Greed, thy name is Upstairs at Bethesda Row. This urban monstrosity has laboriously taken shape across the street from the Arlington Road Giant. Now here come the import luxury sedans and Priuses of the landed class and the nouveau riche. In a county where the developers' new apartments and condos often have 7 or 9 tenants, Upstairs is 60% full by comparison.
Of course, that means it is 40% vacant. But that is impressive for 2008 in Montgomery County. What is the secret? How can buildings renting in Rockville's Town Center for $1600 be less full than Upstairs with 1 bedrooms starting at $2100+ a month? Could it be that there is a special target audience out there, and, "if you build it, they will come?" Did somebody say Collection at Chevy Chase? It wasn't me! But, what if, in the midst of human suffering and a housing crisis, a government would tune out the average citizen and actively approve buildings designed for a wealthy audience only?
How many MPDUs are in this building? There is no green space on this site, either. Therefore, our County Executive and Council have been caught red-handed, violating everything they have promised to do on affordable housing and "green" buildings.
The sad story of affordable housing in Montgomery County is quite old by now. You know that back in 2006, I was offering actual solutions while our elected officials were touting "Apartment Buildings for Homeless People." That phrase became an instant classic, by the way. Is that the most ironic statement you've ever heard? It actually is a fairly honest statement by our Democratic elected officials, because - as I said at the time - they consider homelessness to be an incurable disease.
What is a "homeless person?" Why would you call someone homeless after they have a place to live (Apartments Buildings for Homeless People)? Well, you would say that if you believed that they are permanently going to have no income or future prospects. Hence, they will be a permanent political constituency for those elected officials, surviving on government handouts indefinitely.
Now they have a new phrase to cover this strategy, but to try to make it sound better: "Housing First." This is the idea that you want to get a homeless person into a home immediately, rather than a shelter. Of course, that is everyone's goal. But that shouldn't be a long-term plan. First you need to analyze the situation of each individual. Is this a person who requires mental health treatment or treatment for addiction to alcohol or drugs? Then let's get them connected to those resources. Is this a person who simply needs a living wage to get going again? That can be done as well. But let's get it done, because just as some have said a human being cannot be "illegal," so it can be said that no human being should have to be "homeless."
Beyond that, we have a huge majority of working people in Montgomery County who aren't getting handouts and services. And they certainly aren't getting to move into Upstairs at Bethesda Row. Why should college graduates have to move elsewhere? Why should a person have to work two jobs to afford a clean, livable apartment in Montgomery County? It's immoral, it's a disgrace, and something must be done about it. There is no reason on God's green Earth that a studio apartment should rent for more than $900 a month. No one is asking for free housing. But, come on, this is ridiculous. The more units that come on the market, the more the rent goes up. Clearly, we have a situation where market forces have failed. Bigtime. What happened to the American Dream? Study hard, go to college, work, and society will provide you with a minimum of a living wage, housing, food, clothing, etc., in exchange, right? Not anymore.
Our elected officials have done nothing, and have allowed their developer friends to break all promises to provide MPDUs. Dr. Yes (Royce Hanson) has approved numerous new "boutique" condo buildings for the rich in downtown Bethesda, with MPDUs in single digits or even zero. That is a disgrace. And the Arlington Road corridor is becoming a Hall of Shame for affordable housing failure, with condos and apartments designed exclusively for the wealthy, and with full support from our elected officials.