Advertisement

Md. rental housing discrimination likely to die in committee

Primary focus of measure was to prevent landlords from declining to rent to people who get government assistance for housing

March 28, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Senate voted by the narrowest of margins this week to send a bill that aimed to address rental housing discrimination back to committee, effectively ending its chances of passing this year.

Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, who opposed the bill, said that downtown Hagerstown would have been negatively affected if the bill were to pass.

According to the Associated Press, a primary focus of the measure was to prevent landlords from declining to rent to people who get government assistance for housing.

Supporters argued the bill would stop discrimination against the poor. Opponents contended the measure failed to sufficiently consider the position of landlords and forced them to participate in a government program.

Advertisement

Shank said that dispersing poverty — one of the ideas behind the bill sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery — is a great idea, but the measure would exacerbate the problem in areas such as downtown Hagerstown, which already has a high proportion of people on some form of government housing subsidy.

“They (the sponsors of the bill) have sort of this idealistic notion that by forcing landlords throughout the state to accept Section 8 (which authorizes payment of rental housing assistance to landlords), it’s going to increase mobility among the poor so that presumably they will be able to go to better schools, get better housing and that sort of thing,” Shank said.

But the idea might work counter-intuitive for areas such as downtown Hagerstown, he said.

“By forcing landlords to take Section 8, it is going to further pack in poverty in those areas,” he said.

Shank said those in need of housing would not be going to an area such as Williamsport because there is not enough available housing and the government subsidy might not be enough.

“So where are they going to go? They are going to take up residence in these already stressed neighborhoods,” he said.

That concentration would make downtown revitalization more difficult, he said.

David S. Gysberts, the Hagerstown mayor, also did not think that the bill would help.

He said in a letter sent to Shank that the bill in its original form “would not prevent the continued concentration of vouchers in areas over stressed already.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|