On March 2, Howard County Councilmember Christiana Rigby will introduce Council Bill 13-2020, the Affordable Housing Retention Act, that would provide the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Howard County Housing Commission with the first right to purchase rental housing at its final point of sale. This legislation will be co-sponsored by Councilmembers Opel Jones and Liz Walsh.
Currently, the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Howard County Housing Commission may competitively bid for rental housing that is on the market in Howard County. However, with limited resources and requirements to maintain or reduce rents, the Housing Commission is often out-bid by private companies, and previously affordable housing units have their rents increased, thus displacing residents and reducing the county’s affordable housing stock.
The purpose of this legislation is to increase opportunities for the Housing Department and the Housing Commission to retain and expand the number of affordable housing units available in Howard County. CB13-2020 requires that an owner of rental housing provide notice and an offer to purchase the dwelling units to the Housing Department and the Housing Commission at the final point of sale.
Additionally, if property owners agree to maintain current affordable units onsite or create at least 20% affordable units at the property, they may forgo the right to purchase process for the Housing Department and Housing Commission. Lastly, this legislation outlines specific reporting requirements for the Housing Department and the Housing Commission to provide information and additional oversight over the county’s affordable housing portfolio.
“As a county that values socioeconomic diversity in our communities, maintaining and expanding opportunities for affordable housing is vital,” said Councilwoman Rigby. “This legislation provides the Housing Department and Howard County Housing Commission with an important tool to meet this need for additional affordable housing in Howard County without building new units.”
“With increases in rents steadily outpacing increases in income for many of our lower-wage workers and seniors, finding a stable and affordable home has become extremely difficult for Howard County residents and their families,” said Peter Engel, the Executive Director of the Howard County Housing Commission. “This legislation, at no cost to the County government or residents, will provide a critical tool for the Housing Commission to preserve and even expand the supply of desperately needed affordable housing opportunities in Howard County.”
“Currently there is a deficit of affordable housing units throughout our county,” said Councilmember Jones. “This legislation is truly essential to bolstering the county’s efforts to secure affordable housing units for our community’s most vulnerable residents.”
“This newly legislated right will enable the County to pursue a more diverse portfolio of affordable housing options — county-wide — in concert with the forthcoming Housing Opportunities Master Plan,” said Council Vice-Chair Walsh. “Of course, the County still must dedicate requisite funding towards that aim, or secure additional means of financing, before it can make actual use of this right.”
The proposed legislation was pre-filed on February 20, 2020 and will be introduced at the Council’s legislative session on Monday, March 2, 2020. Testimony will be accepted at the legislative public hearing on Monday, March 16, 2020. Howard County residents can sign up to testify after March 2 by visiting https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/otestimony/. If you would like to submit your testimony electronically, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read the legislation, visit https://cc.howardcountymd.gov/Legislation.