Housing Needs in Maryland: An Introduction to the Maryland Housing Needs Assessment and 10-Year Strategic Plan

Resources and Tools 

by Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner

There is a common misconception of what affordable housing is and who needs it, which adds to the challenge of providing affordable housing while need increases and supply continues to decrease in many locations across the country. To address this issue for Marylanders, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) commissioned the Maryland Housing Needs Assessment & 10-Year Strategic Plan (Housing Needs Assessment) to “chart a course for Maryland to become a more affordable place to live by 2030.”

What is the Maryland Needs Assessment and 10-Year Strategic Plan? Why is it important? 

The Housing Needs Assessment was developed for DCHD by the National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) at the University of Maryland and Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.  

The report outlines key housing needs affecting renters and homeowners in Maryland, articulates a unified vision for housing investments across Maryland, and provides supportive tools to help achieve this vision, such as the Maryland Homeowner and Renter Stability Indices and the Maryland Housing Toolbox. The toolbox is an interactive online aid to help decision-makers address housing needs and provide potential solutions to tackle complex housing problems.  

Why is it Important? 

While deepening affordable housing issues in high-priced markets like New York and San Francisco typically make national news, affordable housing problems affect nearly every state, including Maryland. An increasing number of Marylanders are “housing cost burdened” and “severely housing cost burdened,” defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as spending greater than 30% and 50% respectively of household income on housing costs.  

Figure 1 – Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), needs by state, Maryland.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), 26%, or approximately 19,000 households are extremely low income in Maryland. Among low-income renters, 86% are housing cost burdened and 74% are severely cost burdened. Consequently, a nearly 132,000 shortage exists of rental homes available to extremely low-income renters. Unfortunately, the reality is that an annual household income of $59,480 is required to afford a two-bedroom rental home at the fair market value determined by HUD.1

Figure 2 – The 2022 Maryland Housing Needs Assessment and 10-Year Strategic Plan, p. 15.

The Housing Needs Assessment identifies the full scope of the problem, which it describes as housing instability, finding that nearly one-third of all Maryland households are experiencing housing cost burdens. Of these, 67% are homeowners while 33% are renters. Among renters, 48% of those households are cost burdened, and among low-income households, 76% are severely cost-burdened.

Figure 3 – the 2022 Maryland Housing Needs Assessment and 10-Year Strategic Plan, p. 16.

Additionally, vulnerable populations such as seniors and the disabled make up a disproportionately high percentage of both categories. While cost-burdened and extremely cost-burdened households have increased across the board, a higher proportion of renters are extremely cost burdened. Such burdens are even greater among minority populations, especially African Americans. 

The Housing Needs Assessment also points out that Maryland’s senior population is growing, as is the number of people living with a disability. As of 2017, the year of the data that was used for the analysis, there were nearly 850,000 seniors or 14% of the state’s population, and almost 640,000 or roughly 11% of Marylanders living with disabilities. Both groups have larger percentages of households with very low and extremely low incomes.2 3  

Furthermore, Maryland’s population is expected to increase approximately 8% by the year 2030, and the percentage of seniors and those living with disabilities is anticipated to continue to grow at an even faster pace, only widening the gap in affordable housing for these vulnerable segments of the population.4  

To keep up with these realities, decision makers need to better understand trends at the state and local level and employ coordinated actions to create more affordable housing for both homeowners and renters. 

What is in the document? 

The Maryland Housing Needs Assessment and 10-year Strategic Plan has four main sections addressing:  

  • Proposed Statewide Priorities: Using five guiding principles — promoting equity in housing; creating a balanced housing supply; increasing access to opportunity; supporting economic growth; and creating context-specific approaches – this chapter identifies the key needs in the state. 
  • The State of Housing in Maryland: This section looks at demographic trends, economic trends, demographic and economic trends, as well as programs and policies affecting/supporting both renters and homeownership across the state. 
  • Needs by Region and Core Actions to Address them: This portion of the assessment provides a brief summary of the Maryland Homeowner Stability Index (found in Appendix F) and Maryland Renter Stability Index that were developed to compare needs across Maryland and within Maryland regions (i.e., Eastern Maryland; Greater Baltimore; Southern Maryland; Washington, D.C. Suburbs; and Western Maryland).  
  • The Maryland Housing Toolbox: The Maryland Housing Toolbox provides an interactive tool using a matrix of strategies that decision-makers can use to address needs identified through the Housing Needs Assessment.  

As the primary state agency responsible for reviewing comprehensive plans, providing technical assistance to complete them, and creating Models and Guidelines (M&G) to implement them, the Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) has developed and continues to develop guidance in response to House Bill (HB) 1045 (2019). That bill requires jurisdictions with planning and zoning authority to include a housing element as part of its next 10-year cycle comprehensive plan update. 

To that end, Planning staff published Models and Guidelines: The Housing Element in June 2020, which includes an online tool called the Housing Mapping and Data Dashboard and, in conjunction with DHCD, are in the process of developing guidance for how jurisdictions can utilize the Housing Needs Assessment, including the Housing toolbox, when developing their housing elements. 

As part of this guidance and outreach to communities, we will be diving deeper into the issues uncovered by the assessment and provide further guidance in future editions of Planning Practice Monthly. Check back throughout the upcoming year as we tackle this all-important planning issue affecting millions of residents across Maryland! 

For more information about the 2022 Maryland Housing Needs Assessment and 10-Year Strategic Plan, please contact Bernice Mensah, Director, Housing Economic Research Office, Maryland Department of Housing, and Community Development at Bernice.mensah@maryland.gov, or Joe Griffiths, Planning Assistance and Training manager at joseph.griffiths@maryland.gov. 

1 Note: at the time the NLIHC and Housing Needs Assessment were published, 2016 U.S. Census and 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) data were the most current data sources available.

2 A 2016 Maryland Department of Health survey found that having a disability was more prevalent among lower income households, where more than one-half of persons living with a disability had a household income of less than $15,000. 2022 Maryland Housing Needs Assessment and 10-Year Strategic Plan, p. 30.

3 By 2030, MDP (Planning) estimates that 20 percent of Maryland’s population will be 65 or older. About 194,300 seniors (62 years or older) pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, with seniors who own making up a large portion of these cost-burdened households (65 percent) than seniors who rent their homes (35 percent). Ibid, p.30.

4 For example, as of 2017, 14 percent of Maryland’s population was 65 years old or older, compared to 11 percent in 1990 and 8 percent in 1970. Ibid, p. 30.

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