Baltimore County HOME Act Coalition
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Samantha Kappalman
July 5, 2016 The Hatcher Group
County Advocates Welcome Introduction of the HOME Act
Baltimore County Council legislation would ensure fair treatment of renters
throughout the county
BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD. – This evening, City Council President, Vicki Almond, acting on behalf of the County Executive, will introduce the Housing Opportunities Made Equal Act (HOME Act) for consideration before the Baltimore County Council.
The HOME Act will protect renters throughout the county by prohibiting landlords from discriminating against them based on their source of income. In the bill, source of income means any lawful source of funds used to rent housing, including money from lawful employment, any government or private assistance, and any gift such as an inheritance or alimony. The bill will not increase the number of housing vouchers or expand the program in any way.
Currently, many landlords and property managers in Baltimore County do not treat housing choice vouchers or the people who use them fairly – often only accepting them in certain neighborhoods or certain apartment complexes. This practice has left the county’s 5,800 housing choice voucher holders concentrated in just a few communities and makes it very difficult for people who receive housing vouchers to find a place to live.
“The HOME Act will stop discrimination against voucher holders and help to break up the concentrations of poverty that exist in the County,” says Antonia Fasanelli, Executive Director of the Homeless Persons Representation Projects, Inc. “By stopping this discrimination and treating people with lawful sources of income fairly and equally, we give elderly persons, veterans, persons with disabilities, and other individuals and families the ability to live closer to their jobs and better job opportunities, the ability to live closer to their families and friends, and the ability to live near better schools for their children.”
Being able to live close to family is especially important for people with disabilities, who make up 30 percent of housing choice voucher holders.
“Without their families, many differently-abled people essentially become trapped in their homes; likewise, opportunities for employment diminish if they aren't living in areas of opportunity,” says Reverend Marlon Tilghman, a longtime housing advocate in Baltimore County. “Living in an accessible home close to your loved ones and work makes a huge difference in your quality of life.”
Myesha Allender was paralyzed in a car accident more than eight years ago and is now confined to a wheelchair. Since leaving the nursing home in 2008, she has struggled to find a landlord who will accept her housing choice voucher. She has yet to find a wheelchair accessible home that is located in a decent neighborhood where she feels that she and her four children will be safe.
“I want to live in an opportunity area for me and my children, so they can get a good education,” says Allender. “I look forward to the day when people will look at me like I am a human being, and not just see my housing voucher.”
Under the HOME Act, landlords will still be able to screen their tenants based on other criteria like evaluating their rental history. Some landlords and property managers welcome the change.
"As a Baltimore County landlord, the HOME Act does not impede my right to determine tenancy based on good credit and good past tenancy," says Yara Cheikh, who owns and manages rental properties in the Towson area. “As a Baltimore County resident and education advocate, I believe this bill makes our county fairer and stronger.”
Some renters try for months and even years to find a landlord willing to take a housing voucher as a type of payment for rent. Housing vouchers, which are issued by the county’s Office of Housing, work like any other rent payment.
There is a work session where public comments will be heard on July 21 at 2 p.m. The county council will vote on the HOME Act on August 1.
The following organization are members of the Baltimore County HOME Act Coalition:
Baltimore County Communities for the Homeless
League of Women Voters, Baltimore County
NAACP, Baltimore County Chapter
MedStar at Franklin Square Medical Center
Catholic Community at Relay, Baltimore County
Community Assistance Network (CAN)
Public Justice Center
Homeless Persons Representation Project
Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake
St. Mark of Catonsville
Central Md. Ecumenical Council
Jews United For Justice
Women Embracing Abilities Now (WEAN)
Camp Chapel United Methodist Church
Dundalk Renaissance Corporation
Healthcare for the Homeless
Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.
Beyond the Boundaries, Archdiocese of Baltimore
Episcopal Housing Corporation
Catonsville Emergency Assistance
Streets of Hope
Citizens Planning and Housing Assoc.
Women’s Law Center
AARP of Maryland
Greater Hillandale Community Association