MACo Encourages Improvements to Foreclosed Property Registry

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, provided written testimony in support of House Bill 954, “Foreclosed Property Registry – Updated Information – Notice to Local Governments,” to the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 21, 2017.

The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) operates an online, password protected, Foreclosed Property Registry in which every residential property purchased at a foreclosure sale must be registered. This information can be used to facilitate code enforcement, property maintenance, nuisance abatement, law enforcement, and emergency services. HB 954 would require a foreclosure purchaser to update as necessary any information submitted when initially registering the property. Additionally the bill requires DLLR to promptly send a copy of the initial registration and any subsequent updates to the appropriate county or municipality.

From MACo testimony:

These changes expedite and streamline the notification process to ensure that local jurisdictions are in the best position to take action on foreclosed properties that may pose a danger to the community. The local jurisdictions would be spared the time-consuming task of periodically checking the site for updates and having to crosscheck street addresses with county borderlines. Instead, the information would be clearly and promptly provided to the appropriate county authority. It also creates a safeguard against inaccurate or outdated property information.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo Supports Expedited Foreclosures, Raises Process Concerns

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, testified in support with amendments on a pair of bills intend to establish an expedited foreclosure process for homes that are vacant and abandoned. The hearings were held February 14, 2017 before the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

The bills, House Bill 607 Real Property – Vacant and Abandoned Property – Expedited Foreclosure and House Bill 702, “Residential Property – Vacant and Abandoned Property – Expedited Foreclosure,” aim to address the problem of vacant and abandoned properties that often become a source of blight and nuisance for the communities surrounding them.

HB 607 authorizes a county to send notification to a secured party certifying that a property is vacant and abandoned to the best of the sender’s knowledge. A secured party is then required to commence foreclosure action with the court and to maintain the property following this notification.

HB 702 authorizes a secured party to commence a foreclosure action and requires the appropriate county official to verify to the court that the property is vacant and abandoned before the expedited foreclosure process may move forward.

While MACo supported the shared goal of an efficient and effective process to expedite the foreclosure of vacant and abandoned properties, the bills as drafted raised liability and resource concerns. MACo testified in hopes the committee could develop a workable solution.

From MACo testimony:

MACo appreciates the time and effort invested by the sponsor, committee, and fellow stakeholders over the interim to study foreclosures as well as vacant and abandoned properties with the goal of providing local governments additional tools for addressing problem properties. Counties support these efforts but raise these concerns to ensure an effective expedited foreclosure process is developed without unintended consequences that may undermine the benefits.

Certifying that a property is vacant and abandoned is a highly fact-specific and complex inquiry that raises significant liability concerns. The county may be vulnerable to constitutional claims and other costly and time-consuming lawsuits from an aggrieved party should the property turn out not to be vacant and abandoned. The law generally affords strong protection for personal property rights and counties do not want to run afoul of any longstanding protections.

Counties are also concerned about the staff time and resources that would need to be dedicated to inspecting the properties in order to verify that they are vacant and abandoned…The mandatory inspections and verifications for the expedited foreclosure process would add a new layer of responsibly to their workloads without additional compensation, stretching already limited resources even thinner.

Written Testimony on HB 607 and HB 702.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo Resists Effort to Limit Local Authority to Address Nuisances

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, provided testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 214, “Local Government – Public Nuisances – Restrictions on Padlock Laws,” before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 2, 2017.

Counties are concerned that SB 214 prohibits them from enacting or enforcing local padlock laws unless the local law provides a hearing before a circuit court judge without the owner of the premises being required to request one first. This limits local government’s ability to address public nuisances in a timely and efficient manner.

Local governments are in the best position to address public safety and health nuisances that threaten the residents of their communities. They have longstanding statutory authority to prevent, abate, and remove these nuisances in the public interest. Local padlock laws afford county governments the ability to address chronic public nuisances. But a temporary closure is typically the end of a substantial series of actions.

From MACo testimony:

Governments do not take this power lightly. Local laws contain notice, hearing, and appeals procedures. Hearings are often administrative in nature, but overall the process in some jurisdictions may involve public participation or the opportunity for judicial review. Action is not taken without thorough consideration and property owners are afforded an opportunity for appeal. Requiring the circuit court to review a nuisance complaint before any action can be taken can cause delays in responding to threats to community and removes the local knowledge and discretion in effectively addressing the concerns of their residents.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo Backs Bill to Encourage Upkeep of Cemeteries

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, provided testimony in support of House Bill 235, “Abandoned Private Cemeteries – Repair or Maintenance by County or Municipality,”  before the House Environmental and Transportation Committee on February 7, 2017.

HB 235 authorizes local governments to enact a local law allowing a lien to be set on abandoned private cemeteries for unpaid maintenance, repair, or preservation work performed by the government on the property.

From MACo testimony:

Under current law, there is no mechanism for local governments to recoup the costs for these services from the owner of the cemetery. Local governments that would like to remedy or restore abandoned private cemeteries may only raise money to perform the services themselves, or rely on charitable organizations and community service volunteers. This bill creates a mechanism for local governments to offset the costs associated with preserving these abandoned properties while ensuring that the owner of the property is also invested.

Local governments share interest in maintaining the integrity of burial sites within their communities, many of which have historical or cultural significance.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo Supports DHCD Sprinkler Assistance Bill, Asks for Local Consultation

MACo Associate Director Natasha Mehu testified in support of HB 107 with amendments before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on January 31, 2017. The bill would allow the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to provide funding assistance through either its Community Development Administration or Down Payment and Settlement Expense Loan Program for construction, purchase or financing of a single-family home, not in a Priority Funding Area, if DHCD determines the cost of compliance with building and fire codes makes it difficult for a low- or moderate-income family to purchase a newly constructed single-family home.

The bill was sponsored by DHCD and is intended to help offset the heightened costs of installing sprinkler systems in new workforce and low-income housing in rural areas. MACo and the Rural Counties Coalition (a MACo Chapter Organization) has supported creating some form of relief for the problem. From the MACo testimony:

Since the passage of the sprinkler system mandate in 2012 (HB 366/SB 602), rural areas have witnessed a dramatic reduction in building permits for moderate- and low-income housing. Sprinkler systems not on public water can require high pressure pumps and water storage tanks that may add $10,000 to $12,000 to the cost of a new home – a significant cost in a rural area for a home designed for a moderate- to low-income family. HB 107 would help address this issue by providing a limited funding mechanism to offset costly sprinkler and similar building code mandates.

Mehu also proposed an amendment to the bill to require DHCD to consult with county governments and address county concerns before implementing any such funding program within a county. The Maryland Municipal League also testified in support of the bill and offered a similar consultation amendment to MACo’s for municipal growth areas.

Useful Links

HB 107 of 2017

MACo Testimony on HB 107

DHCD Website

MACo Defends Local Homebuyer Education Authority

MACo Associate Director, Natasha Mehu, testified in support with amendments on HB 106, “Department of Housing and Community Development – Homebuyer Education Requirements,” before the House Environment & Transportation Committee on January 31, 2017.

This bill intends to streamline homebuyer education requirements for the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Down Payment and Settlement Expense Loan Program (DSELP). As written, the bill would remove the requirement that DSELP participants also meet local homebuyer education requirements in the county in which the individual is purchasing if that county has more stringent standards.  MACo urged an amendment to the bill in order to ensure the state is able to meet its goals effectively without unintended consequences that could undermine local homebuyer education programs.

From the MACo testimony,

Local governments that offer homebuyer incentives do so to help individuals achieve the American dream of homeownership. As with the state programs, these incentives are tied to completing homebuyer education to ensure that these buyers are thoroughly informed and in the best position to handle the myriad of complicated paperwork and responsibilities that come with homeownership. Some counties have more stringent education standards than the State and do not want to see these standards weakened. As communities across Maryland continue to deal with the impacts of foreclosures, these counties are invested in ensuring that their future homeowners are prepared for the significant decision they are making in purchasing a home before they are locked in by a contract.

For more on 2017 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.

Cecil Optimistic for County Growth in Annual State of the County Address

Cecil County Executive McCarthy and council members focused on economic development and optimism for growth in the county during the third annual State of the County address.

According to the Cecil Whig,

“Major announcements of new construction at the Principio Business Park are starting 2017 in the right path,” he told a crowd of more than 100 Cecil County Chamber of Commerce members Monday at the Upper Chesapeake Ballroom. “I am certain that we’ll have new businesses following these. Lidl, TRUaire and Amazon are estimated to yield over 1,000 jobs in the next several years.”

With more jobs comes more tax revenue, which enables the county to increase funding for essential services, McCarthy said.

“The anticipated tax revenues, even with the enterprise zone credit, are expected to raise $7.7 million over the next 10 years in property taxes alone,” he added.

Councilwoman Jackie Gregory noted that the council’s goal is to increase the tax base, but not the tax rate.

“One of our goals locally is to create an environment where businesses can grow,” she said.

Council President Joyce Bowlsbey echoed McCarthy’s optimism.

“With the effects of Amazon and Lidl moving into Cecil County, we’re on a prosperous path,” she said. “These businesses represent over $240 million of investment in Cecil County.”

With road and rail access, as well as a low tax rate and property values, Cecil County’s “location makes us a prime location for future development,” Bowlsbey said.

“Cecil County is on the move, and 2017 looks to be a good year for Cecil County,” she added.

Attention Counties: Maryland Smart Energy Communities Grant Applications Due February 16, 2017

MSECThe Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) is pleased to announce the Maryland Smart Energy Communities (MSEC) program for fiscal year 2017 (FY17). The FY17 program budget is intended to be $1.6M to be divided between new and existing MSEC communities; with $725K for eligible energy efficiency initiatives and $855K for eligible renewable energy and transportation projects.

Please click here for detailed information on program eligibility, requirements, and additional information.

Note: Beginning in FY17, the MSEC Grant Program will no longer consider Low-to-Moderate Income Projects. Communities with eligible projects must submit a separate application to the Clean Energy Communities Low-to-Moderate Income Grant Program. Please visit this page for more information: http://energy.maryland.gov/govt/Pages/CleanEnergyLMI.aspx

MSEC Application DEADLINE: The deadline for both the MSEC New Community Application and the deadline for the MSEC Existing Community Application is due no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, February 16, 2017.

For more information, contact Maryland Energy Administration regarding MSEC by e-mail at MSEC.MEA@Maryland.gov or by phone at 410-537-4000.

Community Development and Action Day in Annapolis

Attention MACo Members!

You are invited to join the Community Development Network of Maryland and the Maryland Community Action Partnership for their Annual Community Development and Community Action Day in Annapolis.

If interested, please register by February 6, 2017.

 Register Now!

Community Development and 

Community Action Day in Annapolis

February 8, 2017

10am-2pm

Room 170 and 180 Lowe House Office Building

Annapolis, MD

Join the Community Development Network of Maryland and the Maryland Community Action Partnership for our Annual Community Development and Community Action Day in Annapolis.

10am-noon – Concurrent Sessions

Community Development Showcase – reserve your table to display your impact to legislators. This is for paying CDN and MCAP members only. The General Assembly has been invited to this event.

Visits with Legislators – meet with your legislators to talk with them about your programs and the importance of new funding to continue your missions. Specifically we will concentrate on the Community Development Fund, Maryland Housing Counseling Fund, the DHCD Budget, other revenue legislation, blighted properties legislation, and more.

Noon – Legislative Luncheon program

Legislative Luncheon – Luncheon program includes several legislators, plus CDN, MCAP and partners review of our respective legislative agendas. 

 

Confirmed speakers:  

–Secretary Kenneth Holt, Maryland DHCD

–Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh, Appropriations

–Chairman Kumar Barve, Environment and Transportation

–Delegate Stephen Lafferty

–Delegate Marvin Holmes

–Many others invited and will be announced when confirmed.

The entire General Assembly has been invited this event.

REGISTER HERE

We will consider organizing carpools and/or buses depending on attendance from each region.

For more information contact:

Odette Ramos
Community Development Network of Maryland
443-801-8137
odette@communitydevelopmentmd.org
Angela Martin
Maryland Community Action Partnership
443-482-5168
amartin@maryland-cap.org

Advocates, Local Governments Brief Committee on Problem Properties

Representatives of the Community Development Network (CDN), Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), and Maryland Municipal League (MML) briefed members of the House Environment and Transportation Committee on vacant, blighted, and abandoned properties on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.

The report, Documenting the Vacant, Abandoned, Blighted Property Problem in Maryland, details the results of a survey administered by the aforementioned associations on issues ranging from the prevalence of blighted properties, and use of registries for vacant or foreclosed properties, to the frequency of tax sale. From the report:

Local governments across the state face challenges related to vacant and abandoned properties. This document summarizes survey responses from local officials about issues and challenges they face related to blighted properties. The survey results make clear that:

  • Municipalities want more notice and more information to address blight in their areas.
  • Local governments are not fully equipped to adequately address blighted properties.
  • While foreclosures are prevalent, some municipalities are also dealing with absentee landlords and investors who do not take care of their properties.
  • Smaller municipalities want more tools to address issues related to vacant properties

Natasha Mehu, Associate Director for MACo, testified along side Odette Ramos, Executive Director of CDN, and Candance Donoho, Director of Government Relations for MML at the briefing.

For more information read the Documenting the Vacant, Abandoned, Blighted Property Problem in Maryland report.