The Maryland General Assembly took a significant step toward ending housing discrimination by passing the “Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act” (HB 231/SB 530) on March 17. The HOME Act would prohibit landlords from discriminating against individuals who use Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) by adding “source of income” to the classes protected by current Maryland fair housing law. Senator Will Smith Jr. (D) and Delegate Brooke Lierman (D) introduced the companion bills, which passed the full legislature in overwhelming majorities.
The HOME Act Coalition, comprised of more than 60 members, including the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition, an NLIHC state partner, played a critical role in achieving this victory. The HOME Act Coalition’s diverse membership includes housing developers, direct assistance providers, community advocates, civil rights activists, faith leaders, and persons with lived experience of source-of-income discrimination. The Homeless Persons Representation Project and the Public Justice Center led the HOME Act Coalition’s coordinated advocacy campaigns to ensure the HOME Act passed this legislative session. Versions of this bill have circulated at the Maryland General Assembly for 23 years. While bills were passed in the House of Delegates, they never advanced in the Senate.
“This bill has been before us for 20 years,” said Senator Smith. “This is a pretty big deal for some of us in the body, and I just wanted to say thank you publicly to the members that have worked over the past two decades to get this across the finish line.”
"Knowing we face an affordable housing crisis in this state, it's our job as elected officials to leave no tool unused to help people find safe and secure housing,” said Delegate Lierman. “By finally ending source-of-income discrimination statewide in Maryland, we not only say that every Marylander deserves a home and it is state policy to help them find one, but also that we are dedicated to eradicating discrimination in whatever form it takes. I'm so proud to be helping to finish the work that my predecessors started."
For years, only three Maryland counties and two cities prohibited source-of-income discrimination. Then in 2019, following years of advocacy and fair housing enforcement actions, three additional Maryland counties and Baltimore City enacted source-of-income protections. A statewide law would ensure that the remaining tens of thousands of Maryland families who use housing vouchers are protected. The HOME Act would expand access to housing and economic opportunities for Marylanders who are disproportionately impacted by source-of-income discrimination, including seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and working families. The bill would apply to people who rent or sell three or more homes per year.
Jill Williams, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and member of the HOME Act Coalition said, “It’s time we have housing protections for everyone in the United States regardless of source of income.” Ms. Williams, who is also a board member of the Homeless Persons Representation Project, almost lost her VASH-voucher after experiencing source-of-income discrimination in two Maryland counties. “I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through. We are somebody, we are not our money. I signed on the line to protect my fellow citizens and I did so honorably. Discrimination was never acceptable.”
The HOME Act will be presented to Governor Larry Hogan (R), who can sign or veto the bill. If he does not veto the bill within thirty days from presentation, it will become law.