Housing

HOUSING

Action to develop a state housing policy responsive to the need for more affordable housing and to clarify landlord/tenant relationships. (1982, 1983)

Support for:

  1. One state entity charged with and held accountable for establishing housing policies, programs and goals, periodically collecting and analyzing data and reviewing housing programs.
  2. Housing programs funded by bonds and general revenues.
  3. Housing programs targeted to those geographic areas with proportionally the highest level of housing assistance needs.
  4. New construction or rehabilitation to promote economic development.
  5. The change of state landlord/tenant laws to require a clearly written lease which states the rights and responsibilities of both parties and includes a warranty of habitability.
  6. Requirement of landlords to state reasons for either terminating tenancy or initiating eviction proceedings.
  7. The establishment of local and/or regional landlord/tenant offices and quasi-judicial commissions throughout Maryland.
  8. The use of manufactured/mobile housing and the development of manufactured/mobile home subdivisions to meet the need for affordable and available housing.
 
Background: LWVMD studied housing in 1982 and 1983. Research revealed a state policy on housing which was fragmented and lacking priorities. Although there was no League consensus to create a state housing authority at the departmental level, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) was established in 1987. The State depended primarily on bonds for production of housing but the League concluded that general funds also should be used for housing. Federal funds for lower income people had been drastically reduced at the time of the study, and this reality continues. Landlord/tenant laws were part of the Housing study and positions were adopted in 1984. The areas of greatest agreement were the need for local and/or regional landlord/tenant offices and acknowledgment that landlord/tenant laws are confusing and complex, hence very easily circumvented and manipulated by both landlords and tenants.
 
The study also zeroed in on mobile homes. Zoning for such housing proved to be controversial because jurisdictions differ widely in both zoning laws and attitudes toward mobile homes. Agreement was reached about the establishment of mobile home subdivisions but not for mobile homes in single family residential areas.
 
The League named affordable housing as a priority in 1986. In that year legislation established the Special Rehabilitation Program, which provided five new special loan programs under the Maryland Housing Rehabilitation Program and permitted the DHCD to make loans to nonprofit groups to provide housing units or residential facilities to low income groups. The legislation allowed the Secretary of DHCD to allow for variations between local subdivisions of the livability code.
 
Two programs were established to assist low income renters: one to provide low interest deferred payment loans for the construction or rehabilitation of low cost housing; the second, the Emergency Home Assistance Program to provide rental assistance funds to homeless persons or to families with critical and emergency housing needs, was discontinued in the early 90's.
 
The Maryland Home Financing Program was amended to make funds available for the acquisition of group homes for individuals with special needs. Finally, the legislation established a certified adult residential environment program to serve the needs of low income disabled adults who need a supervised living arrangement.
 
During the 1990s significant legislation was passed to address problems with mobile homes including a requirement that mobile park owners establish reasonable and public rules for park residents and prohibiting owners from changing mobile home standards for current residents (1993). Park owners also were required to offer lease renewals to residents who comply with financial arrangements and rules (1994).
 
In 1995 the Legislature established a Neighborhood Business Development Program and Fund intended to establish a pool of funds for community-based economic development activities in distressed areas. The use of State dollars to leverage other sources of public and private capital will be emphasized. The Program may help to revitalize blighted neighborhoods by improving substandard housing and buildings, establishing businesses and creating jobs.
 
In 2005-06 the LWVMD created a resource guide on state housing programs and local initiatives to increase the stock of affordable and workforce housing. It included: a listing of housing positions from all Local Leagues, 5 year trends on housing prices and building permits by county, a listing of nonprofit groups involved in affordable housing for each county, the status of impact fees, recordation fees and transfer taxes by county, information on housing choice voucher programs, rental registration, inclusionary zoning, and dedicated revenue sources for affordable housing and other county affordable housing policy initiatives. LWVMD and LWVUS positions on housing were also reviewed. 
 
Local Leagues were asked to develop an action plan for their own jurisdiction.
 
Action:
  • Supported a joint committee to study housing policy (2002—defeated).
  • Sent out Action Alert to gain support for a bond bill to provide $3,000,000 for Maryland Affordable Housing Trust to acquire, build, rehabilitate, and preserve affordable housing. (2006 – $1 million achieved)
  • Supported the creation of the Maryland Affordable Housing Investment Fund (2007 – not achieved)
  • Supported the Foreclosure of Mortgages and Deeds of Trust on Residential Property – Notice to Occupants legislation which will help tenants in foreclosed buildings by requiring written notice. (Passed – 2009)