Ward 3 – Kacy Kostiuk

1. Do you agree with us that more housing, both market rate and subsidized, should be created in Takoma Park? If so, what steps will you take to facilitate creation of new housing?

We face an affordability crisis in Takoma Park and throughout this region, and regional housing shortages are pushing housing prices upward. Takoma Park’s desirability as an active, diverse, beautiful, transit-accessible community is wonderful but also creates affordability issues. We need to take steps to address the housing shortage in a variety of ways and create new housing affordability programs and supports. All of this work must emphasize affordability, racial equity, and a commitment to maintaining a diverse community.

First, we should grow our affordable housing stock in locations throughout the city and look for new opportunities to create high-quality subsidized housing through collaborations with the County and nonprofit providers.

Second, we need to grow our “missing middle” housing to provide opportunities for families looking to move out of rental housing with an affordable home purchase. The City Council recently authorized a collaboration with Habitat for Humanity to create new missing middle housing, and we should continue to look for partnerships that help us achieve this goal, as well as make zoning changes when appropriate to allow for higher-density, more affordable housing.

Our work should also focus on the needs of young adults and seniors. Takoma Park has a smaller population of young adults than most parts of our region because we lack many smaller, affordable housing opportunities. Young adults who grew up here and want to live here independently have few options. We also need housing options for seniors who want to downsize from their houses and remain in the community. Smaller, more affordable units could appeal to both groups, and I would also love to see an innovative project that would bring together both groups.

Additionally, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) offer an important opportunity to provide additional housing capacity within neighborhoods that are largely “built out.” I strongly supported the recent adoption of modified requirements at the County level that make it easier to build ADUs in Takoma Park and believe these should be emphasized in particular in highly transit-accessible locations.

As we move forward, Takoma Park needs to grow our housing stock, maintain and grow our affordable housing protections, and be innovative in our work. Given that we have relatively few spaces for new development, we need to work in collaboration with residents, developers, and other levels of government to ensure that housing projects are done in strategic ways that meet our housing and community goals.

2. Takoma Park has several potential development and revitalization opportunities. Please describe your vision for the following sites. In your opinion, how should they be further developed?

  1. Takoma-Langley Crossroads (Purple Line station)

The Crossroads is a vibrant commercial area with transit access, and it has great potential for additional transit connectivity when the Purple Line is completed (hopefully the state will get the project back on track soon!) and when the New Hampshire Ave Bus Rapid Transit project is completed.

I would like to see additional housing opportunities in the Crossroads area so that more people can utilize these transit opportunities, as well as shop and work at small businesses in the area without driving. Development needs to be done carefully to ensure that current residents and small businesses are not negatively impacted or pushed out. Like with any development, we need to work together with residents and businesses to listen to their needs, work together on common goals, and preserve affordability.

Development at this location also needs to address the particularly high level of pedestrian safety issues and challenges that exist due to high levels of traffic and fast-moving cars. Pedestrian and bike-safety improvements are essential to protect people and create walkable spaces that de-emphasize car use. We must work with the State Highway Administration and developers who propose projects to ensure that these needs are prioritized.

  • Takoma Park Recreation Center (New Hampshire Ave.)

The Recreation Center project should move forward with collaboration from residents and a clearly defined project plan. I would like to see recreation space that is pedestrian/bike-accessible and prioritizes the needs of nearby residents, as well as housing on upper levels.

Like with development at the Crossroads, this development should be carefully planned with community needs in mind and should prioritize pedestrian and bike safety. The New Hampshire Ave Bikeways project the City has been working on is a great step in this direction, but more will be needed to make this space truly accessible and comfortable for pedestrians and bikes.

Space permitting, I would also like to consider the possibility of creating additional childcare facilities along with recreation and housing on this site. Childcare is a critical need in our city, and families would benefit from a larger program space for existing before/after-school programs and perhaps an early childhood center for younger children.

  • Washington Adventist Hospital campus

The former WAH campus is a large piece of property with a great deal of potential. Utilizing this property to the greatest potential will require careful partnership and collaboration efforts. A project on this site should involve collaboration with residents and emphasize community goals and needs.

I believe that this location has potential for additional housing that could help address affordability and housing access issues. It also could potentially provide a location for a new elementary school to address overcrowding issues at Piney Branch Elementary. I would also be supportive of development that includes community-focused services such as childcare or healthcare, potentially taking advantage of the location next to Washington Adventist University to provide community services and learning opportunities for students at the same time.

3. On the long-debated Takoma Junction development process, do you support continuing the existing County and City review process or do you propose restarting the development process, including a new Request for Proposals? If so, how would the City fund this work?

Takoma Junction is an important cultural and social hub for the community and is especially important to Ward 3 residents. In 2018, I voted to advance the Junction Project Concept Plan to the County Review Process because I believe in-fill development at this location has the potential to benefit residents and local businesses, reduce car use, and bring additional revenue for the City’s social and environmental initiatives.

I favor continuing the existing County and City review process because it will result in a revised and more detailed plan that the City Council and community can consider thoroughly before deciding on next steps.

When the project comes back to the City Council for review, I believe that the Council must thoroughly review it and ensure a robust community input process. This must involve careful analysis, questions, and advocating for change where needed.

If the plan makes stormwater worse, creates unsafe traffic conditions, negatively impacts racial equity, or creates environmental hazards for the neighborhood, I will not support moving forward without changes that address these issues.

4. Would you promote multifamily construction by offering additional relief from rent stabilization for new buildings, as the District and many other jurisdictions do? 

We need to promote multifamily construction in targeted locations within the city to increase our housing stock. We need to do so with affordability in mind and ensure that current residents are not pushed out as a result.

There may be situations where relief from rent stabilization is appropriate, but we need to very carefully consider what is proposed in a project and how many affordable units the project would offer to balance a request for an exemption. Takoma Park is a much smaller community than DC with many fewer opportunities for housing development, so we need to be extra careful in how we utilize and take advantage of these opportunities. New housing should prioritize our community goals of maintaining a diverse community, emphasizing racial equity, creating improved affordability, and meeting the needs of residents.

5. City public engagement currently over-represents the views of older, white, and home-owning residents. How would you change the process to better engage renters, minorities, immigrants, and young families?

The City needs to build new structures for improved engagement with renters, immigrants, Black and Brown residents, and young families. The only way we can create and maintain policies and programs that truly meet the needs of our community is through collaboration and input from the community as a whole, and we do not currently hear the views of renters, immigrants, Black and Brown residents, and young families enough.

I believe we need to:

  • Increase connections with tenant and neighborhood associations. By providing supports to these existing associations and creating connections between them and City staff, we can create a natural feedback process where the City receives input on the needs and perspectives of residents through existing grassroots processes
  • Make changes to the committee structure and recruiting processes to create committees that are diverse and representatives of the community at large
  • Create more connections and collaboration with school PTAs, where a diverse group of community parents are already connected
  • Plan in plans for targeted outreach to communities that we are not hearing from as often to ensure their perspectives are heard on city projects and initiatives
  • Deliver information in multiple languages and through multiple formats (online, newsletter, fliers, new apps and technology, etc.) to reach more people

6. Takoma Park, Piney Branch, Rolling Terrace ES, and Montgomery Blair HS are at or over capacity.  Do you support advocating the Montgomery County Public Schools system for a new local school? How else would you work with MCPS to provide sufficient capacity and quality for our growing community?

School access is critical to our community, and I believe that one of our schools’ strengths is that they are community schools with diverse student bodies and walkable access for many. We need to look at issues of capacity and future projections, as well as advocate to the County for the fact that our capacity levels are likely to grow beyond some projection models because we typically have large numbers of families moving in with children who will attend schools.

We need to ensure that our local schools are thriving more now than ever. COVID-19 has resulted in significant challenges for many children and families. I know from personal experience how challenging distance-learning is for families, and much more so for families without the option to work from home, without access to Internet and technology, with fears of eviction, food insecurity, and more. Our schools and childcare providers will play a critical role in recovery — both now and into the future. We need to ensure that there is adequate space for our young people’s needs so that we can keep our students at local schools and ensure they do not face uncomfortable, crowded settings.

This means working together with active school PTAs, school leadership, and the Board of Education to advocate for our needs and find solutions. We should look for opportunities to create a new space for Piney Branch Elementary if we can locate one nearby that can provide greater capacity, as the PBES site is the smallest property lot in the county. We need to advocate for our community’s school needs and ensure that students at all levels have the space they need.

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