Montgomery Planning Briefs Planning Board on Neighborhood Change Analysis

by MCS Staff

Most pressing challenge in Montgomery County is poverty concentration and not displacement

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) presented an analysis of neighborhood change to the Montgomery County Planning Board at their meeting on Thursday, May 19. Montgomery Planning staff briefed Planning Board members on the research project which looks at changes in the economic and racial composition of Census tracts across the region with a focus on Montgomery County. The two most notable findings are 1) the neighborhood change trend in most urgent need of addressing in Montgomery County is poverty concentration – and not displacement, and 2) new housing construction is associated with diverse, inclusive neighborhood economic growth.  The work is based on the methodology developed by the University of Minnesota and has been updated and advanced by Montgomery Planning’s Research and Strategic Projects Division.

View the May 19 neighborhood change staff report.
Learn more about Montgomery Planning’s neighborhood change analysis.

As part of Montgomery Planning’s commitment to equity, this project is part of a suite of tools Research and Strategic Projects Division staff are developing to better understand equity issues and neighborhood conditions in the county.

“This research shows that building new housing is highly unlikely to cause displacement,” said Montgomery Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. “In fact, new development is far more likely to prevent displacement by making room in attractive neighborhoods for people at every income level.”

“Building new housing throughout the county, including in areas that have not seen new development, will play a critical role in enabling neighborhood diversity—and in promoting inclusive growth everywhere,” said Planning Research Coordinator Benjamin Kraft.

Neighborhood change analysis key takeaways:

  • The concentration of low-income residents in Montgomery County’s neighborhoods is the county’s most pressing challenge related to neighborhood change. Eight percent of residents live in Census tracts with a concentration of poverty, compared to 6% who live in tracts experiencing displacement. This is in contrast to the County’s neighbors in Washington DC and northern Virginia: excluding Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, only 5% of residents in the region live in tracts experiencing poverty concentration compared to 15% living in tracts experiencing displacement.
  • People of color are more affected by low-income concentration than by displacement in Montgomery County. Twelve percent of Black residents and 13% of Latino residents in Montgomery County live in a tract where poverty has concentrated over the last two decades while four percent of Black residents and 6% of Latino residents live in tracts experiencing displacement.
  • In contrast to Montgomery County, people of color throughout the DC region are more impacted by displacement than poverty concentration. While only 4% of Black residents and six percent of Latino residents in Montgomery County live in tracts experiencing displacement, 14% of Black residents and 13% of Latino residents in the rest of the region live in tracts experiencing displacement.
  • Building new housing throughout Montgomery County has played a critical role in enabling neighborhood diversity—and in promoting inclusive growth. Tracts that added residents at all income levels over the last two decades (i.e. inclusive growth) added 18 times as many housing units as tracts with declining numbers of lower income residents.
  • By contrast, failing to build enough new housing units exacerbates both low-income concentration and the displacement of low-income families. More diverse types of homes will give Montgomery County residents more options for choosing where they want to live. The County’s successful Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program ensures that affordable units are a significant part of any new development.
  • Most neighborhoods in the region, including in Montgomery County, have not experienced significant economic changes over the past 20 years. In Montgomery County, 81% of tracts do not meet neighborhood change criteria, meaning wealthy neighborhoods have generally stayed wealthy while poor neighborhoods have generally stayed poor.

The analysis

Montgomery Planning’s updated Neighborhood Change analysis uses data from 2000 to 2019. It focuses on Montgomery County, but considers the entire DC metropolitan region for context and makes specific comparisons to neighboring and other core jurisdictions, including Prince George’s County, Washington, DC, Arlington and Fairfax counties, and the City of Alexandria. This analysis is based on the work by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota for its 2019 report, American Neighborhood Change in the 21st Century: Gentrification and Decline.

Montgomery Planning’s Equity Agenda for Planning
Montgomery Planning recognizes and acknowledges the role that our plans and policies have played in creating and perpetuating racial inequity in Montgomery County. We are committed to transforming the way we work as we seek to address, mitigate, and eliminate inequities from the past and develop planning solutions to create equitable communities in the future. While it will take time to fully develop a new methodology for equity in the planning process, we cannot delay applying an equity lens to our work. Efforts to date include:

  • Developing an Equity Agenda for Planning. The Planning Board approved Equity in Master Planning Framework, and staff is working on action items.
  • Prioritizing equity in Thrive Montgomery 2050. Community Equity is one of the three priority areas of our county General Plan update, Thrive Montgomery 2050.
  • Focusing on equity in upcoming plans. Equity is a central focus of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, the first master plan to launch since Montgomery County’s Racial Equity & Social Justice Act passed. All upcoming plans and studies will have an equity focus.
  • Created an Equity Focus Areas mapping tool and developing a Community Equity Index. Equity Focus Areas in Montgomery County have high concentrations of lower-income people of color, who may also speak English less than very well. Montgomery Planning developed this data-driven tool to identify and map these areas to assess potential racial and social inequities and produce master plans that will foster more equitable outcomes for communities in Montgomery County. The Community Equity Index will expand on the previous Equity Focus Area analysis, creating a more robust, diagnostic tool providing additional detail of critically selected neighborhood characteristics relevant for equity analysis countywide.
  • Viewing management and operations through an equity lens. Our efforts are not limited to the master planning process. Management and operational functions like communications and human resources are developing approaches, tools, plans, and training to ensure that we look at everything through an equity lens.

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