HCPSS Student Yield Per House Unit Increasing

There have been discussions on the student yield per house unit, especially the resale yield and new development yield. Please see my other article: https://chaowu.org/2021/05/30/latency-and-disconnect-in-the-new-construction-yield-and-school-over-capacity/ . I have strong opposition to use new development yield to plan for new housing development. There is no need to use two yield numbers as the Howard County Council used before. Just use a moving average number per school level is good enough to project student growth. I believe many families moving into Howard County for better education and we should try our best to provide that education support and maintain that quality.

Based on data collected, originally from Drew Roth, then augmented by Arthur Wang, I computed the student yield per house unit. Thank you, Drew and Arthur. I removed the enrollment data of 2020 and 2021 because of pandemic and only use the data between 2013-2019.

From Figure 1, we could see the trend is clear: HCPSS Student Number per House Unit is increasing over years. There are possible reasons (demographic shift) I can think of right now (a little over simplified):

  1. Newly developed homes have more students per house unit than old homes do.
  2. Senior residents without school age children moving out faster than families with children moved in.
  3. On average, families moving in have more children than families moving out.
Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4

The data is attached below:

I would love to hear your feedback and refine my analysis.

My APFO questions

On Monday, BOE and County Council had a conversation on the APFO. I raised a few questions:

  1. In the overarching objective, I did not see “meet residents’ needs” as a goal of APFO.
  2. The low impact fee or surcharge fee is a huge problem for the long deferred maintenance we are facing now. HCPSS is in a crisis of overcrowded and short of capital project funding. Schools we are building now will need significant renovation in 20 years, which is actually quicker than many people think. Our newest, Marriotts Ridge High School, many people still feel it is new, actually was built in 2005 and it is 16 years old already.
  3. In the traffic study section, I strongly opposed that traffic study was paid and presented by the developers themselves. The study should be impartial. The county should collect fees from developers and outsource that study to a third independent party. The same principles should apply to other studies too.
  4. There is a problem using the resale and new development yield number as presented for the county to project new housing student yield. The yield for new house development only consider the first year number and did not consider the accumulated impact.

Attached please see the latest APFO.

Please share your feedback with us. I am going to have some further discussions with county council members on this.

Latency and Disconnect in the new construction yield and school over-capacity

There have been continuous discussions of school prediction where new housing development is not reflecting the school overcrowding issue. Here I am sharing some numbers from 15 housing developments. We have the projected student numbers and the real enrollment in 2018,2019 and 2020. The real enrollment is as high as 6 times as projected for High School, 4.66 times for Middle School and 3.61 times for Elementary School. Why is there such a disconnect? Here are some of my thoughts.

  1. The first year projection (New Construction Yield for Howard County Council terminology) on new housing development does not tell the whole story.
  2. One example, when the house permit is approved in the first year and the house is sold on the second year, it will be counted as resale. For the general public, this should be counted as new development enrollment.
  3. We should look at accumulated enrollment number over the years on new development parcel until it is done. There is a huge latency and discrepancy while only considering the new student number at the first year.
  4. I propose that the impact number (New Construction Yield) should use a different formula:
    • total enrolled students after all houses are sold divided by total house number
    • it could be further divided by total year of development carefully if we need consider yearly yield.
  5. I am looking forward to the new number based on this formula for New Construction Yield.
  6. After all houses are sold, there will be continuous resale. Then we can make a simple assumption that those resale will follow the general housing market.

What is your thought? Please share it with me at chao_wu@hcpss.org. Thanks a lot for helping me understand this issue better. Together we hope we can get this right.

The ration between Real Enrollment over New Construction Yield

The real enrollment

The New Construction Yield:

The data is attached here for your reference. I am very grateful that BOE board member VicKy Cutroneo put many efforts on this and shared this data with me.

Latest APFO chart from HCPSS

The Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) School Capacity charts are utilized as part of the growth management process of Howard County for new residential developments. The test year for the 2021 APFO
School Capacity Charts is SY 2024-25. For SY 2024-25, there are 22 elementary, six middle, and five high
schools listed as constrained. Additionally, there are two elementary school regions listed as constrained,
which constrains two additional schools, bringing the total to 24 elementary schools. (see Attachment 2).

Eliminate fee in lieu development loophole

My short comment on The Business Monthly

I appreciate Mrs. Lisa Markovitz’s article “Can we get affordable housing more affordable”.

I totally agree with that: “this “fee in lieu of” has created a concentration of AFUs in areas with lower-priced housing”. I am seeing a few low-incoming housing projects are being proposed in the low-incoming neighborhoods now. Our advocates on affordable housing either from the community, the county council or the county government should work to remove this “pay as you go” approach. The county has the legal authority to set the criteria for the new development to meet both the affordable housing requirement and APFO standards. We should not allow developers to set this policy. 


There are several  key questions to be answered. What is a reasonable level and distribution of affordable housing units in the whole county? How much more development the county can consume in each area considering APFO? Please take consideration of the cost of infrastructure (school capacity, for example) as another key parameter. What is the highest percentage of affordable housing which will prevent developers not building houses in Howard County anymore? 
I hope this kind of information is publicly available for our county residents to see and understand and guide our policy-makers on new housing developments. 

APFO 2020 School Capacity Chart

Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) School Capacity charts are utilized as part of the growth management process of Howard County for new residential developments. The test year for the 2020 APFO School Capacity Charts is SY 2023-24. For SY 2023-24, there are 20 elementary, five middle and five high schools, and three elementary school regions listed as constrained (see Attachment 2). impact of Board approved SY 2020-21 boundaries has been taken into account for these School Capacity Charts.

Here are the school capacity charts.

Howard County Housing Projection

Here is the presentation from the County Government, talking about three phases of APFO history, how housing units have been allocated by different regions, how the general plan is playing a role in it. We are going to have a new Howard County General Plan very soon.

I hope this new Howard County General Plan will balance growth, affordable housing, school capacity, infrastructure and sustainability much better. The county has very few land left (9%) for new development. Revitalization of some old village centers are as important as developing on new land.

Here is the presentation for your reference.

2019 HoCo APFO Amendment Fiscal Impact Analysis


Howard County hired Urban Analytics to calculate the potential fiscal impact on the 2019 APFO amendment.

Summary from the report:

New development in Howard County “pays for itself” and generates net surplus to the County
• Amended APFO results in a net loss to Howard County compared to the General Plan scenario; in other words, bring
less net gains to the County
• Land use decisions by policy makers have consequential short and long term economic and fiscal implications to the
County

Here is the presentation you can download.