General Plan Testimony for June 14, 2023 Public Hearing
To: Chairperson Christiana Rigby and the Members of the Howard County Council
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the public discussion of HoCo By Design and the impact
it will have on Howard County now and in the future.
The League of Women Voters of Howard County has been involved in advocacy related to land
development and housing for a number of years, and we have been following the evolution of this new
general plan closely. As an organization that values research and consensus, we are pleased with the
work the county has done to study the issues from all sides and to involve a diverse array of stakeholders
in developing the HoCo By Design plan. We also support the intentional focus on equity within each
branch of the plan.
The League is well-aware of the immense growth Howard County has experienced and will continue to
experience over the next decade and more, and how this growth makes it imperative for us to increase
the number of housing units. We are also aware of how current housing shortages, and the resulting
increases to housing costs, have created an affordability crisis that impacts everyone in the county,
including those who protect, serve, and teach in our communities.
As many of you on the Council may already know based on our past advocacy, affordable housing is an
issue of great importance to the League. We believe that citizens deserve an adequate housing choice, in
a suitable living environment, within the economic reach of persons of all ages.
We support HoCo By Design’s plan to address low-income housing as well as the “missing middle”
through the diversification of new housing construction, especially the focus on multi-family units,
smaller units that enable home ownership for low to moderate income individuals and families,
mixed-use buildings, and changes to zoning codes that allow the use of ADUs.
However, as members of the Affordable Housing Coalition, we believe that, in light of the severity of the
affordability crisis in Howard County, this plan does not go far enough in its requirements for affordable units in
new housing construction.
Specifically, we believe that the plan should be amended to state that:
At least 2,000 new homes should be built each year, of which 25%, or a minimum of 500 homes, should be
affordable to households earning below 60% of the median income. Of these affordable homes,we agree that at
least 10% should support residents with disabilities.
Transportation is both a key issue for us as a growing county and a subsidiary issue related to affordable housing.
It’s not enough for someone to be able to own a home or pay reasonable rent – they also need to be able to reliably
access workplaces and commerce centers from their homes.
Additionally, as population and construction increase, the County will need infrastructure that accommodates
more people traveling through more crowded spaces. Therefore, the League supports HoCo By Design’s
investments in increasing and improving public transportation, especially the new Downtown Columbia and East
County Transit Centers, new park and ride lots, and County-supported improvements to MARC stations/lines, as
well as building new walking and biking pathways to connect housing and commercial areas.
Protecting and preserving our beautiful county is also of great importance to the League, and we support HoCo By
Design’s ecological health implementation actions as outlined in the plan.
Finally, the League is invested in promoting equity in education, which includes ensuring that all students attend
schools that provide adequate space, well-maintained facilities, and a healthy environment. We support HoCo By
Design’s plan to address both population growth and extensive deferred maintenance by renovating Oakland Mills
Middle School, Dunloggin Middle School, and Oakland Mills High School, and by increasing space at Hammond
In summary, the League is highly supportive of HoCo By Design, with the only caveat being that we believe it
includes insufficient requirements for affordable housing. We urge the county to pass this plan with an amendment
that requires 25%, or at least 500 new homes, to be affordable to households earning below 60% of the median
Thank you again for your time and consideration of our testimony.
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