2016 Housing Legislation

Photo of Maryland State House, Annapolis

State House, Annapolis, MD

Today was the start of the 2016 legislative session, and so far there have been a few housing bills introduced:

SB0024: Discrimination in Housing – Military Status

Summary: Establishing that it is the policy of the State to provide for fair housing to all, regardless of military status; prohibiting specified discriminatory acts relating to the sale or rental of a dwelling because of a person’s military status; prohibiting a person from discriminating in residential real estate-related transactions because of a person’s military status; defining “military status” as an active duty member of the armed forces or a veteran with a specified discharge from the armed forces of the United States; etc.

Sponsor: Senator Bryan Simonaire, District 31

Discrimination against the military is sometimes swept under the carpet — but it does indeed happen, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the servicemember is active-duty or a veteran. Landlords will sometimes refuse to rent to active-duty military, because leases are easier for military personnel to break, because of their obligations. Also, some landlords will refuse to rent to veterans because of a perceived “threat” or a personal bias.

Consider also the fact that 30% of our active duty personnel, 25% of reservists, and roughly 21% of our veterans nationwide identify as a minority group (with the overwhelming number as Black or African-American), military status shouldn’t be another way to discriminate against Maryland’s military personnel. Ensuring that our current and retired servicemembers are able to secure housing, free from discrimination, should be a goal of every legislator statewide.


 

HB0021: Sustainable Communities Tax Credit – Residential Units for Lower-Income Individuals

Summary:  Providing that a rehabilitation with at least 30 residential rental units is ineligible for the Maryland Sustainable Communities Tax Credit unless the individual or business entity seeking the certification agrees to set aside at least 10% of the residential rental units as housing for households whose median income does not exceed 60% of the area median income; and applying the Act to initial credit certificates issued on or after July 1, 2016.

Sponsor:  Delegate Keith Haynes, District 44

I had some questions about this bill, particularly the “area median income” mentioned in the summary. Is he referring to the Metropolitan Statistical Area median income, or the Baltimore City median income? This matters, because the MSA median is significantly higher than the city’s median income ($70,000 vs $41,000). If only 10% of the residential units in a building are set aside for people who earn 60% of the median income, it could make a difference in who’s considered for apartments, and who’s denied. Unfortunately, Delegate Haynes did not respond to any of the questions asked.


HB0032: Restoring and Sustaining Baltimore City Communities Act of 2016

Summary: Requiring the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City to grant, by law, a specified property tax credit against the property tax imposed on specified property located in specified communities in Baltimore City; establishing the amount and duration of the property tax credit; providing for the eligibility requirements of the property tax credit; providing the Act shall be applicable to all taxable years beginning on or after June 30, 2016; etc.

Sponsor: Delegate Keith Haynes, District 44

I like this bill, on its surface. Granting tax credits to people who purchase vacants and rehab them is a good thing. However, I’d like to see it expanded outside Delegate Haynes’ district, and include any vacant in the city — especially those in neighborhoods on the east side of the city that are just as blighted as Sandtown, Upton, etc.  (See below.)


HB0036: Rebuilding Baltimore City Communities Act of 2016

Summary: Requiring the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City to grant, by law, a specified property tax credit against the property tax imposed on specified property located in specified communities in Baltimore City; establishing the amount and duration of the property tax credit; providing for the eligibility requirements of the property tax credit; providing the Act shall apply to all taxable years beginning after June 30, 2016; etc.

Sponsor: Delegate Keith Haynes, District 44

This is the same bill, almost word for word, as HB0032 above, except it does what I’d like a bill like this to do — it opens up the same tax credit mentioned above, to neighborhoods that are 35% (or more) vacant. I’d support this one before HB0032, simply because it would benefit more people across the city.