As one of President Obama’s White House Liaisons at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, I helped build a team that worked on expanding eligibility and availability of affordable housing programs; improved housing data collection; and implemented the National Housing Trust Fund (which provided Maryland $3 million to increase and preserve the supply of affordable housing during my tenure).
During my advocacy work, I learned firsthand how there is a false notion that what benefits renters and homeowners is bad for landlords or our economic development — and vice versa. Each can benefit if we tackle this issue in a comprehensive way and look at both short-term and long-term solutions.
Here is what my Relief, Recovery, and Reform platform will accomplish:
Immediate relief during emergencies (like COVID)
- We should ensure no one faces evictions during times of crisis. Not only is this inhumane, but it naturally will increase the costs of social safety nets for all taxpayers. Furthermore — to help those mom/pop landlords who still need to cover costs — we must provide more government relief and assistance.
Expand the “Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit” (MPDU) program
- To create more consistency throughout the state (where there is a range of 10–20% based on the county you live in)— as a starting point — I would institute a minimum of 15% across the board and offer high-rise incentives for contractors and builders.
Dedicated funding for nonprofits
- There are great organizations around the state (like the Renters Alliance and Helping Hands) who already provide assistance through emergency shelter, job training, counseling, payment of first month’s rent or relocation fees, and food services. When looking at our state budget, we need to ensure dedicated funding for these nonprofits. And the better these groups do, the less stress it will be on the taxpayers.
Encourage more mixed-use development and smart growth
- This includes ensuring that new housing is built closer to areas of transit, and that we are encouraging more multi-family housing and high-rise development, not just single-family homes.
- We must ensure no landlord refuses rent payment from individuals simply because they are seniors, formerly incarcerated, seniors, people of color, those from the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities and single-parents. This will help more residents get access to housing, and help landlords increase the number of renters in their units.
We must set stronger standards for how homes in our state are constructed.
This is why I will propose regulations on home construction to lead to all new homes being “net-zero energy” through boosting standards for insulation (ensuring builders are optimizing insulation thickness), reducing home heating/cooling energy use (via air sealing), and increasing access to renewable sources of power (like solar). We also must ensure as we continue to develop new homes that we limit the destruction of wetlands, forests, and other ecosystems.
Housing is an important part of addressing the climate crisis but is also an integral part of Marylanders’ lives which is why I will be going into more detail on my housing proposals in my Housing Policy Section.
Improve Forbearance Notifications
- Many homeowners who face foreclosure already have agreements with lenders in place, allowing them to hit pause on their mortgage payments for a certain period of time until a later date. One issue, however, is that many of these homeowners are unaware of these agreements and options.
- As such, we need to require all lenders to make these forbearance notifications known and easily understood before beginning the process of foreclosure. This is an easy and feasible solution.
Increase eviction filing fees
- Once someone finds a place to rent, we need to make it easy for them to stay there if they’d like. Unfortunately, it only costs that landlord $15 to file that eviction (the national average is $120).
- Because of these low barriers to filing an eviction action, we’ve sometimes seen more cases than actual rental units (ex. in Baltimore, there are roughly 25,000 rental units, but over 45,000 eviction cases a year). As such, we need to increase these filing fees from $15 to the national average of $120.
Require landlords to provide “Just-Cause” during eviction procedures
- While a landlord can rightfully evict a tenant if they knowingly break their lease agreement, it should be common sense to require that landlord to first provide that tenant an opportunity to resolve the issue. And if that doesn’t work, the landlord should be required to provide advanced notice to the tenant if pursuing eviction.
The Maryland Now Plan
- As one of my signature campaign priorities, I believe that — by eliminating the state income tax for anyone making less than $400,000 and creating the nation’s first Guaranteed Jobs Program — we will not only reduce the cost of living and increase disposable income for both renters and homeowners, but also provide greater profitability for landlords by reducing tenant turnover.