Francoise Carrier, Chair
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Montgomery County Planning Board
8787 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20910
RE: Support of proposed ZTA revising the requirements for permitting accessory apartments
Dear Chair Carrier and members of the Board:
Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Our organization is a regional organization focused on ensuring transportation and development decisions are made with genuine community involvement and accommodate growth while revitalizing communities, providing more housing and travel choices, and conserving our natural and historic areas.
We strongly support the zoning text amendment proposal to revise and simplify the requirements for permitting accessory dwellings. We commend the Planning Board for addressing some of the key problems within the current rules which are discouraging the creation of accessory apartments that are perfectly compatible with existing neighborhoods. We also commend the Board for recognizing the potential of accessory units as a key opportunity to address the county’s tremendous affordable housing shortfall.
Encouraging accessory dwelling units, provided through conversion of a secondary structure or inside an owner-occupied home, is an important way to improve housing choices. These units can be seamlessly fit into existing neighborhoods, benefiting renters, homeowners, and the neighborhood. Often, homes in older neighborhoods are designed in a way that makes it easy to create a small second unit. Large basements, old carriage houses, or attics are ripe for such adaptations. As average U.S. household size continues to decline, older homes, built for larger families, offer the potential to house the same number of people in smaller households if separate units are allowed.
Most people don’t like change, but we are all changing nonetheless. Like it or not, we are all aging. And as we age, we have different housing needs. Accessory apartments provide an opportunity for older homeowners to stay in their larger home that no longer needs to house the children of a family that have grown up moved away. As retirees seek to stay in their homes on fixed incomes, renting out unneeded space can be an attractive option for earning additional income to help keep up with expenses. Other benefits include companionship, home maintenance, or other personal services in exchange for lower rent. Also, new home buyers can qualify for a larger mortgage loan based on the income from a legal accessory unit. A homeowner may desire to purchase a larger home with an accessory unit so that the unit can be converted to meet the needs of a growing family in the future.
Montgomery Couny’s current permitting process is cumbersome. While some Montgomery County homes contain un-permitted accessory units, easing restrictions and encouraging legal units offers greater legal protection to landlords, renters and the neighborhood. By allowing this use by-right, accessory apartments can provide many benefits resulting from the increased diversity of housing choices in a neighborhood. Easing the process for creating accessory apartments will also help the county address its housing crisis in a low-impact and cost-effective way.
Thank you for your consideration.
Coalition for Smarter Growth