Candidates for Montgomery County Executive participate in virtual public forum about housing crisis


MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — The candidates for Montgomery County Executive discussed housing issues in a virtual public forum on Wednesday night.

The candidates who participated in the forum include: Businessman David Blair, incumbent County Executive Marc Elrich, Councilmember and former County Council President Tom Hucker, and Councilmember Hans Riemer. The panel was moderated by William Roberts, Chair of the Renters Alliance Board.

“Renters do have a voice and your voice does matter,” said Roberts. “What happens to renters should not be an issue mitigated to the sidelines, but policy impacting people who rent their homes needs to be front and center.”

Elrich says producing more affordable housing has been a top priority of his since he was elected. But the pandemic has only exacerbated the housing issues in the county. The Montgomery County Renters Alliance says they are hearing that renters are still struggling to keep up with payments, receive resources, and avoid evictions.

“I organize tenants to buy their own buildings because I recognize that it’s not enough just to protect some of these renters,” said Elrich. “But the real path out of poverty is trying to move people into ownership, and so I spent time doing that.”

Councilmember Tom Hucker in the last 2 years passed 4 new laws to protect tenants. But says much of the council’s work to tackle this crisis has been done without Elrich.  As county executive, Hucker says he would bring the urgency the county needs.

“A stubborn, independent minded county executive responsible for implementing policy in the area’s second largest jurisdiction, and that stubbornness impacts the quality of life for our tenants,” said Hucker. “Just in my district, there are several projects that communities are desperate to redevelop, and we’ve missed opportunities to do that.”

If elected county executive, businessman David Blair aims to set new housing permitting goals aligned with population growth and incentivize development around metro stations. 

“Over 20,000 severely cost burdened renters, most of them making less than half the median income,” said Blair. “There’s no doubt we can and should be doing better.”

Councilmember Hans Riemer also says Elrich has blocked many of the affordable housing efforts. But as county executive, his goal is to make housing more abundant and affordable by creating more housing units, supporting non-profit housing supporters, and supporting tenant rights. 

“Housing shortages lead to homelessness, it makes renting houses harder,” said Riemer. “It squeezes all of the affordable housing out of a community, we have to push back against that.”

The primary election will be held on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, and the general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

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