Journal of Housing & Community Development

Creating a Vibrant and Sustainable Community

August 14, 2020

The Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County (HOC) wins a 2019 Award of Excellence in Project Design for developing The Lindley, an energy-efficient affordable housing community with access to public transportation. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development. 

In Montgomery County, Maryland — and across the nation — rent increases continue to outpace wage growth. A family living in the county cannot afford to rent a modest, two-bedroom apartment on minimum wage. The median household income in Montgomery County is $103,178, while the average annual income for the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County (HOC) customers – most of who are working adults, seniors and/or persons with disabilities – is $18,600. Government resources for affordable housing development are disappearing and many low- and moderate-income households are forced to seek housing options in the county outskirts, without suitable public transit options or connections to high-performing schools. 

In 2018, the HOC opened The Lindley in Chevy Chase to provide much-needed affordable housing for the community. The Lindley replaced Chevy Chase Lakes, a property that was built in the 1950s and updated in 2005. The unit and community layouts of Chevy Chase Lakes had become functionally obsolete and unappealing to the modern market. The property’s age and location provided an opportunity for redevelopment and for creating affordable housing in one of the country’s best school clusters.  

The Lindley is comprised of 96 one-bedroom, 89 two-bedroom, and 15 three-bedroom units. Forty units are restricted at up to 100 percent of area median income as workforce housing and the remaining 40 units are restricted at 50 percent of AMI – providing welcomed affordability. Additionally, all 15 three-bedroom units are restricted at 50 percent AMI to serve very low-income families and maximize access to the strong network of schools in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase community. 

The development of the Purple Line light rail connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties presented HOC with a chance to preserve and increase affordable units near a future transit hub, keeping residents connected to community resources and employment opportunities. The Lindley is also sited directly off a major artery in Montgomery County/Washington DC – Connecticut Avenue – making it well suited for residents who drive as well as those who use the County’s or WMATA’s bus services. Additionally, residents who opt for more environmentally friendly alternatives, such as biking, have access to the Capital Crescent Trail.   

The Lindley features several elements that support sustainability, energy efficiency, and demonstrate environmental consciousness. Ample interior bike parking and reserved garage spaces for LEV and electric vehicles encourage use of low-impact transportation options. The building’s concrete structure and interior metal stud partitions make substantial use of recycled, local materials. Bio-swale planters around the perimeter of the building capture water from the roof, allowing it to naturally filter through plantings and media, before re-entering the aquifer.  

The property also features an air-cooling system that demonstrates a commitment to environmental efficiency and sustainability. The make-up air system consists of two Dedicated Outdoor Air (DOA) Units located on the roof. Each variable air flow system delivers the minimum outdoor air rate to each apartment, while recovering heat from the exhaust air flow stream from each apartment. The energy is used to cool and dehumidify the required outdoor air before it is delivered to the occupied zones. The design incorporates green roofs and stormwater retention planters, which use native plant material for ease of maintenance, in order to mitigate stormwater impact. The project is currently targeting LEED Silver certification with the U.S. Green Building Council. 

HOC believes the best way to create vibrant sustainable communities is to develop housing that allows residents to live, work, and play in the same place, all while leveraging transportation infrastructure and public transit investments. The organization is fully committed to the idea of creating socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods through the development of truly mixed-income housing. Creating mixed-income communities is sound social and fiscal policy, since a property with affordable units can self-sustain in part with income generated by market-rate units. The Lindley and its surrounding amenities demonstrate an innovative approach, paving the way for best practices in creating new transit-oriented, high density neighborhoods within existing residential communities. 

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