Image by Dan Reed.

Weekly, Regional Policy Director Dan Reed and DC Policy Director Alex Baca will share with you an action you can take in the immediate future that has the potential, sometimes great and sometimes small, to increase the number of homes in our region, decrease the trips people take by car, make all of it safer, and not screw people over in the process. This week: join our DC budget training next week; manifesting bus priority on Columbia Road; Republicans fail to gut Moore Housing in Maryland; are you running for office in Virginia this year??; and don’t forget our happy hour in Riverdale Park Thursday.

If you have any questions, email about Maryland and Virginia Do Somethings, and about Washington, DC, Do Somethings—or, about whatever you want to talk about.


Mayor Muriel Bowser is expected to release her proposed FY25 budget next Wednesday, April 3, 2024. I’ll have more takes when it drops, but here’s one for today: The canard that “budgets are moral documents” annoys me. Yes, a jurisdiction’s budget is basically representative of what is considered acceptable, or not, there—and, so, there is a distinct morality to, say, a line item for a $500 million contribution to a privately owned arena and $0 for permanent supportive housing vouchers when there’s not enough money for both.

But I think that there’s something more fundamental to the whole thing. Budgets are a series of choices made by participants who are ideologically motivated, which I generally hold means that they possess an identifiable set of beliefs or philosophies. Louis Althusser’s hypotheses of ideology, which include the post-Marxist assertion that ideology has a material existence, always rang the most true for me. A budget is an almost too on-the-nose example of an ideology’s material existence.

Because the Tax Revision Commission’s leadership could not stick to its own principles of a revenue-neutral package, what the council does in response to the mayor’s proposed budget, and what ultimately passes, will be something of a referendum on the District’s ideology: Are we ideologically progressive, or moderate? I suspect that the greatest priority for the legislative branch will be restoring cuts made by the executive, which I think is reasonable—and which those who fancy themselves fiscally conservative might call irresponsible spending. At the same time, I don’t think any councilmember is going to raise the personal income tax again. (Though maybe they should! No one left the District because of it last time.)

So, anyway, we’re holding a budget training on Monday, April 1, via Zoom, at 6:00 pm, on topics such as how the District’s budget process works, and why it’s unforgivable if you act like capital dollars can simply be used for operating expenses. Perhaps I’ll once again summon the depths of my American studies degree and philosophize further on the epistemological and material meaning of budgets!

Also, there’s still time to tell the District Department of Transportation that its bus-priority plan for Columbia Road is good, and should happen. Email your posi vibes to by April 1. —AB


Don’t forget: Thursday evening is our happy hour at Denizens Brewing Company in Riverdale Park. Also, it’s my birthday party! See you there? More info and RSVP here.

Governor Moore’s Housing Expansion and Affordability Act (aka House Bill 538, aka Moore Housing) finally reached the House floor this week, and until now public criticism has been fairly quiet. Behind the scenes, General Assembly members have raised issues with parts of the bill allowing duplexes and townhomes in single-family zones, or blocking localities from using school crowding or traffic as an excuse to deny affordable housing–both of which were stripped from the bill last week.

Tuesday morning, the opposition to Moore Housing became much more visible when the House voted to move the amended bill forward and Republicans balked. Delegate Matt Morgan, a Republican from St. Mary’s County, claimed the bill would force communities to accept “low-income housing” and “trailers.” He’s referring to the bill’s provision to allow manufactured or modular homes in single-family zones.

Manufactured or modular homes–the distinction mainly has to do with building codes–are built in a factory then placed on a foundation in their final location. They’re more affordable and efficient to build, but it’s hard to tell one by looks alone. There’s even a plotline on the reality show Pit Bulls and Parolees about a couple who build a manufactured home after losing their house in a fire. Like pit bulls and parolees, manufactured homes carry a stigma. They’re derisively called “mobile homes” or “trailers” even though most never move, and potential buyers can struggle with financing one. Many Maryland cities and counties restrict them to “mobile home parks” where homeowners rent the land their home sits on from sometimes-predatory landlords.

“Where in District 19 are we building trailer parks?” Morgan asked Delegate Vaughn Stewart, a Democrat who’d just presented the bill, referring to his Montgomery County district. (In fact, the county actually has a few.) In January I called Stewart Maryland’s Housing MVP, and this exchange, starting at 9:00 in this video, illustrates why.

Stewart: “The purpose of the bill is to provide more housing which we desperately need in Maryland. We’re not talking about, as you described, ‘mostly low-income housing.’ When I say affordable, I mean someone making 60% of the [area median income], so in Montgomery County for a family of four that’s about $80,000 a year…I personally wouldn’t call that low-income, significantly more than this job at least.” (Delegates make about $50,000 a year.)

Morgan: (muttering) “That’s true.”

Stewart patiently explaining how the bill works. Screenshot from the Maryland General Assembly.

Stewart: “And we’re trying to be sensitive to local zoning authority while trying to tackle a huge social problem in the state which is the lack of affordable housing…”

Morgan: “I’m familiar with modular homes, they’re normally built in a warehouse, built and constructed very well, and arrive in sections on a trailer then picked up with a crane…the legislation says manufactured, which is a trailer. You want to talk about the difference between the two?”

Stewart: “Manufactured is a broad term for anything that’s built off-site and that includes modular homes…that said I don’t think we should be on the floor today providing essentially class discrimination against people who live in homes that we consider low-class. And that’s not something we want local jurisdictions to do either, because we want homes for everybody, whether you make $30,000 a year or $60,000 a year or $300,000 a year, everybody needs shelter.”

The following day, Wednesday, House Republicans came back swinging. Minority Whip Jesse Pippy of Frederick County claimed the bill would “allow heavy development in areas that don’t need it and don’t want it.” Republican delegates then proceeded to introduce several amendments:

  • Pippy’s amendment would prevent builders from building larger or denser developments in exchange for providing affordable housing, which is the entire point of the bill.
  • Delegate Stuart Schmidt, Jr. of Anne Arundel County proposed allowing cities and counties to block any project near an extremely overcrowded school, something the bill already does.
  • Delegate Morgan would eliminate all affordable housing requirements from the bill due to concerns and frankly a lot of confusion about inclusionary zoning, which was basically invented in Maryland in the 1970s.

In response, Stewart noted that Florida’s Live Local Act–signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis–may go further than this bill, allowing even bigger buildings and requiring even more affordable housing. This was not received well. “I don’t care about Ron DeSantis,” replied Delegate Seth Howard of Anne Arundel County. “Just because I’m a Republican standing up, doesn’t mean I care about Ron DeSantis.” All three amendments failed, with Democrats who form a supermajority in the House of Delegates mostly voting against them.

The House should take a final vote on the bill later this week Thursday and then it heads over to the Senate. We’re hearing there’s a promising amendment that could restore some of the bill’s original effectiveness, and as I find out more I’ll ask you to start cranking out emails to your senators.

In the meantime: The Montgomery County Council is close to voting on the FAITH Zoning Text Amendment, which would make it easier for nonprofits and faith communities to build affordable housing on their land. This is one of several YIGBY (that’s Yes In God’s Backyard) bills introduced in Maryland and Virginia this year, and with over 600 properties across the county owned by faith communities alone, it could have a significant impact. The council’s Planning, Housing, and Parks committee made some helpful amendments, including one that further streamlines the approval process.

If you have a few minutes and live in Montgomery County:

  • Send an email to the County Council letting them know you support the FAITH ZTA, as amended by the Planning, Housing, and Parks committee. The council has a new form you can use without typing out all their email addresses, so let’s see how that goes. Here’s our testimony, which you can pull from.—DR


Local primary elections in Virginia are Tuesday, June 18, which includes pivotal races in Arlington County and Alexandria. We’re endorsing for the open County Board seat in Arlington, for Alexandria mayor (also open), and for Alexandria City Council, which has two open seats. Keep an eye out for more information on that–and if you’re a registered candidate or planning to file by the April 4 deadline, let me know at dreed [at] ggwash [dot] org so I can make sure to send you our questionnaire.—DR

Your support of GGWash enables us, Dan and Alex, to do our jobs. Our jobs are knowing how development and planning works in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. If it’s appropriate to take action to advance our goals, which we hope you share, we can let you know what will have the most impact, and how to do it well. You can make a financial contribution to GGWash here.