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Keyword: housing

HOME Act Would End Discrimination Based on the Source of a Renter’s Income

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today announced his plans to introduce the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act, which would prohibit housing discrimination based on the source of a potential renter’s income, including housing vouchers.

The bill will be introduced in the County Council session scheduled for Monday, October 7.

“We have both a legal and moral obligation to expand access to affordable housing in Baltimore County, and the HOME Act is a critical piece of the puzzle,” Olszewski said. “Discrimination of any kind is wrong, and we have to do everything in our power to expand economic opportunity, improve equity, and eliminate pockets of poverty in our communities.”

Details of the HOME Act

The HOME Act would make it illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to a potential tenant based on the person’s source of income, just as renters can’t be discriminated against based on their race, sex, religion, and other legally protected groups. Source of income can refer to income from a job, public assistance programs, benefits and considerations (such as an inheritance, a pension, an annuity, etc.) or the sale of a property. Source of income includes participation in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.

A housing voucher is a source of supplemental income that helps low income residents pay for housing. Recipients are required to pay 30 percent of their income on rent, and the voucher provides a bridge to cover the remaining cost of rent. Across Maryland, nearly 70 percent of HCV recipients are seniors, people with disabilities, or children.

The HCV program is a federal program, and the federal government determines the number of overall vouchers available to each local jurisdiction. Baltimore County distributes approximately 5,000 vouchers. The HOME Act would give them greater flexibility in choosing where to live.

Giving People a Fair Chance

“It’s long past time for Baltimore County to act to protect county residents from housing discrimination,” Councilman Julian Jones said. “This bill gives people with disabilities, veterans and others a fair chance to do what’s best for their families. I applaud the county executive’s leadership on this issue and I’m optimistic that my colleagues will support this important bill.”

“I believe it is important for Baltimore County to address the housing needs of our older adults, veterans, people with disabilities and all families. It is a matter of fairness and dignity,” Councilman Izzy Patoka said.

Montgomery, Howard and Frederick Counties have had laws prohibiting discrimination based on source of income for several years. Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City passed similar legislation earlier this year.

Under the Conciliation and Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) signed in 2016, this legislation must be introduced this calendar year and every calendar year until its passage.

This is one of several actions the county is legally mandated to take under the terms of the VCA, which was conceived as a resolution to federal housing discrimination complaints brought against the county in 2011. These complaints alleged that the discriminatory nature of Baltimore County’s housing and zoning policies over the last several decades had led to significant racial and socioeconomic segregation.

For more information about the HOME Act, please download the HOME Act Fact Sheet (PDF).


Part of statewide effort to strengthen services 

Baltimore County has joined a statewide effort to contact and survey young people who are homeless or struggling with serious housing issues. The statewide effort, known as Youth Reach Maryland, has engaged 10 regional partners and seeks to strengthen knowledge of and services to youth under age 25 who are not living with a parent or guardian and face an unstable housing situation that may be viewed as homelessness. The County's effort to contact this constituency will continue through April 2.

The County Department of Planning and the non-profit Baltimore County Communities for the Homeless (BCCH) are leading the County effort, working closely with service providers and institutions, including soup kitchens, homeless shelters, libraries, schools, colleges and universities. The County and its partners have assembled a network of people, including youth ambassadors, who will visit key locations, reach out and survey the select youth population over the two-week period.

Homeless youth may often go uncounted

Advocates for the homeless believe that independent youth and young adults under age 25 who are struggling with housing are often a hidden population that goes uncounted. Youth Reach Maryland seeks to improve the count and deepen knowledge of a unique, challenging constituency. 

Maryland's effort to improve outreach to homeless youth began in 2013, when the legislature made it a priority to improve the frequency and accuracy of counting the state's unaccompanied homeless youth. It established the Task Force to Study Housing and Supportive Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth, which recommended a Youth and Young Adult Count of Unaccompanied Homeless. This later became the initiative known as Youth REACH (Reach out, Engage, Assist, & Count to end Homelessness) MD. The state effort is now led by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and coordinated by the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

Learn more about Youth REACH Maryland

Those interested in learning more about Baltimore County's Youth Reach effort are encouraged to contact Terri Kingeter at tkingeter@baltimorecountymd.gov or visit the following web links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/YouthReachBCO

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YouthREACHBaltimoreCo/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel​

Youth Reach Maryland: http://www.youthreachmd.com/


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017