Maryland affordable housing advocates are celebrating record legislative success. During the 2014 state legislative session, the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition (MAHC), an NLIHC member, worked closely with Governor Martin O’Malley (D) and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to pass the Multifamily Rental Housing Programs Efficiency Act (HB 453), legislation that will reduce municipal barriers to rental housing production. Advocates also succeeded in securing $25.73 million for the Rental Housing Works (RHW) program, the highest level of funding for the program in its history.
On April 14, Governor O’Malley signed HB 453, which consolidates DHCD’s Rental Housing Production, Elderly Rental Housing, Multifamily Rehabilitation, and the Nonprofit Rehabilitation programs into a single Rental Housing Fund. HB 453 was written by DHCD to address several concerns raised by MAHC. According to advocates, the different requirements and processes associated with each program were difficult for developers to navigate and needlessly increased the administrative burden on staff of DHCD and local governments. MAHC advocated for consolidation of the programs, creation of a uniform set of requirements, and retention of each program’s eligible activities. Advocates are very pleased that the law will also eliminate the power of local governments to veto affordable housing, a change long sought by fair housing advocates and developers.
A fifth program, the Partnership Rental Housing Program, which provides loans for rental housing for families with income at or below 50% of the statewide median income, will also be modified to allow the program to work more effectively with federal housing programs in order to increase the supply of rental housing for people with disabilities.
In February, more than 150 advocates attended the MAHC Housing Day at the state capitol to urge legislators to support HB 453 and full funding for RHW. Just days after advocates met with 35 state legislators, the bill passed the House Environmental Matters Committee and went to the House floor for a vote. The bill received some push back from legislators who were concerned about provisions that they thought limited the ability of municipalities to review and approve proposed developments. MAHC immediately issued an action alert explaining that the bill would not change local development approval processes, and that municipalities will continue to ensure project compliance with zoning laws, occupancy and rental license agreements, and other standard building requirements. The House voted to support the bill, and it passed the Senate with little dissent in April.
The legislature’s decision to fund the RHW program at $24.73 million was a welcome surprise to advocates who had strongly advocated for $24 million to be included in the Governor’s FY15 proposed budget. According to MAHC, $24 million will allow the state to continue expanding the supply of rental housing, while also creating employment opportunities. Advocates estimated that at $24 million, RHW would help create 1,800 affordable housing units and more than 2,500 jobs. DHCD reported that over time the funds would create more than $37.5 million in new state and local revenue. MAHC worked closely with DHCD in designing, advocating and building strong legislative support for RHW. NLIHC honored MAHC in 2013 with the State and Local Organizing Award for its success in creating and securing funding for RHW (see Memo, 2/22/13).
“These funding and legislative victories have delighted the development community and advocates, and promise significant new opportunities to create low and moderate rental housing throughout Maryland,” said Trudy McFall, President of MAHC. “None of this would have been possible without the support of our terrific Governor O’Malley and DHCD. Together we were a great partnership in accomplishing these successes.”
For more information contact Miranda Darden, Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition, at email@example.com.