The HOME Act

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The Baltimore County Housing Opportunity Made Equal (HOME) Act, Bill No. 49-19, will prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income. The intent of the bill is to make homes available to eligible residents throughout the County, instead of only in certain neighborhoods challenged with poverty.

The HOME Act is needed because all discrimination is wrong.

Some landlords discriminate against people who use legitimate, non-wage sources of income without regard to whether the individual is able to afford their rent and contribute to the community. People who rely on alimony, child support, disability benefits, or rental assistance, for example, may have difficulty finding a place to live. The few options open to them may be far from jobs or family, or in areas challenged with poverty. People with disabilities may have particular difficulty finding accessible housing.

The HOME Act will help seniors, people with disabilities and working families with children.

With the HOME Act, families and individuals who rely on non-wage income, such as alimony, child support, Social Security or rental assistance, will have a better chance to find appropriate housing. People who rely on federal housing vouchers to pay a portion of their rent face particularly harsh discrimination, because they are often unfairly viewed with negative stereotypes. In fact, 70% of people in Maryland who use housing vouchers are seniors, people with disabilities, or children. Any of us could find ourselves unexpectedly needing assistance due to loss of a job, bankruptcy from a catastrophic medical emergency, or a disability.

The HOME Act helps communities.

  • In addition to lifting up families, a goal of the bill is to lift all communities and provide better opportunities for everyone throughout the county. 
  • Communities already challenged with too much poverty may have too few businesses and may have schools that must devote resources to address childhood hunger or lack of medical care rather than simply providing a good education. The HOME Act seeks to reduce these concentrations of poverty.
  • When vulnerable people have choices in where to live, it gives them the opportunity to live close to their jobs or good schools for their children, which can raise their standard of living and provide a better future. This in turn helps the entire county by encouraging economic development and investment in communities.
  • The bill does not slow down or prevent housing and economic development in other jurisdictions that have passed similar legislation. In fact, the suburban Maryland cities and counties that already have Source of Income protections in place include the state’s most successful and prosperous communities: Anne Arundel County, Annapolis, Frederick, Frederick City, Howard County and Montgomery County.
  • Studies have consistently shown that neighborhoods which include people using housing assistance do not see an increase in crime, lower property values, or any detriment to the community.

The HOME Act will not burden landlords

Many property managers doing business in Baltimore County also rent property in neighboring counties that already ban discrimination based on Source of Income. The HOME Act will not be a new or unusual burden. It is not an extra requirement for landlords to pass a reasonable health and safety inspection to ensure that people with housing vouchers are not living in substandard housing. This is a standard that all landlords in the County must already meet. In exchange, they get a guaranteed source of income from the Baltimore County Housing Office. 

Inclusive Communities Have Economic, Health and Education Benefits for Children.

  • Economic research shows that low income children who are able to live and grow up in a low poverty area from a young age have better outcomes than their peers who grow up in a poor neighborhood. As adults they earn more, as much as $302,000 more in lifetime earnings. They are also more likely to finish high school and go to college, and less likely to become teen parents.
  • A large body of medical evidence shows that stable housing in safe neighborhoods is crucial to sound child development. Adverse childhood experiences, such as the toxic stress to which infants and toddlers in high poverty areas are exposed may impair children’s cognitive development and lead to lifelong health problems, such as cardiovascular disease.
  • Research shows that low income women and girls who are able to access low poverty areas experience significant reductions in depression and anxiety.
  • A Montgomery County study found that children in low income families who lived and attended school in affluent areas of Montgomery County performed significantly better in reading and math than their peers in the County’s higher poverty schools and neighborhoods, and were on track to eliminate the achievement gap.

The HOME Act does not:

  • Prohibit a landlord from determining the renter’s ability to pay the rent by: verifying the renter’s source and amount of income; evaluating the stability and security of the renter’s income; or evaluating the renter’s tenant history. 
  • Prevent a landlord from refusing income derived from criminal activity.
  • Require a landlord to sign a contract with the federal government. The voucher program is locally administered by Baltimore County.

Also see the HOME Act Fact Sheet from County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

Read the full text of the bill.

References

Chetty, Raj, Hendren, Nathaniel, & Katz, Lawrence F. “The effects of exposure to better neighborhoods on children: New evidence from the Moving to Opportunity experiment. National Bureau of Economic Research. Web. 15 Oct. 2019. https://www.nber.org/mtopublic/final/MTO_IRS_2015.pdf

“Investigating the relationship between Housing Choice Voucher use and crime.” Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy and Moelis Institute for Affordable Housing Policy, New York University School of Law (2013). Web. Date Accessed 15 Oct. 2019.https://furmancenter.org/files/publications/FurmanCenter-HousingVoucherUseCrime.pdf

Sard, Barbara & Rice, Douglas. “Creating opportunity for children: How housing location can make a difference.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2014) Web. Accessed 15 Oct.2019. https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/10-15-14hous.pdf

Schwartz, Heather. “Housing policy is school policy: Economically integrative housing promotes academic success in Montgomery County, MD.” Education Digest. 76.6 (2011): 42-48. ResearchGate. Web. 15 Oct. 2019. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303150859_Housing_policy_is_school_policy_Economically_integrative_housing_promotes_academic_success_in_Montgomery_County_Maryland

Van Zandt, Shannon S. and Mhatre, Pratik C. “The effect of Housing Choice Voucher households on neighborhood crime: Longitudinal evidence from Dallas. Poverty & Public Policy. 5.3 (2013): 229-249. Wiley Online Library. Web. Accessed 15 Oct. 2019. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/pop4.36