By law, Montgomery County and its combined public housing and housing finance agency, the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC), have the right to match contracts on rental facilities built before 1981 or on rental buildings being sold for conversion to condominiums. Certified tenant associations also have the right to match the contract on rentals built prior to 1981. The right can be waived if the purchaser commits to preserving the building as a rental property for five years with rent acceptable to the county, or makes a cash contribution to the county’s Housing Initiative Fund, which supports affordable housing countywide.

The county, either through HOC or a designated nonprofit housing developer, has exercised the right of first refusal at least six times. For example, to preserve some naturally occurring affordable units and hard-to-find three-bedroom units, the HOC bought an unsubsidized 1950s apartment building and is renovating it for moderate-income tenants. The county also recently used this right to purchase a rental property in the high-opportunity community of Bethesda, where the county has otherwise struggled to build new, affordable rental housing.

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