Montgomery’s McMansions will need to find a new purpose

by Dan Reed

Skeptics of Montgomery County’s proposal to allow homeowners to build accessory apartments more easily claim it will change or harm single-family neighborhoods. But recent trends in housing suggest that those neighborhoods will change anyway.

Slightly less than half of Montgomery households live in single-family homes today, and pretty soon they may no longer be the most common type of house in the county. According to the 2010 American Commun­ity Survey, just 49.9% of the county’s 353,000 house­holds live in single-family homes. Another 31% live in apartments or condominiums, while the remaining 19% live in townhomes or duplexes.

Demand for big suburban houses or “McMansions” has waned in recent years, due to their high cost and shrinking households. Young adults aren’t interested in them, either. Even those who prefer single-family homes would take a smaller house or a townhouse to be closer to jobs and amenities.

As a result, newly built homes are more likely to be apartments or townhomes. Data from the MoCo Planning Department shows that of 29,000 homes approved for construction here in the coming years, just 7,900 or 27% of them will be single-family homes. Those houses are likely to be smaller as well.