On February 18, advocates from across Maryland gathered in Annapolis for Housing Day, coordinated by the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition (MAHC), an NLIHC state partner. More than 200 advocates met with over 40 legislators to build support for increased funding for affordable rental housing programs in the 2017 budget.
The event kicked off with words from MAHC Board President, Chickie Grayson, who welcomed the advocates and thanked them for their commitment to the preservation and expansion of affordable rental housing in the state. Grayson then introduced a group of legislators, including Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones (D), Chair of the Capital Budget Subcommittee, and Delegate Maggie McIntosh (D), Chair of the Appropriations Committee. Following the legislators’ greetings and remarks, Roy McGrath, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, and Kenneth Holt, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), addressed the advocates. Secretary Holt celebrated the rapid acceleration of housing production in Maryland and praised the contributions of MAHC in expanding affordable rental housing the state. The Housing Day advocates then began to prepare for their own lobbying. Jessica Zuniga, Chair of the MAHC Legislative Committee, emphasized the legislative priorities of the day: continued funding for the Rental Housing Works (RHW) program and full funding for the other Department of Housing and Community Development rental housing programs. Advocates then fanned out to meet with their legislators.
Launched in 2012 after the strong advocacy of the MAHC and others, the RHW is a state loan program for the construction and rehabilitation of rental housing for low-income families, seniors, and persons with disabilities. RHW allows Maryland to tap into its unused bond authority to fund additional rental housing projects. (See Memo 2/22/2013). In addition to funding affordable housing production, the program stimulates job creation and economic growth in the local economy. So far 36 RHW properties have been completed or are nearing completion, totaling $68 million of investment. Advocates urged their legislators to increase RHW funding from $10 million to $25 million in the FY17 budget.
“Every $1 invested by the State in RHW leverages $11 in private and other public funding, so a $25 million investment would translate into nearly $300 million in rental housing development in communities across Maryland – a real win for the State,” said Miranda Darden-Willems, MAHC Executive Director.