Nonprofit Umbrella Group Calls for Increased State Support to Address Housing Crisis

Summary by Russ Henley

“Housing Maryland,” a coalition of more than 35 environmental, business, faith-based and non-profit organizations representing thousands of Maryland residents, are challenging the state’s political leaders to make housing a priority for all Marylanders.

"Maryland is home to an affordable housing crisis, but Maryland’s next governor can take cost-effective action to address this horrible situation," said Bart Harvey, CEO of The Enterprise Foundation. "A decent, affordable home promotes family stability, creates a positive environment for raising children and helps families transition from welfare to work."

Housing Maryland seeks reinvestment in affordable housing for working and low-income families, and reclamation of blighted areas to advance “smart growth” initiatives and stabilize communities.

The coalition recommends a three-point housing agenda:

  1. Restore funding for the state’s proven "Rental Housing Fund" and "Partnership Rental Housing" programs and dedicate new funding for rental apartment development.

  2. Increase the Community Legacy Fund and reserve a portion for localities that pledge to leverage additional investment to eradicate blight and rebuild neighborhoods.

  3. Reform state housing and community development policies to help the Department of Housing and Community Development streamline current programs to make them more efficient and effective.
"A modest commitment of new resources—pennies on the dollar in the state budget—will leverage substantial additional private investment to stabilize families and communities, create jobs and boost local tax bases," said Jim Humphrey of The Humphrey Companies, head of the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition.

Many employees vital to the state’s economy—including child care workers, guards, teacher aides and laborers – do not earn enough to meet average housing costs.

A working Marylander needs to earn $16.82 an hour to reasonably afford an average two-bedroom apartment. A person earning the minimum wage needs to work 131 hours a week to reasonably afford the same apartment. As a point of reference, about 25 percent of Montgomery County households earn less than $40,000.

More than 70 percent of the state’s poorest residents, many of whom work, pay more than one-third their income for rent. Their plight can be expected to become far more severe over the next few years because many currently available affordable housing units are expected to disappear from the market due to redevelopment to more upscale use or attrition from age and/or neglect.

Housing is a big boost to the economy. Every 100 new apartments developed generate 112 full-time jobs, $5.3 million in local income and nearly $2 million in tax revenues and fees—in the first year alone.

Housing Maryland points out that, despite these fiscal inducements, currently programs that support housing and community development represent only 1 percent of the state’s budget.

"This investment in housing will greatly strengthen the state’s response to other important issues, including job creation, public health, smart growth, school performance and community safety, " said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland, an organization that promotes “smart growth” policies.

Housing Maryland is a coalition of more than 30 for-profit, business and non-profit organizations working together to create a brighter future for Maryland’s residents through affordable housing and healthy neighborhoods. Members include the Homebuilders Association of Maryland, Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition, The Enterprise Foundation United Ministries Inc., Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Maryland Center for Community Development, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), 1000 Friends of Maryland and Citizen Planning and Housing Association. For more facts and figures, see Housing Maryland.

Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on November 9, 2002.