The National Association of Counties recently highlighted large county efforts to tackle housing, highlighting strategies that Maryland counties may be able to replicate.
In a recent article outlining how large counties are tackling the housing crisis, NACo featured two models that may be replicated by Maryland’s counties. The biggest issues counties must contend with include a lack of buildable land, stagnating wages coupled with rising rents and interest rates, as well as historic zoning policies that, in some cases, are due for an update.
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Miami-Dade County’s transformed an 80-unit public housing building on 2 acres across from a train station into 116-unit senior housing, a middle school, 10-unit teacher housing, and a 465-unit building, 60% of which are workforce or affordable housing — all on that same 2 acres. County officials emphasized the importance of access to transit and density.
Counties shouldn’t be afraid to tear down existing infrastructure to maximize land potential for affordable housing, Miami-Dade County, Fla. Commissioner Eileen Higgins told LUCC members.
“The days in a county like Miami-Dade of single-family homes, it’s over,” she said. “…We literally can’t grow without growing ‘up.’ When you have a two-story building with 25 employees in it and surface parking and you can walk across the street to a train station, that is unused county land.
“… That is a waste of people’s land and people’s resources when I could do an office there, I could put up 400 units in a high rise and they could walk to transit and generate rates and property tax revenue over it. So don’t say that your land is full — it isn’t. It’s just full of stuff that you may not need or want anymore that just happened to be built there 30 years ago. It’s fine to demolish things.”
Orange County, Florida – Housing for Tomorrow Project
Orange County is engaging with developers and Universal Parks & Resorts to develop 1,000 units of affordable workforce housing. The project will also include retail space, on-site medical offices, a transportation center, technology cafes, a gym, bike and walking paths and a tuition-free preschool. 600 units will be affordable housing, meant for families with incomes between $34,000 and $50,000, and rent hovering around $1,000. 400 units workforce housing, meant for families with incomes between $70,000 and $100,000.
While the solutions in Miami-Dade and Orange Counties may not necessarily work in Maryland, they highlight possible avenues for county leaders to explore. It’s important local leaders utilize both national networks such as NACo and the National Association for County Community and Economic Development, as well as partners closer to home.
“Not everybody needs to have the same solution, but everybody’s got the same problem,” said Mary Keating, director of community services for DuPage County, Ill. “… Expanding that view beyond sort of what our ‘typical’ model has been, has been really helpful. Also, making sure that our county Board understands this is not a one department [issue].
“Community services isn’t going to solve this issue, building and zoning isn’t going to solve this issue, nor is finance — we all have to collaborate across departments in trying to get this moving forward.”