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State Must Boost Affordable Housing, UMD Report Finds

Analysis for Maryland Lawmakers Urges Action to Meet Projected Surge of Low-Income Residents

By Maggie Haslam

painted row homes in Hampden

Photo by iStock

Small rowhouses in Baltimore represent the kind of affordable housing lacking in the state of Maryland, according to a new UMD report. The shortage particularly affects the state's lowest-income households, which include disproportionate numbers of people of color, disabled people and the elderly.

Affordable housing stock in Maryland has not kept pace with the state’s needs, according to a new University of Maryland report, which called on state and local leaders to accelerate their efforts to provide a range of rental and for-sale housing options, particularly for the growing number of low-income families. 

Commissioned by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (MDHCD), the report shows that high construction costs, barriers to development and a lack of public-private investment have led to a deficit of affordable homes.

“While the D.C. suburbs and Baltimore and its suburbs face significant shortages, this is really something we’re seeing statewide, from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore,” said Nicholas Finio, associate director at the National Center for Smart Growth at UMD and one of the report’s lead authors. 

Compiled by the center and the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners, the report was commissioned in 2019 following a request from the chairs of the Maryland General Assembly’s Senate Budget and Taxation and House Appropriations committees. The state housing department submitted it this month to lawmakers. 

The report indicates that Maryland’s lowest-income households grapple with the most serious shortage: 85,000 affordable units are currently needed for families and individuals earning less than 30% of median income, with an additional 97,200 low-income families expected to move to the state by 2030. People of color, individuals with disabilities and the elderly struggle with a lack of flexible standards used by landlords when screening tenants and high down payment requirements. Other challenges facing these vulnerable populations, such as homelessness, housing instability and access to housing services, have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Maryland Housing Needs Assessment & 10-Year Strategic Plan” outlines the housing needs and obstacles facing Maryland renters and homeowners, and provides a framework to guide state and local governments, housing organizations and partners across Maryland over the next 10 years. It was developed through a comprehensive analysis of current conditions and data projections, and an evaluation of existing housing and development programs available across the state.

A lack of equitable and affordable housing results in community disinvestment and concentrations of poverty, a problem that affects families with children, seniors, people with disabilities and communities of color more than others, the report states. Among Black Marylanders, the homeownership rate is 26% lower than that of white households. 

“Maryland will need a lot more for-sale and rental homes to serve the needs of a rapidly growing population over the next 10 years,” said Chris Kizzie, vice president of Enterprise Advisors, the consulting and technical assistance arm of Enterprise Community Partners. “We know what’s needed to address the shortage: intentional and sustained investment in a range of housing options as well as programs that align with an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse population.” 

Initiatives that boost opportunities, such as increasing awareness of housing assistance and subsidies for affordable housing developments, the report suggests, are key to achieving more equitable, positive outcomes. 

An advisory group of representatives from statewide organizations and local and regional governments propose five statewide priorities: promote equity in housing, create a balanced housing supply, increase access to opportunity, support economic growth and create content-specific approaches to meet housing needs. The report includes a toolkit with nearly 70 housing-related actions for local and state decisionmakers and their partners to meet housing needs over time. 

"Over the next 10 years, leadership at every level will need to refocus their efforts to ensure the state has safe, affordable places for people to live,” said Finio. “The priorities and ‘toolbox’ presented in the report provide a flexible range of options to address the shortages we’re facing right now and to plan for the future." 



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