The lack of affordable housing is one of the leading drivers of poverty and instability in Montgomery County and has always been a top priority for AIM. It is a burning issue that comes up over and over again in both individual meetings and listening sessions. In Montgomery County alone, it is estimated that the housing shortage is between 45,0000 and 60,000 units and is constantly growing. This means that tens of thousands of the very people who are employed by Montgomery County-teachers, nurses, firemen, grocery store clerks-can no longer afford to live in it.
In 2002, in order to address the growing affordable housing problem in Montgomery County, AIM leaders, clergy and congregations worked with County Executive Duncan and the County Council to put more money into the Housing Initiative Fund (HIF). This fund is used to give flexible loans and grants to builders of affordable housing. AIM leaders and our allies organized to raise the funding from the original $2 million to a peak of $54 million.While this proved a great success, in 2008 the spending was cut by $24 million. At an electoral assembly organize by AIM and our allies, County Executive Leggett promised to restore the fund to $54 million back into the HIF and to create 1,000 new units of affordable housing but when the budget was released in December, Leggett did not follow through. However, AIM leaders, clergy and congregations worked with the County Council to ensure the fund was not cut in a tight budget year.
AIM leaders, clergy and congregations have also ensured the County Council and County Executive hold affordable housing as a top priority through the Moderately Priced Housing Law. This law mandates that between 12.5% and 15% of new developments larger than 20 units must be made affordable. At Crown Farm in Gaithersburg, a developer bought the land to built apartments but petitioned the local government to not have to put in affordable units. AIM leaders organized to ensure the County Council members and Mayor Sydney Katz retained the affordable units despite the developer’s wishes to make himself more profitable.
Ultimately, AIM has been extremely successful in our efforts to increase the amount of affordable housing in Montgomery County. In the last 16 years, AIM members have organized to create over $660 million of affordable housing stock in the Housing Initiative Fund. Even with these efforts, thousands more residents still cannot afford to live or retire in Montgomery County. AIM continues to keep affordable housing as a top priority until all people have affordable, safe and clean housing available to them.