Job Growth to Give a Kick to Area Housing

Article excerpt

Byline: Michele Lerner, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Forecasting by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) predicts a 35 percent increase in households in this region along with job growth of 39 percent between 2005 and 2030. Nearly 5 million people already live in the Washington area, and forecasters anticipate more than 6.6 million residents by 2030, according to COG's fall 2006 report "Growth Trends to 2030: Cooperative Forecasting in the Washington Region," which is based on the economic forecasts of local jurisdictions and the regional economic reports generated by COG's planning directors.

With clogged roads, crowded schools and expensive housing dominating the agenda for local governments, current residents may wonder just where all the new arrivals will go. Analysts of the local economy can predict growth patterns based on the availability of land, location of jobs and historic patterns of development.

"Due to the continued strength of the local economy, we see fairly steady growth occurring in the Washington suburbs, including Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland," says Paul DesJardin, chief of housing and planning in COG's Department of Human Services, Planning and Public Safety.

"While we anticipate a fairly steady growth in traditional single-family home developments in these suburbs, we also see more interest than in the past in transit-based development," he says. "Other counties have seen the success of the Bethesda area and Arlington, with development centered around Metro stations, so we will see more of this in the future."

COG's forecasts predict that the largest number of new households will be in Fairfax, Montgomery, Loudoun and Prince William counties between 2005 and 2030, with Loudoun County growing by 94 percent, adding more than 82,000 households to its 2005 base of 87,500 households.

The District is forecast to experience 26 percent growth in the number of households between 2005 and 2030, while Prince George's County is anticipated to experience growth by 23 percent more households.

"Prince George's County is the sleeping giant," says John McClain, a senior fellow with the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. "It's obvious if you fly over the Washington area in an airplane that there's so much developable land there in close proximity to D.C."

"There's lots of potential for growth along the Metro line out to Largo Town Center, too," he says. "The Prince George's County government has slowed down some development in the county, which may mean that Charles and Calvert counties may begin to experience more pressure for growth."

While development in Bethesda and Arlington depends in part on the proximity of those areas to downtown Washington as well as Metro, Mr. DesJardin anticipates more transit-based development in the outer suburbs.

"Already we're seeing the development at MetroWest in Vienna and Largo Town Center near Metro stations, but also projects.. even farther from downtown, such as Harbor Station in Prince William County," Mr. DesJardin says.

Although transit-based development usually means condominiums and apartments rather than single-family homes, Mr. DesJardin expects these new developments to include larger homes with two or three bedrooms to meet demand.

John McIlwain, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute, says he expects transit-based development to follow the rail line from Tysons Corner to Washington Dulles International Airport. He also anticipates that the majority of development in this area for the next five to 10 years will take place in the outer suburbs.

"Even with traffic congestion, the lack of public transportation and rising energy prices, I don't see a change in the pattern of development moving farther into Stafford County, West Virginia and along the I-95 corridor south of Washington," Mr. …