Maryland lawmakers advance anti-discrimination housing bill
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – “I think it’s just a long-termed educational process that people have to understand that just because you have public assistance doesn’t mean you’re a bad person,” said Wicomico County, Somerset County, and Talbot County Housing Director, Don Bibb.
A bill making its way through the Maryland General Assembly is looking to break barriers when it comes to affordable housing. Adding income discrimination to the list of fair housing laws to protect those who use housing choice vouchers.
“It’s important for people to have the right to live where they want to live and if they have a housing choice voucher that’s part of their income, then they shouldn’t be discriminated against,” said Wicomico County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director, Molly Hilligoss.
Housing officials tell 47 ABC income discrimination has become a major problem over the years where landlords and rental companies refuse to accept these Section 8 vouchers, making it difficult for tenants to find housing.
“A lot of them think that crime is going to go up, property values are going to go down,” said Bibb.
As the bill makes its way over from the Senate to the House – we’re told not everyone may be on board with the idea.
“There’s a little bit more effort involved on the part of the landlord in terms of maybe an annual inspection of the property or a little more administrative effort,” said Hilligoss.
“The landlords do not want to be forced to do something that they don’t have a choice in,” said Bibb.
And as far as the bill goes it does draw a bit of concern.
“Enforcement I think is always going to be the problem. The larger the base grows who at the federal level is going to have the capacity to effectively monitor the cases and complaints and close them out,” said Bibb.
But despite this, officials say regulations like this are put into place to give people fair and equal access to housing statewide.
“If they’re good criminally and they have good credit, what’s the difference of the source of income that they’re using to make the payment for rent,” said Bibb.
The bill has since cleared the Maryland Senate -and is now expected to go to the house floor for a vote within the coming weeks.