To celebrate MHP’s 30th anniversary, we will share 30 stories that trace important milestones in our history and demonstrate our commitment to housing people, empowering families, and strengthening neighborhoods.
1: In the Beginning
MHP’s history is grounded in grassroots community activism and a commitment to social justice. In the summer of 1988, Rev. Lincoln “Lon” Dring and housing activist Peg McRory gathered a group of friends and acquaintances around Peg’s dining room table. They were concerned about the lack of quality, affordable housing in Montgomery County, and decided to form a nonprofit housing organization that could work with local governments and the community to identify and implement viable solutions. From this vision, MHP was born in 1989.
2: Norman L. Christeller
Norman L. Christeller practiced what he preached, living out his belief that it is important to leave a place a little better than you found it. A strong advocate for affordable housing and development of mixed-income communities in Montgomery County, he helped create MHP and then agreed to serve as the organization’s first president. He was instrumental in passage of a groundbreaking Montgomery County law mandating that developers include moderately-priced homes in their projects. Before leading MHP, he served on the Montgomery County Council and county planning board. MHP’s Amherst Square Community Center is named after him to honor his memory. His legacy also lives on in the Annual Norman Christeller Golf Classic, providing essential funds for MHP Community Life programs for children, which he strongly supported.
3: Growing Up MHP – Kony’s Story
In so many ways, Kony is what MHP is all about. As a young child, she grew up in an MHP home, attending MHP afterschool programs. When she was old enough, she volunteered at the same programs. After high school, Kony worked as an Americorps member supporting MHP enrichment programs. Now, she is an employee, serving as the site manager for one of MHP’s Community Life student enrichment programs. Through it all, with support and guidance from MHP staff, she aspired, inspired and overcame challenges that she didn’t let stop her. Read her full story.
4: Fair Housing Act Opens Doors
On April 11, 1968, the Fair Housing Act was signed into law as part of the landmark Civil Rights Act. The law opened doors that previously were closed to classes of people, particularly affecting those facing economic challenges. A core tenet of the statute is that all people must have equal opportunities to access housing and cannot be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status and disability. More recently, Montgomery County added protections on the basis of sexual orientation and source of income.
5: MHP Goes Green
Earth Day isn’t the only day that is green at MHP — green living is a core value. MHP has won recognition as a NeighborWorks Green Organization by demonstrating a comprehensive commitment to sustainable operations. MHP focuses its real estate development activity on meeting Enterprise Green Communities standards through energy-efficient upgrades and use of green building products and processes throughout its portfolio. In 2011, MHP piloted its first youth Green Club for children in families residing in the Glenville Road community. Successes have included collecting more than 200 pounds of litter, achieving a 92-percent resident participation rate for its recycling program, and building a new community garden at the Long Branch Community Center, yielding 20 pounds of produce in a single season. Learn more about MHP’s commitment to sustainability and environmental principles.
6: Beall’s Grant Is Reborn
In May 2018, MHP cut the ribbon to reopen a fully renovated Beall’s Grant Apartments in Rockville following a $4.8-million renovation. The residences offer modern, affordable living in a transit-friendly neighborhood adjacent to Rockville Town, within walking distance of many essential amenities. The building originally was a motel constructed in 1965 and was purchased by MHP along with another smaller building immediately adjacent to execute on the vision to create affordable rental housing. The development provides access to affordable housing in an area that has undergone a significant transformation, including new high-end apartment buildings. Residents are excited to be there and not be priced out of the neighborhood. One resident had previously experienced homelessness, and he described the impact of being able to call Beall’s Grant his new home: “When you are homeless and move in, it changes everything.” Another resident noted the proximity to public transportation and a modernized Rockville center. “It’s made Rockville a much better place to live.”
7: A Lasting Legacy – The Morgans
Rita and John Morgan were early supporters of Montgomery Housing Partnership. During her life, Rita was an activist for fair and equal treatment of all residents of Montgomery County, where she and John raised their five children. Rita advocated in support of equal housing rights in Montgomery County, and served on the Montgomery County Council Zoning Board of Appeals. She also served as President of Suburban Maryland Fair Housing, a volunteer organization, was chairperson of the Dollars for Democrats Drive, and was a member of the Women’s Political Caucus. Since Rita’s passing, John has provided significant support to MHP through the Rita Morgan Charitable Trust, honoring the memory and legacy of his late wife.
8: A Revolutionary Concept – The Bonifant
In June 2014, a revolutionary concept in affordable housing began to take shape, representing an important milestone for MHP as a nonprofit housing developer. Ground was broken for The Bonifant, MHP’s first expansion into developing senior housing. Located in the heart of downtown Silver Spring, The Bonifant is a beautifully designed, 11-story, mixed-use building that provides 149 apartment homes to seniors. The mixed-use development is a national model of what affordable housing can and should be. It is the first affordable housing development located on the same site as a public use facility – the County-owned Silver Spring library. The Bonifant, developed in partnership with Donohoe Construction Company, also is a model for transit-oriented, affordable development in the heart of a vibrant, walkable neighborhood for seniors.
9: Golf To Support Youth Programs
Named after MHP’s first president and long-time board chair, the Norman Christeller Annual Golf Tournament provided seed money that launched MHP. Christeller was a strong champion for affordable housing and in 1989 he co-founded MHP, working with affordable housing advocates in the community. He passed away in 1999, leaving an enduring legacy in Montgomery County. Today, proceeds from the annual golf tournament support our Community Life programs, including preschool, homework clubs, and middle school programs for low-income residents in our communities. The tournament has grown from a smaller community event with a handful of sponsors to a major undertaking with more than 30 sponsors and 120 golfers. A highlight of the more recent tournaments is a Youth Golf Clinic, which began in 2010 to provide basic golf techniques to youth ages 11-17 who live at MHP properties. For many, this is their first introduction to golf.
10: Dring’s Reach Apartments
Dring’s Reach Apartments was MHP’s first new construction development and was completed in late summer 1992. It is named for Montgomery County social justice leader the Rev. Lincoln S. “Lon” Dring, Jr. Today, the three-story garden-style community is home to 219 residents in the Briggs Chaney neighborhood of Silver Spring, providing one- and two-bedrooms units, some with dens, and several accessible units. Dring’s Reach is conveniently located within walking distance to schools, library, retail stores, and parks and also is close to major commuting routes.
11: Community Life Programs
MHP’s Community Life enrichment programs were launched in 1998 to help support the growth and development of all residents. Students have access to MHP’s on-site community centers programs from preschool through middle school during the academic year, along with summer enrichment programs. Over the years students have achieved significant improvements in academic performance. The program has grown over the years to serve more than 300 students annually during the school year and 200 during the summer. Programming for adults is also provided through parent meetings and other sessions, including flu clinics and financial literacy training.
12: Transforming Properties – Blair Park
At times MHP has stepped in to address difficult situations to provide residents with safe, quality affordable homes. MHP’s acquisition of Blair Park Apartments brought about a transformation of the 52-unit garden-style apartments in Silver Spring near the Montgomery College Takoma campus. Prior to MHP’s purchase, Montgomery County inspectors found almost 600 housing, fire, and safety code violations. MHP’s full renovation included major systems upgrades and a new accessible community space. A newly rehabilitated Blair Park Apartments was unveiled at a September 2005 ribbon-cutting ceremony.
13: Affordable Housing Policy Tools – LIHTC
The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program was created as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. The tax credits provide an important incentive to encourage individuals and corporations to invest in the acquisition, development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing. The program is administered by states and has played a crucial role in facilitating the development of many MHP projects.
14: Amherst-Pembridge Community
Pembridge Square Apartments, Amherst Square Apartments and Amherst Garden Apartments, clustered adjacent to each other, represent a hub of MHP housing and services, providing affordable housing and enrichment programs for about 280 families in Wheaton. These residences are located close to transit options, schools, and the Wheaton business district. MHP Community Life programs are offered for preschoolers, elementary students and middle-school students. In partnership with the Wheaton & Kensington Chamber of Commerce, the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad and many volunteers, MHP helps run the annual Angels for Children Toy Drive, which has provided neighborhood children with holiday gifts for 20 years.
15: Rev. Dr. Bill Murry – MHP Chair
When MHP was formed in 1989, Rev. Dr. William “Bill” Murry was chosen to be the first Chair of the Board of Directors because of his leadership experience in establishing the Unitarian Universalist Affordable Housing Corporation. Under Bill’s leadership, MHP successfully lobbied to increase the amount of low-income housing available in the county by modifying Montgomery County’s Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) laws established in the 1970s. The changes enabled MHP to acquire or construct homes at below-market value and rent them to lower income families. MHP dedicated the community room in Beall’s Grant Apartments in Rockville to Rev. Murry in grateful acknowledgement of his important role in expanding the availability of affordable housing and laying the foundation for MHP’s success today.
16: Neighborhood Revitalization Program
In 1997, MHP launched a new community revitalization program to address the needs of target neighborhoods. These have included Long Branch, Glenville Road, Connecticut Avenue Estates and neighborhoods near the Wheaton Metro station. Today, the program has expanded to include Green Clubs for youth, leadership training for residents, creation or expansion of local citizens associations to address neighborhood concerns, and frequent celebrations to build a stronger sense of community and social connectedness.
17: Leading the Way on Inclusionary Zoning
The Montgomery County Monderately Priced Housing Law is recognized as the first successfully implemented mandatory inclusionary zoning program in the nation. Inclusionary zoning requires developers to make a percentage of housing units in residential developments available for low- and moderate-income households. In exchange, a residential developer is eligible to receive benefits such as a density bonus or more flexible development standards. Since it was enacted in 1973, the program has produced more than 11,000 affordable units, and more than 125 communities have followed suit by implementing inclusionary zoning programs.
18: Peg McRory – An MHP Founder
Margaret “Peg” McRory is a founder of MHP. A longtime advocate for affordable housing in Montgomery County, McRory was the president of Suburban Maryland Fair Housing during the late 60s and early 70s. Her fierce advocacy and leadership led to the enactment of the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit legislation in 1973, generally acknowledged as the first inclusionary zoning law in the country. The McRory neighborhood in Montgomery Village was named after McRory soon after. In 1988, McRory gathered the Reverend Lincoln “Lon” Dring and other housing advocates to form the non-profit housing organization Montgomery Housing Partnership.
19: Providing 1,000+ Affordable Homes
With acquisition of the Takoma Park Preservation Project in 2007, MHP hit an important milestone: providing more than 1,000 affordable homes to low- and moderate-income residents of Montgomery County. The project included the purchase of Merrimac Gardens, The Crossroads, and Sligo View apartments. These properties, which were renovated in 2008, provide a total of 75 affordable units.
20: Conscience of the County: Rev. Lon Dring
Reverend Lincoln “Lon” Dring is one of the founders of MHP. After his ordination in 1960, he eventually moved to the Washington, DC, area to become a chaplain at Howard University. He then focused his efforts on poverty and homelessness in Montgomery County, MD. Rev. Dring became known as “the conscience of the County.” He was among the founders of MHP, and served for many years as executive director of Community Ministry of Montgomery County (now called Interfaith Works). He helped create Manna Food Center to address hunger and Habitat for Humanity Montgomery to combat housing instability. He has advocated for the dignity and rights of all citizens. MHP’s Dring’s Reach property, the organization’s first, is named to honor him.
21: Homeownership – Olney Springs
In 2012, MHP broke ground for Olney Springs and started construction on a mixed-income, for-sale development. The 32.6-acre site includes 57 single family homes and 57 townhomes, with 30 percent sold at moderately priced dwelling unit (MPDU) prices, 30 percent at Workforce Housing prices, and 40 percent at market prices.
22: Tad Baldwin, MHP President 1990-2001
Under the leadership of Tad Baldwin, who succeeded Norman Christeller as MHP president, the organization grew to offer more than 300 affordable units. New developments included Beall’s Grant, Connecticut Avenue Estates, and Edinburgh House Apartments. He oversaw the launch of the Community Life and Neighborhoods programs, which today are vital components of MHP’s holistic approach to empowering families and strengthening neighborhoods. More than 300 young people participate in MHP’s Community Life student enrichment programs. Prior to working for MHP, Mr. Baldwin worked for Montgomery County’s Housing Opportunities Commission.
Since the organization’s inception, MHP leaders and residents have been actively engaged in advocating for solutions to respond to the need for quality affordable housing. Leaders of MHP played a central role in enactment of the groundbreaking Montgomery County inclusionary zoning law requiring developers to include affordable units when developing properties. Recent successes include expanded funding for Montgomery County’s Housing Initiative Fund to develop and preserve affordable housing, and an easing of zoning restrictions that had limited the availability of accessory dwelling units.
24: Youth Leadership – Jason Amboo
When Jason Amboo was 11, he was playing tag outside of MHP’s Glenville Road Apartments when one of his friends cut himself on a piece of glass. The amount of trash littering the neighborhood made them angry. Jason suggested forming a “green team” and encouraged others to join. He brought the idea to MHP, and MHP officially piloted the Green Club in 2011. The program continues to this day. “My experience with the Green Club was gratifying. I met new people and learned new things to better myself and those around me. MHP made me a more accountable and responsible person,” Jason says. He became the youngest recipient of the Dorothy Richardson Resident Leadership Award, a national community service award given out annually by NeighborWorks America. He also has remained involved in MHP’s afterschool programs as a volunteer and employee. Jason is enrolled at Montgomery College studying business administration with a minor in French. His goal is to study abroad while earning his bachelor’s degree, and then enroll in a graduate program.