Resources and Tools
By Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner
In last month’s edition of Planning Practice Monthly, we introduced the Maryland Housing Needs Assessment & 10-Year Strategic Plan (Needs Assessment) and why it is needed. Commissioned by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) at the University of Maryland, and Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the Needs Assessment sheds light on the importance of providing affordable housing in our communities and to “chart a course for Maryland to become a more affordable place to live by 2030.”
The report outlines key housing needs affecting renters and homeowners, articulates a unified vision for housing investments across Maryland, and provides tools to help achieve this vision. This document serves the important purpose of not only identifying the housing needs and challenges facing Maryland renters and homeowners, but also providing insightful and actionable ideas for local governments and non-profits seeking to provide solutions and relief in their communities.
This month, we are summarizing Section 2. Proposed statewide priorities andanticipate that this information will provide a context to the housing needs experienced across the state. In March we’ll review Section 3. State of housing in Maryland and in April Section 4. Needs by region & core actions to address them. In May, we’ll review Section 5. Maryland Housing Toolbox. Finally, beginning in June, we are planning a series of “how-to” articles for local governments seeking to incorporate the information and recommendations found in the Needs Assessment into the required housing element section of their comprehensive plans, as specified in HB 1045 (2019).
Summary – Section 2. Proposed statewide priorities
This section describes five guiding principles to be considered by state and local governments, as well as other housing organizations, when planning for affordable housing. The principles were derived from stakeholder discussion conducted from January through July 2020 and are intended to “unify housing activities and identify priority needs and populations that are common across the state” (page 6/PDF p.11). The five guiding principles are to:
1) Promote equity in housing – assure housing equity for all Marylanders by supporting housing markets that are affordable and serve residents equitably, and investments that address housing disparities that disproportionately affect people of color;
2) Create a balanced housing supply – align housing production and stabilization activities (homeowner renovation programs, vacancy and blight prevention) with projected growth and promote housing that serves a broad range of incomes and households, based on demographic trends;
3) Increase access to opportunity – support housing where other services are available such as schools, job centers, and public transportation by continuing to leverage Maryland Communities of Opportunity designations, and forging stronger partnerships with lenders to promote greater homeownership among households of color;
4) Support economic growth – promote economic development and neighborhood revitalization through housing investments by recognizing that workers need housing where there are employment opportunities, and businesses need more homes and good housing opportunities to attract a strong workforce; and
5) Create context specific approaches – tailor programs and policies to meet regional needs and better reflect unique community contexts, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach that does not address important differences in culture, geography, resources, and capacities in meeting the needs of both renters and homeowners.
Section 2 also describes two priority housing needs identified through quantitative and qualitative analysis conducted as part of the Needs Assessment, specifically the need for more homes for low-income households and the need for constructing both affordable and market rate housing across the state.
Meeting these needs requires addressing the housing needs of both low- and very low-income households across Maryland, along with creating a “well-functioning housing delivery system” (page 7). This entails constructing affordable housing that keeps pace with the growing numbers and changing characteristics of Maryland households. However, the report identifies numerous challenges faced in creating such a delivery system, including the increased costs of materials, labor, and new or improved infrastructure, as well as land use restrictions (e.g., density, housing type) or other regulatory and political constraints.
Finally, Section 2 delves into the multi-faceted and complex issues surrounding the housing needs of extremely low- and very low-income households in Maryland and discusses relevant actions to address them. Section 2 identifies the challenges facing these populations (made up of both renters and homeowners alike) and follows these descriptions with a series of broad recommendations and specific actions. The suggested recommendations and actions are intended for local governments as well as other housing organizations to utilize in forming their own policies and strategies to address their communities’ housing needs.
Among the issues affecting extremely low-income households are: a shortage of affordable and market rate units; the risk of losing existing subsidized units due to expiring affordability restrictions and problems associated with aging housing stock and infrastructure; the concentration of extremely low-income households in just a few counties and municipalities around the state; increased competition for homes; and severe and increasing housing cost burdens for some of the most vulnerable populations such as seniors and persons living with disabilities (page 9/PDF p. 14).
Recommendations offered for preserving housing for extremely low-income households include: providing affordable housing operating subsidies, expanding the use of project-based vouchers; and creating housing trust and preservation funds. Suggested actions to relieve housing cost-burdens and prevent displacement include increasing education/awareness of available housing programs; developing cross-sector partnerships to provide integrated services; and expanding emergency rental assistance programs; among other targeted actions (page 10/PDF p. 15).
The issues facing very low-income households are, predictably, not dissimilar to those affecting extremely low-income households, including a shortage of affordable rental and homeownership options; the availability of assisted units; increased competition for homes; and severe and increasing housing cost burdens. The relevant actions to address these issues are also similar for both groups and include efforts to expand and preserve housing options, as well as to relieve housing cost-burdens and prevent displacement (page 11/PDF p. 16).
Section 2 concludes with recommended responses to preserving housing for very low-income households with strategies for increasing the use of multifamily private activity bonds; expanding access to capital for owners of unsubsidized affordable rental properties; and establishing inclusionary zoning practices. Lastly, some recommended actions to reduce barriers to accessing and maintaining homeownership for very low-income households are increasing the availability of homebuyer education and foreclosure prevent programs; utilizing resale restrictions for homes receiving public assistance; and increasing financial tools to streamline purchasing and rehabilitating homes (page 12/PDF p. 17).
Planning and DHCD encourage all planners to read the Needs Assessment, as it includes a wealth of information about how each community can address the challenge of providing affordable housing to its current and future residents. Be sure to check out our upcoming March 2022 edition for the next installment of our Maryland Needs Assessment summary covering Section 3 – State of housing in 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or Joe Griffiths, Planning Assistance and Training manager at email@example.com.
 Needs Assessment Appendix B: Stakeholder Engagement Summary
 DHCD designates Communities of Opportunity based on three major factors: community health, economic opportunity, and educational opportunity (Needs Assessment, page 194). Communities of Opportunity are available in spatial form on Maryland iMap.
 Extremely Low income and very low-income households are defined as 30 percent and 50 percent of AMI (Average Median Income), respectively, as identified by HUD.