submitted by Deborah Mitchell
The League of Women Voters of Maryland studied housing in 1982 and 1983. Research unveiled a state policy on housing that was fragmented and lacking priorities. It proposed action to develop a state housing policy responsive to the need for more affordable housing and to clarify landlord/tenant relationships.
LWVMD’s Housing Position supports:
- Housing programs targeted to those geographic areas with proportionally higher levels of housing assistance needs.
- A change of state landlord/tenant laws to require a clearly written lease that states the rights and responsibilities of both parties and includes a warranty of habitability.
- Requirement of landlords to state reasons for either terminating tenancy or initiating the eviction proceedings.
The 2022 Maryland General Assembly legislative session proved favorable for many housing justice bills:
- SB 6/ HB 86 Tenant Protections Act of 2022 -- Requiring that landlords disclose utility bill systems, making certain provisions if not disclosed, and providing rights to the tenants. Passed both chambers and enacted by the Governor.
- SB 279/HB 571 Access to Council in Eviction Special Fund -- Altering the funds to include a broader category of where the money comes from and how it can be distributed. Passed both chambers enacted into law without the Governor’s signature.
SB 744/HB 927 Affordable Housing - Excess Real Property – Requiring the Planning Department to turn in a list of the excess property so the Department of Housing can determine if it can be used for affordable housing; establishes a rental housing fund. Passed both chambers and enacted.
Despite the successful 2022 legislation, inequitable access to an insufficient inventory of affordable housing and lack of dedicated and sustainable funding for emergency rental assistance and housing stability services continues to adversely contribute to the housing crisis in Maryland’s most vulnerable communities.
Recently, Renters United Maryland and a Public Justice Center report revealed:
- Evictions are nearing pre-pandemic highs in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, and other localities.
- Women-led (70%) and Black-led (74%) homes will likely be evicted at much higher rates without funding and continuing emergency rental assistance.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, as court delays and emergency rental assistance slowed the pace of non-payment eviction filings, evictions based on lease non-renewal roughly doubled.
- Landlords have retaliated against organized tenants’ groups demanding safe and healthy living conditions with unjust and discriminatory lease non-renewals.
For the 2023 Legislative Session, housing justice proponents have introduced legislation to increase the inventory of affordable housing, allocate dedicated funding for emergency rental assistance, and protect tenants’ rights. For example:
HB 150/SB166 Housing and Community Development - Adaptive Reuse
Establishes that adaptive reuse, retrofitting, and repurposing of existing buildings to develop new affordable multifamily housing is an eligible use of certain financial assistance provided by the Department of Housing and Community Development; and requires the Department to notify applicants for certain financial assistance that adaptive reuse is an eligible use of funds.
HB 211 Rental Housing Fund, Calculation of Taxable Income, and Transfer Tax - Alterations (Affordable Housing Investment Act)
Requires the Governor, beginning in Fiscal Year 2025, to include in the annual budget bill $20,000,000 for the Rental Housing Fund; requires certain taxpayers to add a certain deduction back to federal adjusted gross income to determine Maryland taxable income; alters the rate of the transfer tax on certain residential real property; and requires taxpayers who itemize deductions on a State income tax return to reduce the amount of the deductions by the amount of certain qualified residence interest paid or accrued during the taxable year.
HB 151 Real Property - Residential Leases - Notification of Rent Increases
Requires a landlord to notify a tenant in writing or e-mail at least 120 days before increasing the tenant's rent by more than 4%.
By promoting equitable access to an adequate inventory of affordable and safe housing, protecting the rights of tenants, and allocating/incorporating dedicated funding streams into the State Budget for emergency rental assistance and housing stability services, housing and community development partners can help mitigate the chances that predominantly Black and Brown families, who are still battered by the pandemic and an unstable economy, from eviction.