Maryland Department of Planning Publishes Housing Element Models and Guidelines

Resources and Tools 

One bright house surrounded by dark houses
Photo Credit: Public Domain

June is American Housing Month! The Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) believes every Marylander deserves an opportunity for a safe and affordable home to share with family and friends. 




On June 16, 2020, Planning published a new webpage, called the Housing Element Models and Guidelines (M&G), to support jurisdictions planning for affordable housing in response to House Bill 1045 (HB 1045 [2019]). The M&G has four parts: 1) Housing Planning; 2) Housing Data; 3) Housing Practices; and 4) Affordable Housing Resources.  

Planning developed the M&G in partnership with a stakeholder group composed of affordable housing professionals, housing financers, developers, local planners, experts in senior housing and services for persons experiencing homelessness, and economic developers. The department also worked closely with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).  

DHCD oversees the state’s housing efforts. The department’s 2018 annual report states, “By financing affordable homeownership and rental housing, we help Marylanders secure a safe, sustainable home and become engaged and invested members of their communities.” Leaders in Maryland’s diverse communities share this sentiment. DHCD supports affordable housing through its Low-income Housing Tax Credit, Neighborhood Revitalization, Community Development Block Grant, Maryland Mortgage, Housing Trust Fund, Continuum of Care programs, among others.  

The department also maintains partnerships with the Maryland Departments of Health and Disabilities to provide housing for special populations and individuals with disabilities. The M&G builds upon these important efforts, provides education for local planners on available resources, and enhances access to data. 

The industry standard for affordability is a household that spends less than 30% of its income on housing. There are many organizations throughout the state and nation dedicated to providing and developing such housing, many helping craft the Housing M&G. Planning is excited to partner with them and the most important stakeholders in housing planning, the people residing in the homes. 

Housing is an issue on the minds of many Marylanders. In August 2019 Governor Hogan released the A Better Maryland State Development Plan. One of the topics it includes is Creating Workforce/Affordable Housing: Addressing the critical shortage of housing that is affordable at all income levels to purchase, rent, and maintain.

During the planning process for A Better Maryland, many stakeholders throughout Maryland repeatedly raised the need for such housing, regardless of community type or size as a primary concern. In response, the A Better Maryland plan includes strategies for affordable housing education, connecting workforce development with housing, innovative partnerships, and the creation of tracking and analysis systems. HB 1045 (2019) was not a response to A Better Maryland, but we believe the guidance that emerged from this effort advances the housing strategies it contains. 

HB 1045 (2019) amended the Land Use Article, requiring every Maryland Jurisdiction (effective June 1, 2010) to include a housing element in new and updated comprehensive plans. The statute describes what must be included and permits flexibility to solve affordable housing issues and says that: 

A housing element shall address the need for affordable housing within the jurisdictions, including: 

  • Workforce housing; and 
  • Low-income housing 

A housing element may include goals, objectives, policies, plans, and standards. 

The statute does not describe, nor mandate, how a jurisdiction shall address the need for affordable housing, and that is where Planning’s M&G can assist. 

Our new M&G webpage includes the following valuable tools: 

  • Rationale for Housing Planning 
  • Housing Data Dashboard (More below) 
  • Filterable Affordable Housing Resource List 
  • Local Housing Self-assessments 
  • Model Housing Element Development Process 
  • Description of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Area Median Income (AMI) Data 
  • Common Practices 
  • Example Goals, Objectives, and Strategies 

The Housing Data Dashboard consolidates American Community Survey (ACS) and HUD AMI data into an easy to use mapping interface. Planning included data sets most beneficial for planning housing, available in both chart and tabular formats. Users can access this data at the county, municipal, census tract, and designated place levels. The charts change in real time as the user selects new geographies, and tabular data is available to download specific to the chosen location.

The dashboard also includes an AMI calculator that shows the income and housing affordability levels based on the household incomes of the selected geography. HB 1045 (2019) defines housing affordability based on an area’s AMI, and this tool provides quick and ready AMI information for the user to assess the affordability needs of their planning areas and its households.  

Additional Geographic Information Systems (GIS) layers are included in the dashboard that users can display on the map, including local and state designations, infrastructure, and property information. These factors can impact the planned location(s) of future housing and the availability of resources to support rehabilitation and increased residential density. These layers, combined with the ACS data, can also help assess the current condition of housing stock in a community or study area.  

Finally, Planning encourages users to reference the Model Housing Element Development Process while accessing the dashboard. This resource guides users through a sample housing analysis and element drafting process and contains suggestions about how the data can be applied during a planning analysis.  

The M&G contains too many resources to fully explain in this article, and Planning encourages users to explore everything it has to offer. We will continue to release versions of, and improvements to, the M&G in phases. As an online product, Planning will update the M&G with new resources, data, and information as they become available – a living and growing guidance product.  

Over the summer and fall 2020, Planning will enhance the capabilities of the M&G website for greater access and functionality, add data and data interpretation guidance, and construct a best practice depository.

If you would like to contribute to Planning’s efforts to build upon the Housing Element M&G with local examples of planning for housing such as case studies, housing analyses, or affordable housing development projects, please contact Joe Griffiths, Local Assistance and Training Manager at:

4 thoughts on “Maryland Department of Planning Publishes Housing Element Models and Guidelines

  1. Pingback: New! Maryland Department of Planning Launches Housing Dashboard | Maryland Planning Blog

  2. Pingback: Self-assessments Help with Planning for Housing | Maryland Planning Blog

  3. Pingback: Housing Planning is Both a Process and a Practice | Maryland Planning Blog

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