A few millennials were left scratching their heads at a comment this week by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who said at a public forum that he would oppose tearing down affordable housing to favor “millennials.”
After saying he wanted to preserve housing for low-income people in Montgomery, Elrich (D) added: “So I am going to be dead-set opposed to anybody who proposes knocking down existing affordable housing to build housing for millennials. You know, people making sixty, $80,000.”
Elrich, 69, spoke during a public hearing on the proposed county operating budget Wednesday night in Silver Spring. He later said he should have been clearer in his remarks.
Several people took offense at his use of the term “millennials,” which typically refers to the generation of people born between 1981 and 1996, regardless of income level.
“I agree with what he was trying to say: Don’t tear down affordable housing and build luxury high-rises,” said Helen Burns, 30, a Takoma Park resident who volunteered on Elrich’s campaign. “But I think he misspoke when he said millennials are creating demand for those newer, shiny apartments.”
Silver Spring resident Katherine Lucas McKay, 34, who was in the audience, scolded Elrich on social media, describing herself as a “millennial renter” and saying people in her demographic “can’t afford a kid or build wealth without homeownership and stable housing payments.”
Lucas McKay later posted that she spoke with Elrich after the forum and received a “gracious and open response.”
“It is very frustrating to be seen as unwelcome in a community, which is how that felt to hear,” she said in an interview Thursday. “I know that that’s not actually how he feels about all younger people, but it did feel like equating us to high-income people who demand luxury housing.”
Elrich, a staunch progressive who took office last month after three terms on the Montgomery County Council, said in an interview that a “couple people” had called him out on his comments and that he apologized to them for “not being specific.”
“My comment was not in the context of not building housing for millennials — it’s not displacing people for building housing for millennials,” he explained.
“I should have phrased it more in terms of income level,” Elrich continued. “Millennials don’t make this much money, either, as one of my millennial friends reminded me. They can’t afford what’s being built any more than the folks being displaced.”