Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Where is Subsidized Housing in MoCo? - Part Three

In Part Two, we revealed the location of all subsidized housing units in the county by zip code and Council District. Today we will begin looking at theories to explain why these units are located where they are.

1. Proximity to Metro Stations
One theory holds that subsidized units tend to be located near Metro stations. Why? Many new developments in recent years have been built near Metro stations, and they have included significant numbers of moderately-priced dwelling units (MPDUs). The Housing Opportunities Commission buys some of these MPDUs and rents them.

This theory does not hold up. In the chart below, we compare zip codes with Metro stations in them to zip codes without stations. Zip codes with Metro stations actually had a lower combined percentage of subsidized units (3.7%) than zip codes without stations (4.3%). But the pattern is more complicated than that. Zip codes on the Silver Spring-Wheaton side of the Red Line had subsidized unit percentages between 5.2% to 6.1% while those on the Bethesda-Rockville side had percentages between 0.7% and 3.0%. Our current subsidized housing policy does not provide enough opportunities for the working poor to live near Metro stations on the western side of the county.

2. New vs. Old Communities
Another theory holds that newer communities are more likely to have subsidized units than older communities because they were constructed after the county’s MPDU program began in the mid-1970s. Accordingly, those MDPUs attracted large numbers of poorer residents and some of them were later bought by HOC.

This theory has little truth to it. In the chart below, we compare the 15 zip codes with the highest percentages of subsidized housing to the 15 zip codes with the lowest percentages. The zip codes with the highest percentages had a median housing unit year built of 1974. The zip codes with the lowest percentages had a median year built of 1969 – only a slight difference.

Furthermore, in the distribution by Council District (reproduced below), District 5 had an earlier median year built (1958) than District 1 (1966). But District 5 has more than three times the number of subsidized units as District 1. There must be a different reason explaining why these units are disproportionately absent from Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac.

Tomorrow, we will examine another theory with more merit.