Maryland, HUD Reach Fair Housing Agreement

Maryland has reached an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to settle a fair housing complaint brought against the state in 2011. The agreement requires the state to revise its housing policy and to finance the development of 1,500 affordable housing units across the more affluent neighborhoods in the Baltimore region.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The coalition accused the state of reinforcing housing segregation through by clustering subsidized, affordable housing developments together and in less desirable areas, rather than spreading them throughout the region. On Tuesday, fair-housing advocates applauded the deal as a significant commitment by the state to improve access for low-income renters to well-off neighborhoods that they have been excluded from in the past.

As stated in the article, the State has already made some progress on revising its affordable housing policy. One major change was promising to never reinstate veto authority counties had over proposed affordable housing developments. The authority was revoked by the General Assembly in 2014. Additional changes include a new policy for awarding low-income housing tax credits and tying tax credits to community revitalization efforts.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Cecil Announces Countywide Day of Service

Cecil County has announced Cecil Cares 2017 will be held on September 23, 2017. The initiative will offer residents a chance to volunteer their time, energy, and skills with local organizations throughout the County.

According to a press release,

Cecil County Department of Community Services will sponsor Cecil Cares 2017, a countywide day of service, on Saturday, September 23. The day of service will offer Cecil County residents the opportunity to volunteer their time, energy and skills with local organizations (nonprofits, faith based/service organizations, government agencies) on a variety of hands-on service projects around the county.

During last year’s inaugural event approximately 60 volunteers supported hands-on service projects. This year, Cecil Cares projects will take place at Cecil County Animal Services, Deep Roots, Elkton Community Kitchen, Fair Hill Nature Center, Freedom Hills Therapeutic Riding Program, Generation Station, Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna, Maryland Department of Natural Resources (Elk Neck State Park), and Meeting Ground. Additionally, four organizations – CASA of Cecil County, Cecil County Arts Council, Cecil Land Trust, and the Historical Society of Cecil County – will coordinate a joint project.

Interested volunteers may register for a Cecil Cares 2017 project by filling out the Registration Form on the County website at http://www.ccgov.org and sending it to volunteercecil@ccgov.org. Volunteers may also register on the Volunteer Cecil website at http://www.volunteercecil.org, or by contacting the specific organization they wish to assist. Questions about the event may be directed to volunteercecil@ccgov.org or by calling 410-996-8416.

Cecil Cares 2017 and Volunteer Cecil are coordinated by Cecil County Department of Community Services (DCS) and funded by the Volunteer Generation Fund through the Maryland Governor’s Office on Service & Volunteerism (GOSV).

For more information, contact Krista A. Gilmore, Volunteer/Community Resource Coordinator:

kgilmore@ccgov.org
410-996-8416

Register Now: Land Bank 101 – Everything You Need to Know

What’s a land bank? Can it help eliminate blight and revitalize my community? Are they allowed in Maryland? How do I get one started?

These questions and more will be answered in the Land Bank 101 Workshop hosted by the Community Development Network (CDN) in partnership with Delegate Marvin E. Holmes, Jr., Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond-Baltimore Branch. The workshop will be held Thursday, September 28, 2017 at the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex (8001 Sheriff Road Hyattsville, MD 20785). 

This workshop will have all you need to know about what Land Banks do, how Maryland’s law works, and how jurisdictions can implement the new law.

The national experts in this field, the Center for Community Progress, will run the workshop and answer your questions.

This is one of the many events taking place during Community Development Week!

Program: 

10:00am Welcome and Introductions

10:10–11:30am  Land Bank 101-Center for Community Progress

11:30am–1:00pm  Overview of Maryland’s legislation HB1168/SB957 (and working lunch provided)

1:00–3:00pm Hands on Workshop for Prince George’s and Dorchester County Officials Only

This is a free event, but you must register to attend

For questions or more information contact:

Odette Ramos
Community Development Network of Maryland
443-801-8137
odette@communitydevelopmentmd.org

 

Tackling Complex Public Works Projects at #MACoCon

During the 2017 MACo Summer Conference panel “Flushing Your Troubles Down the Drain, the South Kent Island Solution” attendees learned how Queen Anne’s County and the Maryland Departments of Planning and the Environment were able to address public health and environmental concerns by connecting 1,518 existing homes and eight commercial properties to a safe and effective public sewer system.

Todd Mohn, Director, Department of Public Works, Queen Anne’s County, began the session by providing an overview of the South Kent Island sewer project. Mr. Mohn discussed why the project is necessary and identified the numerous stakeholders involved with the planning and implementation of the project.

Steve Cohoon, Public Facilities Planner, Queen Anne’s County, discussed the areas impacted by the project. Mr. Mohn also described how the county was faced with an alarming septic system failure rate on South Kent Island (70-90%), and how environmental and health concerns made the project a top priority for Queen Anne’s County.

Julie Barown, P.E., Northeast Regional Municipal Systems, Orenco Systems, Inc. talked about the technical specifications of the South Kent Island sewer system, including why the STEP (Septic Tank Effluent Pumping) system is far superior to OSDS (On-Site Sewage Disposal Systems) systems. According to Mrs. Barown, in addition to reducing costs, the STEP system will greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen being discharged into the Chesapeake Bay from the South Kent Island service area.

Queen Anne’s County Commissioner At-Large Jim Moran concluded the panel by discussing how limited funding, Smart Growth requirements, and anti-growth concerns—among many other concerns and challenges—made it necessary to create a unique solution. Commissioner Moran also talked about the potential political consequences that can result from controversial public works projects, and how the county sought to mitigate concerns by seeking citizen input throughout the planning process.

The session was moderated by Delegate Shane Robinson and was held on Friday, August 18. The MACo Summer Conference was August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. This year the conference’s theme was “You’re Hired!”.

New Tools to Battle Blight and Abandonment at #MACoCon

During the 2017 MACo Summer Conference panel “No Vacancy: Revitalizing Vacant and Blighted Properties” attendees learned about recently passed legislation that will help counties reduce blight and turn problem properties into productive properties.

Odette Ramos, Executive Director of the Community Development Network (CDN), began the session by providing an overview of bills that were passed and signed into law during the 2017 general assembly session. This included: SB957/HB1168 – Land Bank Reform; HB1048/SB875 – Foreclosed Property Registry; HB702/SB1033 – Definition of vacant and abandoned property related to expedited foreclosure; HB659/SB823 – Tax Sale Reform. Ramos also mentioned HB 954 – Foreclosed Property Registry updates which did not make it through both committees before time ran out on Sine Die.

Dorchester County Grants Administrator, Cindy Smith, gave attendees the boots on the ground perspective of the the difficulties counties face with problem properties and how local jurisdictions can use the new tools at their disposal to remedy the problems. Smith shared some striking before and after pictures of properties within Dorchester County.

The Director  of Foreclosure Outreach at the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) Meredith Mishaga, presented on the state’s foreclosed property registry.

Ramos concluded the panel with an update on the tax sale workgroup and expedited foreclosure work.

The session was moderated by Delegate Marvin Holmes and was held on Thursday, August 17, 2017.

Harford County Receives $570K State Grant to Assist Families in Need

The state of Maryland has awarded a total of $570,994 to Harford County’s Local Management Board to fund child and family focused programs in fiscal year 2018.

According to a press release,

The Local Management Board (LMB) is a grant-funded organization within the county’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, under the administration of County Executive Barry Glassman. This year’s total includes a competitive grant award of $88,000, which the LMB will use for new programs to reduce childhood hunger, empower families to escape poverty and diminish the impact of parental incarceration on children in Harford County. The funding was announced on May 31, 2017 by the Maryland’s Children’s Cabinet, through the Governor’s Office for Children as part of $18 million in statewide grant awards to Maryland’s Local Management Boards.

Specifically, this year’s total grant funding will allow the LMB to offer the following new programs in Harford County:

“Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World” is an educational program for low income families that addresses the causes of poverty.

“Parenting Inside Out (PIO)” is an evidence-based parenting skills training program for families affected by parental incarceration.

“Project S.E.E.K. (Services to Empower and Enable Kids)” is a program aimed at reducing intergenerational incarceration. The program addresses the risk and protective factors associated with delinquency and criminal behavior at both the individual and family levels.

“Reducing Childhood Hunger” helps families become more self-sufficient, food-secure, and economically stable. Rather than offering pre-packaged/pre-weighed food, the program creates a food pantry where clients can shop for their own groceries using a point system.

Formed in 1994, Harford County’s Local Management Board brings together local child-serving agencies; local child providers; clients of services; families, and other community representatives to address the critical needs of and recommends priorities for the County.

Read the full Harford County press release for more information.

Marylanders Educated, Prosperous, and Paying High Healthcare Premiums

dflurymw0aamnqrMaryland residents are very educated and fairly prosperous when compared to other states, according to a study by Washington-based national nonprofit Prosperity Now – but we have a ways to go in terms of business and employment equity, and are last on the list in terms of high employee shares for health insurance premiums.

Maryland ranked fourth in the nation for education, out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Almost 39 percent of adults aged 25 and older hold at least a four-year college degree, compared to 30.6 percent nationally. Nearly nine out of ten Maryland students entering high school in the 2011-12 school year graduated in four years – 87 percent. More than half of Maryland college students graduate with student loan debt, and 9.9 percent of Maryland borrowers entering repayment on their student loans in 2013 defaulted within three years.

Maryland ranks 17th on the “prosperity of its residents,” according to the nonprofit. Maryland ranked third for its low percentage of households with income below the federal poverty threshold (9.2 percent, compared to 13.8 percent nationwide). While 36.8 percent of households nationwide could not subsist at the poverty level for three months if they lost their major source of income (the “liquid asset poverty rate”), in Maryland, that number is less than 24 percent. One-fifth of Maryland jobs are in low-wage occupations. Maryland scored squarely in the middle for income volatility: 21.4 percent of Marylanders indicated that their incomes varied somewhat or a lot from month to month in the previous year, compared to 20.9 percent nationally.

Maryland ranked 23rd out of all states in the businesses and jobs category, but scored significantly poorly in business and employment equity categories. Our state ranked 43rd for its ratio of unemployment of its white, non-Hispanic labor force compared to its labor force of color. We ranked 43rd in small business ownership, 46th for business value by race, and 45th for business value by gender. (“Business value by race” is defined as “the ratio of the average business value, in terms of sales, receipts or revenue, of White, non-Hispanic-owned businesses to businesses owned by workers of color”; “business value by gender” is defined similarly as the “ratio of average business value, in terms of sales and receipts, of women-owned businesses to men-owned businesses.”)

Similar disparities exist in the healthcare category. Maryland ranked 17th for healthcare, with high rankings for percentage of non-elderly with health insurance, employer-provided insurance coverage, and few adults reporting poor or fair health status. However, Maryland actually ranked 51 out of 51 for high employee shares of premiums, or the “percentage of the average employee contribution to family premiums for employer-based health insurance.” The average employee contribution in Maryland is 35.4 percent, compared to 27.2 percent nationally. Maryland ranked 47th in the “uninsured by race” category: the uninsured rate is 3.2 times as high for people of color than the white, non-Hispanic population (compared to 2.1 times nationally).

Maryland ranked 37th out of all states for homeownership and housing. We ranked 25th for homeownership, but half of all renters are “cost burdened,” meaning they spend 30 percent or more of their income on rent and utilities – placing Maryland 39th in this category. Maryland ranked 43rd for delinquent mortgage loans, with 1.8 percent of loans with payments 90 or more days overdue.

Prosperity Now describes its scorecard:

The Prosperity Now Scorecard is a comprehensive resource featuring data on family financial health and policy recommendations to help put all U.S. households on a path to prosperity. The Scorecard equips advocates, policymakers and practitioners with national, state, county and city data to jump-start a conversation about solutions and policies that put households on stronger financial footing across five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Homeownership & Housing, Health Care and Education.

Useful Links

Prosperity Now’s Maryland data

Baltimore data (March 2016)

Herald-Mail Media coverage, with Washington County data

Baltimore City Councilman Introduces ‘Tenant Legal Assistance Fund’ Bill

Baltimore City Councilman Robert Stokes has introduced a bill to help fund legal assistance for low-income tenants facing disputes with their landlords.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

If Councilman Robert Stokes’ bill is approved, the city would ask voters to amend the city charter in next year’s election to establish a Tenant Legal Assistance Fund and authorize the mayor and council to dedicate money to it.

The fund would help pay for lawyers to represent tenants in Baltimore’s rent court, where most renters arrive without attorneys to face landlords who almost always have some form of representation. It would also “provide legal assistance to low-income renters facing eviction,” assist renters in disputes with landlords and try to make renters more aware of their legal rights.

The bill calls for financing the fund with dedicated city revenue — fines and fees — plus grants from private foundations and charities.

A Baltimore Sun investigation this year showed that the city spends twice as much on processing evictions than it does on working to prevent them, as the city experiences one of the highest rates of evictions in the nation.

Baltimore spent $2.7 million in fiscal year 2016 for sheriff’s deputies to oversee nearly 70,000 eviction orders, while allocating $1.3 million for services to prevent evictions or homelessness.

The city reported preventing 68 evictions in fiscal year 2016 with the $130,000 it gave Maryland Legal Aid. It provided $35,000 to the Public Justice Center, which reported preventing 40 evictions.

There is support in City Hall for increasing funding for tenant lawyers.

Read the full article in The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

No Vacancy: Revitalizing Vacant and Blighted Properties

Homes that have been abandoned can create a range of problems from blight to harmful nuisances for counties and their communities. But fear not! New and improved tools to reduce blight and revitalize communities will be discussed at the 2017 MACo Summer Conference.

NO VACANCY: Revitalizing Vacant and Blighted Properties

Description: Abandoned and vacant properties are often a source of blight, nuisance, and – in severe cases – danger for the communities surrounding them. Fortunately, new tools are on the horizon for county officials to get a handle on these problem properties. This session will begin with an overview of a 2016 summer study conducted by MACo, the Maryland Municipal League (MML), and the Community Development Network of Maryland outlining the specific challenges local governments face related to blighted, vacant, and abandoned properties. Attendees will learn about legislation recently passed by the General Assembly to help counties, as well as how to deploy those resources.

Speakers:

  • Odette Ramos, Executive Director, Community Development Network (CDN)
  • Cindy Smith, Grants Administrator, Dorchester County
  • Daniel S. Ehrenberg, Klein Hornig LLP
  • Meredith Mishaga, Director, Foreclosure Outreach, Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR)

Moderator: The Honorable Marvin Holmes, Maryland House of Delegates

Date/Time: Thursday, August 17, 2017; 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

The MACo summer conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year’s theme is “You’re Hired!”.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

State Awarded $2.5M in HUD Housing Counseling Grants

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding $2.5M in housing counseling grants to Maryland.

According to ABC2 WMAR:

“This is a smart investment in helping families find and keep their homes,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “Quite simply, knowledge is power.  We know that armed with the information they need, those who receive counseling services are far more successful in buying, renting or avoiding foreclosure.”

Organizations receiving the grants include the Arundel Community Development Service, Inc. in Annapolis, the Garwyn Oaks Northwest Housing Resource Center in Baltimore and the Harford County Housing Agency in Bel Air.

These organizations provide a range of services to homeowners and prospective homeowners including pre-purchase and foreclosure prevention assistance.