Frederick and Baltimore City housing officials briefed the House Environment and Transportation Committee on the housing-related impacts of COVID-19 and actions taken locally to help residents in need.
The Wednesday morning briefing focused on the end of CARES Act Covid-19 eviction protections and the effects on renters and property owners. In addition to the local jurisdictions, the committee heard from the District Court of Maryland and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Committee staff, Matthew Mickler, also shared graphs of statewide data.
Frederick County Department of Housing and Community Development Program Manager Ryan Trout discussed the county’s rental assistance program. As a non-entitlement jurisdiction, Frederick was one of eight counties to receive community development block grant (CDBG) funds from the state to help support its local assistance a program. The county in partnership with Frederick City allocated a total of $4 million in CDBG and Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) for emergency rental assistance. The county also received special project funding which was used to establish a program to temporarily house people that fell through the cracks of the established rental assistance program.
Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development Acting Commissioner Alice Kennedy presented on the City’s Temporary Rental Assistance Program and Eviction Prevention Program. The $13 million Temporary Rental Assistance Program was established in May using CDBG funds from the federal CARES Act to help eligible tenants that were behind in rent because of the pandemic. The $30 million Eviction Prevention Program was recently launched to build upon the previous program and provide qualifying residents with financial, relocation, and legal assistance.
On behalf of the District Court of Maryland, Chief Judge John Morrissey briefed the committee on the judicial eviction process and the status of eviction case filings. The District Court has oversight over failure to pay rent cases, breach of lease cases, tenant holding over cases, and wrongful detainer actions. Chief Judge Morrisey walked the committee through the various steps the courts have taken to streamline services and connect individuals involved in eviction cases with assistance while adhering to State and Federal eviction moratorium orders as well as orders made by Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera regulating operations of Maryland courts during the pandemic.
The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development was represented by Assistant Secretary of the Division of Neighborhood Revitalization Carol Gilbert; Assistant Secretary of the Division of Development Finance and Director of the Community Development Administration Matt Heckles; and the Director of Legislative and Federal Affairs Hunter Pickels. The Department representatives discussed the Assisted Housing Relief Program and the Maryland Eviction Prevention Partnership.
The Assisted Housing Relief Program is supported through $10 million in coronavirus relief funds to assist tenants delinquent in rent in properties that the state has a relationship with. There are about 60,000 properties where the state has an ongoing physical, financial, or programmatic compliance relationship. Providing assistance to these tenants helps free up funding in the other state and local programs for other renters in need of assistance.
The Maryland Eviction Prevention Partnership is funded through expanded Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) from the CARES Act and designed to help counties establish and provide local eviction prevention programs. The first round of funding went to eight counties that did not receive money directly. The second round of funding of $16 million is now open to all counties. The Department anticipates that there will be a third round of federal funding.
The briefing was streamed live and a recording may be viewed on YouTube.
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