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: the trouble with tax credits, affordable homes for people with disabilities, and see you tonight???

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.


Tonight is GGWash’s sixteenth birthday party! Our big yearly events—this one, and the fall mixer—are fundraisers, of course. But I really love that we mark our birthday, throw a party, and invite our community to celebrate another year of growth, change, and learning with us. A birthday feels more familiar than an anniversary, and maybe that’s why I like birthdays, whether they’re my own, or someone else’s, or my organization’s.

Our sweet sixteen is sold out, but we have a couple of happy hours planned in May at which I hope to see you. My colleagues Caitlin and Sandy are putting one on in Capitol Hill on Thursday May 16 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at Maketto—family-friendly!—on H Street NE, and would love to see you there; sign up here. And, I’ll be hosting our bi-monthly Mid-City/Near Northwest/Rock Creek West happy hour at Grand Duchess in Adams Morgan on Sunday, May 19, from 3 to 5 pm; sign up here.

Dan’s talking about Last Days of April below, a band I also got into via a Deep Elm Records comp, but I also offer you, in the spirit of the month, Anxious’ “In April.” I saw Anxious about a year ago at Union Stage, a venue that, like its neighbor, Pearl Street Warehouse, where we’ll be for our birthday party tonight, strikes me as too new to feel just right. I can possess that sentiment while also acknowledging that it’s kind of a silly one, because it’s a very cool thing to be able to break a place in with your own memories, in your own time. —AB


It’s the last week of April, which means I’m blasting (to the extent you can blast) the early-2000s Swedish emo band Last Days of April, which is great for fans of Get Up Kids, but like real sad (case in point, their song “The Days I Recall Being Wonderful”). I learned about them on a compilation I bought at the CD & Game Exchange while at UMD, and spent a lot of time listening to it driving around Prince George’s County being in my feelings. To be fair, that’s also how I spend my weekends now going to Home Depot in Hyattsville to buy gravel for my newly completed patio, but I digress.

I’ve lived in my house almost five years, and I’m a long way from thinking about getting old in it, but it’s never too soon to start, I guess. This spring, the Montgomery County Council is talking about expanding the tax credit for homeowners over 65. Today, seniors and retired veterans can cut their property taxes 20% if their home is assessed under a certain value and they’ve lived there for several years; Council President Andrew Friedson wants it to cover homes worth as much as $900,000, and to give lower-income homeowners an even higher discount.

The idea is to make it easier for seniors–especially those on fixed incomes–to age in place in an increasingly expensive region. It has its benefits: you’re in a familiar house in a familiar community, close to friends and loved ones, which can reduce loneliness and improve health outcomes. Staying in your home can also be significantly cheaper than a retirement complex, especially the fancy ones that tend to get built here.

Aging in place can also create challenges for the people doing it, and for the communities they live in. Some people may have to stop driving, stranding them if there aren’t other transportation options, and may have trouble maintaining a large home. County planners say that adults over 55 own most of the homes here, resulting in some 18,000 households that are overhoused–one or two people living in, say, a four-bedroom family home. That also chokes off the already-tight housing supply from younger families who need more space. Since most school enrollment comes from people moving into existing homes, for the first time in decades there are now 57 schools in Montgomery County with more than 100 empty seats, from close-in neighborhoods like Silver Spring to suburban areas like Potomac and Germantown. There aren’t enough kids to fill those schools because families with kids can’t move there.

We don’t have a position on this tax credit yet, but the whole DC region is getting older, and we need to think about how to balance the needs of an aging population while making sure younger people can move here and grow old here too.


Thanks to all of the Arlington and Alexandria primary candidates who submitted endorsement questionnaires! We’ll post their responses later this week, with our endorsements to follow shortly after. Election Day is June 18, while early voting in both jurisdictions begins May 3 and runs through June 15.

In the meantime: Next week, Arlington County’s Planning Commission will consider a proposal from Melwood, a nonprofit that supports adults with disabilities, to redevelop a 1920s-era elementary school they own in Aurora Highlands. Melwood envisions incorporating it into a four- or five-story building with 104 dedicated affordable homes, 30 of which would be set aside for people with disabilities. A small park next door would remain.

The commission must decide whether to change the property’s land use designation (not quite zoning, basically Arlington’s version of the FLUM) to allow a larger, denser building. Neighbors are big mad, arguing that five floors is too tall, they weren’t listened to, and that preserving history is more important. Arlington County surveyed about 240 residents, about 40% of whom supported the development, a reminder that people generally like things.

Aurora Highlands is a neighborhood in the shadow of Amazon’s new headquarters, one of the most transit-accessible places in the region, and a place where the average home costs $865,000. Our housing shortage falls especially hard on adults with disabilities, who face a lot of housing barriers and struggle to find safe, affordable, and dignified places to live. One family in Rockville literally had to build an apartment building to ensure their adult son could live independently. There should be no question whether a low-rise apartment building to serve people who need affordable homes is appropriate or necessary for that community, and we hope the Planning Commission feels the same way.

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. And if you want to see Do Something in your inbox, scroll down and sign up for our daily emails.

Dan Reed (they/them) is Greater Greater Washington’s regional policy director, focused on housing and land use policy in Maryland and Northern Virginia. For a decade prior, Dan was a transportation planner working with communities all over North America to make their streets safer, enjoyable, and equitable. Their writing has appeared in publications including Washingtonian, CityLab, and Shelterforce, as well as Just Up The Pike, a neighborhood blog founded in 2006. Dan lives in Silver Spring with Drizzy, the goodest boy ever.

Alex Baca is the DC Policy Director at GGWash. Previously the engagement director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and the general manager of Cuyahoga County's bikesharing system, she has also worked in journalism, bike advocacy, architecture, construction, and transportation in DC, San Francisco, and Cleveland. She has written about all of the above for CityLab, Slate, Vox, Washington City Paper, and other publications.