MReport July 2020

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M R EP O RT | 13 COVER STORY 86th District and author of the Commonwealth's HB 152—said the bill was created through a "multifaceted" approach. He said a person's ability to have a good place to live de- termines how much time you spend commuting, the type of job you have, and the access to good schools. Samirah said the most important tool for housing is zoning, and it could resolve much of the affordability crisis. "We should certainly be putting money into housing trust funds and methods of building out neighborhood projects that are solely dedicated for lower-income individuals," Samirah said. "All of those solutions have limits too, though. They don't necessarily rise to the scale of the housing crisis in major metropolitan areas. They don't fundamentally change what is preventing the market from keeping up with demand." "Our housing shortage is about markets and how restrictive land- use practices, mainly exclusionary zoning, are preventing us from building housing types that are market rate or below market rate in the neighborhoods that are desirable for jobs, transit, and amenities." He explained that he used research from the Brookings Institution and George Mason University's Mercatus Center when crafting his bill, which shows the lack of supply for the middle-hous- ing market—housing for people that make around 100% to 200% of the median income or below. "That research suggests that loosening zoning restrictions on property owners so they can build middle housing can start to put a substantial amount of new units in the right housing markets while chipping away at some long-stand- ing social inequalities in neighbor- hood choice," Samirah said. He also noted that people who opposed the YIMBY movement are not in the majority and they don't represent "even a small minority." "Elevating the issue to the state level so that the folks that are called NIMBYs (Not in My Backyard) would not be able to exercise outsized influence on the political process is very impor- tant," he said. Samirah added that the Commonwealth continues to address its housing needs using the "weakest tool" to resolve the program—more single-family housing. He continued by call- ing the land-use the "least-land efficient, least-environmentally effi- cient, least-economically efficient for local budgets, and the worst way of planning out new com- munities." Compounding the issue, Samirah said, is Amazon's HQ2. While Amazon's expansion is ex- pected to bring plenty of business to the area, it has caused housing costs to rise across the state, not just in the headquarters' location in northern Virginia. A report by CoreLogic last year, however, noted home prices in cities near the proposed head- quarters—Washington-Arlington- Alexandria and Silver Spring- Frederick-Rockville—reported a minimal change. Annual home-price growth over the past year for Washington- Arlington-Alexandria and Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville rose slightly to 3.5% and 2.3%, respective- ly, compared to 3.4% and 2.1%. When compared to national trends, though, the two divisions were shown to outperform other markets. Home-price growth fell from 5.3% to 3.5% over the past year in 2019. "While anecdotal, this does sug- gest that the HQ2 announcement possibly buoyed the market in what might have otherwise been a period of slowing home price growth for the Washington, D.C., metro area," CoreLogic stated. "I'm beginning to hear com- plaints coming out of places like Richmond, which are two hours away driving from D.C., and they're saying that they're getting D.C. traffic. This is going to be an ever- increasing problem because people are looking for cheaper housing, and cheaper housing does exist far- ther and farther out," Samirah said. "The farther you drive, the better it gets. But costs will catch up. This is causing an undue burden on people of color and lower-income individuals overall." Despite the concerns, Samirah said there are certain places in the county where single-family housing still is relevant—mostly places that don't have issues with congestion and traffic. "Those areas are still developing. It might be attractive for people to go to these single-family homes, single family zoned areas," Samirah said. "I tend to believe that's not exactly the case for the majority of America. We underestimate how many people truly want to embrace the benefits of density, whether it be living within walk- ing distance of a job, having robust public spaces, having access to different cultural experiences, or relying less on cars through a solid public transit system." The Changing Face of American Housing? R obert Senko, President of ACC Mortgage, said it is important to provide affordable housing, especially in markets where land is a premium. "There is no perfect answer, balancing old neighborhoods that were less densely populated, versus trying to provide more housing in a convenient location at reasonable prices," he said. Along with the markets mentioned above, Washington's Senate Bill 6536 would ban single- family zoning in most of the state. Single-family zoning makes up 70% of Seattle's zoning. The bill would also ban any zoning that restricts construction of multifam- ily housing in cities with popula- tions of more than 15,000. "The time to act is now to create more housing options in traditionally single-family zones," the legislation reads. "The exclu- sion of missing middle housing is rooted in inequity as a way to keep some families out of certain neighborhoods." Steve Staid, the Chief Servicing Office for Gateway First Bank, said of increased housing density, "I'm not sure there is another solution right now." "Everyone is talking about growth in areas, like those big metroplexes, but the growth is outstripping the ability to build single-family houses anyway. It's got to go high density," he said. . A graduate of the University of Alabama, MIKE ALBANESE has worked for news publica- tions since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, and sports and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the Pilot Point Post-Signal and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the Dallas Morning News and the Denton Record- Chronicle over the past several years. "There is no perfect answer, balancing old neighborhoods that were less densely populated, versus trying to provide more housing in a convenient location at reasonable prices." —Robert Senko, President, ACC Mortgage

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