There were several pieces of legislation this year in the General Assembly that impact the ability of people with Housing Choice Vouchers and people of low income to find housing in any neighborhood they choose.
The HOME Act (HB366) makes it illegal for landlords to deny a lease to someone based on their source of income. Currently, in most Maryland counties, landlords can refuse to deny a lease because someone might have retirement income, SSI, or Housing Choice Vouchers. In fact, at the state level, it is even lawful to deny housing to someone because their income comes from employment. . Frederick, Howard and Montgomery Counties all have laws that make this practice illegal, as do the Cities of Frederick and Annapolis, but the state of Maryland does not. The HOME Act has been introduced in the General Assembly for the past several years, and has not yet passed, although HOME Act advocates and opposing landlords made several attempts to reach a compromise during the 2014 Legislative session.
The Rental Housing Programs Efficiency Act (HB453) was an administrative bill designed to stream line several rental housing programs within the Department of Housing and Community Development into one rental housing program. In addition, the bill takes 19 different program regulations and creates one unified system which protects local jurisdictions ability to govern land use and zoning, yet allows housing projects to move through DHCD’s funding process more expeditiously without approval or disapproval from the local jurisdictions. This aligns the State with the Federal guidelines around financing with low-income housing tax credits. This legislation makes it easier for anyone working on projects with state financing to go through one program, not one of five programs, to obtain financing. More importantly, there are now fewer roadblocks for important low income and mixed income housing developments to be built in areas of opportunity. This bill passed the General Assembly easily during the legislative session.
In the Governor’s budget, the Rental Housing Works program was funded at $24 million, including $6 million for capital needs of public housing projects. This allows for more state financing of multi-family mixed income housing developments to meet the needs of low income housing in the state. In previous years, Rental Housing Works was funded at $20 million.
While there was some success, there are still some battles that need to be fought at the legislative level. The Consider the Person Campaign does not work in the legislative realm. This blog is for information purposes only, and not for advocacy.