Maryland General Assembly to Consider Affordable Housing Measures

During the 2020 General Assembly Session legislators will examine proposals intended to increase the availability of affordable housing in Maryland. Delegate Vaughn Stewart intends to introduce the “Homes for All” package of bills that includes the creation of a fund for public housing, a revamp of tenant protections, and changes to single-family zoning.

As States identify shortages in affordable housing, new ideas to increase the availability have become topics of discussion, and changing single-family zoning is frequently a focus point. Single-family zoning has become subject to criticism for enabling race and class discrimination as well as suburban sprawl.  As previously reported on Conduit Street, Minneapolis has recently eliminated single-family zoning citywide, and lawmakers in Virginia will examine legislation mandating an upscale in zoning.

From Del. Stewart’s social media where he explains all three proposals:

1) The Social Housing Act: This bill will help fill the massive affordable housing gap by financing thousands of deeply affordable homes that are built sustainably with unionized labor. Based on the wildly successful Vienna model, these homes will be beautifully designed, near transit, accessible, and available to a mix of incomes.

2) The Tenant Protection Act: While we work to increase the supply of affordable housing, we must also protect tenants from eviction, abuse, and health risks. We are introducing an omnibus renter’s rights bill that will make it easier for tenants to break their leases, confront harassment, defend themselves in court, recover their security deposits, and organize with their neighbors into tenants’ associations.

3) The Modest Home Choices Act: For too long, local governments have weaponized zoning codes to block people of color and the working class from high-opportunity neighborhoods, pushing them to the crumbling margins of cities and towns. We must act boldly to reverse decades of these exclusionary policies. This bill will legalize the construction of modest homes in neighborhoods close to affluent schools, reliable transit, and good jobs.

From coverage in Citylab:

“What we’re really trying to convey is that the housing affordability crisis is so deep and so acute, that you can’t begin to solve it with just one solution,” Stewart says. “It’s time for the Maryland General Assembly’s response on housing to meet the scale of the problem.”

Stewart, who represents Montgomery County, a largely affluent suburban area outside Washington, D.C., was elected to office in 2019 in part on a pledge to address the high cost of housing and lack of so-called middle housing options. The subject is divisive locally: While Montgomery County council members voted unanimously to build 10,000 more housing units by 2030, the county’s executive, Marc Elrich, opposed the resolution.

Montgomery County also approved legislation last summer to allow for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as another way to increase availability of affordable housing in the County.

For more information on the discussion around single-family zoning read this article in The Conversation.