Baltimore County has gotten the green light from the federal government to require most landlords to accept housing vouchers, also called section 8.
According to Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, the controversial legislation passed by the county council last month has been approved by The Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The county had to get HUD’s approval because the legislation is part of a 2016 settlement of a housing discrimination complaint.
Olszewski supported the legislation, saying allowing landlords to reject someone because they use a housing voucher is discrimination. The legislation he originally proposed, which would have required all landlords in the county to accept vouchers, was changed by the county council to exclude some landlords who own only a handful of properties. HUD did not object to that change.
Olszewski said, “Next steps are engaging landlords and tenants alike so that they understand and are aware of the changes to the law.”
And that is happening, according to Aaron Greenfield, director of Government Affairs with the Maryland Multi-Housing Association, which represents landlords. He says there has been one meeting of county officials and landlords, and a second one is scheduled for Tuesday.
“The county has been very accommodating,” Greenfield said.
Despite that, Greenfield said the legislation brings with it bureaucracy and delay for landlords who now have to abide by federal regulations that come with housing vouchers.
When the legislation was being debated, Olszewski and the county council heard a lot of complaints from opponents about lax enforcement of housing codes. Olszewski said addressing those concerns will be a priority in the second year of his four year term, which began two weeks ago.
“Both for changing policies but also looking at what kind of resources we’re putting behind that office,” Olszewski said.
The housing voucher legislation takes effect in Baltimore County December 27.
Baltimore City, as well as Howard, Montgomery, Frederick and Anne Arundel Counties have similar legal protection in place for people who use housing vouchers.