2014 End of Session Wrap-Up: Housing and Community Development

This post summarizes the status of housing and community development bills that MACo either considered or took a position on.

Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise (RISE) Zone Program: HB 742/SB 600 provides a tool to spur economic development and revitalization surrounding anchor educational institutions and nonprofit entities by allowing qualified institutions and nonprofit entities who have a strong and demonstrated history of commitment to economic development and revitalization within the communities in which they are located, to apply jointly with the county or municipal corporation in which the institution is located to the Department of Business and Economic Development for designation as a RISE Zone. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the RISE Zone Program  as originally introduced allowed local governments to provide comment on the creation and boundaries of a zone, but offered no approval authority, although the bills mandated local governments to provide property tax credits within the RISE Zone. Working jointly with the Maryland Municipal League, MACo testified in support of the bills and drafted a series of amendments to address local government concerns by granting local governments approval authority over the creation of a RISE Zone and treating the program similar to the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit Program. These amendments were in large part adopted by the House and then concurred by the Senate. For more information read previous coverage on Conduit Street.

Final Status: HB 742/SB 600 was passed by the General Assembly and await the Governor’s signature.

Landlord Defense in Nuisance Actions: HB 645 would establish a legal defense for a landlord to any nuisance action brought under State or local law if the tenant’s actions are the sole basis for the nuisance action and the landlord provides evidence that they have filed an action in the District Court for repossession of the premises. Under amendments adopted by the House, the landlord would have to prove that the repossession action is pending in the District Court, or that the landlord possesses a warrant of restitution and is awaiting eviction.  MACo OPPOSED this legislation because it has the practical effect of overriding the intent of local jurisdictions in the management of the scope of their own local nuisance laws by providing this blanket defense to at least 18 State and local nuisance laws.

Final Status: HB 645 was passed out of the House with amendments, however no action was taken on HB 645 by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Jonathan’s Law – Balcony Inspections: HB 947 and SB 401 each establish requirements for political subdivisions to perform inspections on certain multifamily dwelling units with certain balconies. Originally, HB 947 required a political subdivision to inspect or authorize a third party to inspect the balconies of multifamily unit dwellings every 10 years to ensure they meet the local housing code or minimum livability code. It also included the option for the subdivision to require the owners to hire a certified inspector to inspect and report on the balcony.  SB 401 required a similar inspection every 5 years but did not include the provision allowing for owner inspection. The bills went to conference committee and were amended to require the inspections every 5 years and only for multifamily properties with balcony railings constructed primarily of wood. The political subdivision can require the owner to hire the inspector and if the political subdivision performs the inspection, it can include the inspection as part of any other inspections it performs on multifamily properties so long as they occur every 5 years. MACo did not take a position on either HB 947 or SB 401.

Final Status: HB 947 and SB 401 were amended in conference committee and passed by the General Assembly. They await the Governor’s signature.

For more information about the bills in this section or other housing and community development bills, please contact Natasha Mehu at 410.269.0043 or nmehu@mdcounties.org.