doesn't have rent control, the best they do is force landlords to tell you what the county suggests as a reasonable increase) ~3.5%. the exact same thing happened after the 2nd year. i ended up finding a slightly smaller place in dc (rent-controlled) for roughly the same price (closer to my job).

    2 months later i took a look at the halpine view website's availabilities and saw that my exact apartment was being offered for less than what was offered me to renew for the 3rd year. i'm fairly certain that management has a two-track system that don't communicate: track 1 raises all rents ~6% each year, regardless; and track 2 prices vacant units at market rates

    i know most of the people in my 'building' at halpine view had moved out before i did, presumably for the same reason