Maryland governor signs bills aiming to increase access to affordable housing  


Hannah Saunders


Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed three affordable housing bills into law: House Bill 538 (the Housing Expansion and Affordability Act of 2024); HB 599 (the Housing and Community Development Financing Act of 2024); and HB 693 (the Renters’ Rights and Stabilization Act of 2024). The bills fall in line with the Moore Administration’s goal of making the state a more affordable place to live and work. 

During a bill-signing ceremony, Moore said building a stronger housing market is needed to address a housing shortage of 96,000 units statewide.  

“We made the choice to put housing front-and-center this year because we know this issue can’t wait,” Moore said. “We introduced the most comprehensive housing package of any Maryland administration in recent history—and we were unapologetic about it.” 

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HB 538 will bolster the housing supply by expanding the construction of new housing—particularly affordable housing—by removing local zoning barriers. It will require the removal of governmental barriers to the construction of affordable housing to increase housing density and remove specific local limitations on projects. The bill will also remove local zoning barriers to manufactured housing throughout the state.  

LeadingAge Maryland serves clients through continuing care retirement communities, like affordable senior housing, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. The group serves over 20,000 individuals annually and represents over 90 affordable senior housing communities. LeadingAge provided written support for the Housing Expansion and Affordability Act through the legislature.  

“LeadingAge Maryland strongly supports House Bill 538 as it would support the development of much-needed additional units of affordable senior housing in our state,” according to LeadingAge’s testimony. “Maryland’s (60-and-older) population is growing more rapidly than any other component of the population, and there is simply not enough affordable senior housing for those who need it.”  

LeadingAge noted that the housing cost burden for low-income older adults is at an all-time high, leaving these individuals priced out of the housing market, and forced to pay more than they can afford for rent, which leads to issues in accessing food and medications.  

Kathleen Beadell, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, submitted an unfavorable response to the legislature about HB 538. She cited a section of the bill that prevents local jurisdictions from applying Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances to deny, restrict, or limit state-funded affordable housing projects. The majority of Maryland jurisdictions with Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances include certain standards for road capacity, schools, water supply, and sewer services.  

“Existing residents should not have to experience potentially overcrowded schools, congested roadways, drainage problems, or overburdened sewer systems because an affordable housing project is able to bypass adequate facilities regulations,” Beadell said. 

Beadell cited other land-use concerns, like affordable housing zoning density bonuses, including the highest allowable residential density in nonresidential zones. For example, a qualified project in an area zoned for mixed-use development can include 30 percent more housing units than a non-qualified project in that zone. Additionally, a qualified project can have mixed-use development with density limits that don’t exceed the greatest allowable density in the local jurisdiction’s multifamily residential zones in areas zoned for nonresidential use.  

“This approach ignores local land use and density decisions that have the benefit of input from local planning commissions and local legislative scrutiny and decision- making. Citizens, planners and local elected officials have thoughtfully tried to create a balance in land- use density that this bill, if enacted, would overturn,” Beadell said.  

HB 538 will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025. 

Housing and Community Development Financing Act 

HB 599 will focus on strengthening the state’s financing tools for housing construction and community development investments. The bill will create a statewide Community Development Entity (CDE), which will utilize federal funding through the New Market Tax Credit to finance housing and community development projects. The statewide CDE will be called the Maryland Community Investment Corporation.  

The bill will strengthen the Strategic Demolition and Smart Growth Impact Fund, which works to establish projects to replace existing buildings to increase housing and other developments while preventing sprawl developments. HB 599 will expand eligible uses for the fund to include debt payment and credit enhancement.  

“We know homeownership is one of the most effective means for ensuring progress for first-time and first-generation homebuyers. It also provides tremendous benefits for our city and entire state,” Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake wrote in support of HB 599. “The establishment of the Maryland Community Investment Corporation will add new means for leveraging dollars to make projects happen and develop units to achieve the goal of increasing housing supply in our state.”  

HB 599 will go into effect in July.  

Renters’ Rights Stabilization Act 

HB 693 focuses on strengthening renters’ rights through the creation of an Office of Tenants’ Rights in the Department of Housing and Community Development, which will be responsible for providing information on renters’ rights under state law. The office will reduce renters’ security deposits from two month’s rent to one month’s rent, and will provide renters with a right of first refusal upon the sale of a rental property. This will allow renters the option to personally purchase property, rather than a sale to another landlord or developer.  

The eviction filing fee surcharge will be increased from $8 to $93, which aims to prevent landlords from passing fee costs to tenants. Evictions will be barred during extreme weather events or other dangerous conditions. HB 693 will also modify Maryland’s new rental voucher program to prioritize families with children under age five, and for pregnant people.  

Patty Crankshaw-Quimby, executive director and chief animal control officer at Talbot Humane and Talbot County Animal Control, testified in support of HB 693 on behalf of the Maryland Association of Animal Care and Control Agencies and Humane Societies.  

“We see what lack of affordable housing does to families across Maryland daily. Our agencies are often the ones left to help these families when housing is unavailable. We end up caring for and rehoming their beloved pets. Our organization supports any effort to assist Marylanders find affordable housing and safe housing, as it assists our efforts in keeping families—pets included—together.” 

— Crankshaw-Quimby 

Crankshaw-Quimby said affordable and pet-friendly housing will help reduce the number of animals entering these facilities, and said the bill is a valuable tool serving both residents and pets.  

The Legislative Committee of the Real Property Section Counsel of the Maryland State Bar Association expressed concern about the bill’s creation of the Office of Tenants’ Rights and the Tenant’s Bill of Rights. The group opposes the right of first refusal to purchase property, which favors a single or a group of tenants, subtenants, and any other person entitled to the possession of occupancy or a residential unit.  

“After many years of applying a similar tenant’s rights law to single- family residential property in the District of Columbia, the district council essentially repealed the law. It had turned into a weapon used by lawyers and others to simply harass and demand sums to go away even when the tenant had no interest in purchasing the property,” according to the committee. “Maryland has some of the highest real estate transaction costs in the nation. The tenants’ right of first refusal aspect of this bill will simply increase those costs for tenants and everyone else.”  

HB 693 will become effective on Oct. 1.  

Readers interested in learning more about health issues in Maryland can register to attend our 2024 Maryland State of Reform Health Policy Conference, which will be held on June 7 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.   

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