ROCKVILLE – Currently landlords in the city cannot technically charge affordable housing residents a fee for parking in addition to rent – but that could change this month.
At Monday’s mayor and council meeting, Rockville staff suggested an amendment to the affordable housing ordinance that would allow an extra parking fee on top of rent calculations. Although it would be a change in law, housing planner Erin Wilson said some landlords had actually been charging the extra fee up until October 2014, when a resident brought it to her attention.
Ten developments in the city, plus three in the pipeline, have Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs), which the city requires to make up 12.5 percent of the units in developments with more than 50 units. The city currently allows landlords to charge MPDU renters fees for the same amenities – like pets – they charge market renters.
Part of the desire to begin charging parking fees comes from development trends since the city passed the ordinance in 1990, according to Wilson. Five of the current buildings including MPDUs charge a monthly fee for parking, ranging from $25-$65.
“Development has just really changed in the city so there’s been a shift from providing surface parking that’s free or included with rent to structured parking or parking garages,” Wilson said.
Councilmember Virginia Onley said she wanted to try to find a compromise that would maintain the financial benefits for residents of MPDUs, such as giving them one car free and charging for a second car.
Wilson said 75 percent of MPDU residents own one car and about 10 percent own more than one. But she said it can cost $17,000-$35,000 just to construct one spot and urged the council to consider charging a reduced parking fee without eliminating the fee entirely.
“I think you have to look at the fact that there is a cost to constructing and providing this parking in a new way,” Wilson said.
But Onley said the costs of new trends in parking justified the fee.
“I think that’s the cost to doing business. I’d like to see a compromise but to just charge for parking…it’s going to be too much of a burden and we’re not lowering the rent so in addition to the rent they’re going to pay for parking,” Onley said. “I think that’s going to throw the financial balance off.”
Councilmember Beryl Feinberg asked if it would be possible to implement a sliding scale for parking fees based on income, but Wilson said that would be complicated to administer. She instead suggested setting a flat percentage of market rate for the parking fee if the council did not want to allow market rate fees for MPDU residents.
“Nothing will be exactly equitable for every household, unfortunately,” Wilson said.
The proposal initially alarmed Councilmember Tom Moore, but he said he thought the amendment served as an acceptable change once he understood the city had been allowing landlords to charge for parking until October.
“All we’re doing is restoring the situation these households had up until October,” Moore said.
Wilson said the building owners had been paying for the parking spots while waiting for the city to resolve the issue.
Montgomery County allows its MDPU building owners to charge affordable housing residents for structured parking as they would charge market rate residents.
Staff tentatively scheduled adoption of the amendment for April 27, as of Wednesday morning.