Resources to Help Jurisdictions Meet the Planning Requirements of HB 90 (2021)

Resources and Tools

by Joseph Griffiths, AICP, Local Assistance and Training Manager

Starting January 1, 2023, per Land Use Article §3-114 (d)(2) and as a result of 2021’s HB 90, all comprehensive plan housing elements adopted by non-charter counties and municipalities “shall include an assessment of fair housing to ensure the local jurisdiction is affirmatively furthering fair housing”.

The Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) introduced HB 90 to Planning Practice Monthly readers in our July 29, 2022 edition. That article summarizes the bill, defines affirmatively furthering fair housing (AAFH), and describes the coordination between Planning and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to develop resources that will help jurisdictions meet the new requirements.

As HB 90’s effective date approaches, Planning encourages Maryland jurisdictions to explore the multitude of resources that are already available to aid them in their fair housing planning efforts. Planning notes that Maryland’s towns, cities, and counties must determine for themselves, in partnership with stakeholders, how best to complete the assessment of fair housing now required by HB 90. Every jurisdiction’s context is unique, and local planning capacities vary.

Potential resources are organized below into five categories, each accompanied by an explanation and link(s). Planning stresses that jurisdictions are not required to use these resources when completing their fair housing assessments. Many may not apply to a community because of its unique context. They are included here to further public education on AFFH and because Planning wishes to share what it is learned and researched about the topic with the larger Maryland planning community.

1. Defining and Explaining Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

HB 90 (2021): The best place to start is the bill itself. The preamble explains the bill’s purpose and its relationship to and genesis from federal fair housing laws. PDF pages 3-7 show the language and requirements that the bill added to the Housing and Community Development Article, while PDF pages 7-9 do the same for the Land Use Article. Readers can also review previous bill language that was stricken from the bill during the drafting process.

Image 1 – Seal of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) AFFH Webpage: This webpage describes the history and federal requirements of AFFH. While HB 90 does not transfer or impose these requirements on Maryland jurisdictions, HUD’s AFFH webpage includes an extensive explanation of, and resources for, fair housing planning that jurisdictions might use when crafting housing elements aligned with HB 90 and Land Use Article §3-114. For more on federal AFFH requirements, readers can access HUD’s Interim Final Rule on restoring AFFH definitions and certifications.

2. Fair Housing Data and Mapping Resources

United States Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) Data and ACS Data Curated by the Maryland State Data Center: Many housing and land use characteristics can be derived from ACS data, such as vacancy rates, age of properties, number of bedrooms, monthly housing costs, number of occupants per room, and household size. Additionally, ACS data can help planners consider the prevalence of a community’s home ownership or rental opportunities, particularly as they relate to protected classes. Users can access data by their selected geography (county, place, census tract) for occupied housing units by owner or renter, or housing tenure by race and ethnicity. Examining this information on a map may help highlight disparities between locations where residents do or do not have access to homeownership opportunities or where a more even mix prevails.

HUD’s Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) Data: HUD develops CHAS data from ACS data. CHAS data is an excellent source of information on households and housing units that need housing assistance, particularly for low-income households, and is available at the county, place, and census tract levels. Using the CHAS query tool, planners can quickly access data on household income and households that have at least one of four housing problems, which include incomplete kitchen facilities, incomplete plumbing facilities, housing overcrowding, and housing burden. While CHAS data offers similar information as ACS data, it can be disaggregated by income level, owner versus renter, race, age, household size, and disability status.

HUD’s AFFH Mapping Tool (AFFH-T): This publicly available interactive mapping tool, developed by HUD, provides access to HUD-provided AFFH data. The AFFH-T allows users to build an AFFH map, and export data tables, for certain Maryland jurisdictions. The AFFH-T is incomplete in areas, but the AFFH webpage notes that HUD is continuously updating information and data in the tool. Available maps include race/ethnicity, national origin, Limited English Proficiency (LEP), housing problems, publicly supported housing, and other dot density maps, as well as maps displaying data on school proficiency, job proximity, transportation topics, and other demographic indicators that can inform fair housing planning. These maps display Racially or Ethnically Concentrated Areas of Poverty (R/ECAPs), which HUD defines as areas with a non-white population of 50% or more and with 40% or more individuals living at or below the poverty level. Planning encourages AFFH-T users to review the user guide and data documentation.

Image 2 – Screenshot showing map of Maryland on Multifamily Mapper 3.0 online mapping tool with various overlays selected displaying data from HUD, DHCD, MDOT and others.

DHCD’s Multifamily Mapper: The Multifamily Mapper (Mapper) displays information about multifamily rental developments that were either renovated or newly constructed using financing from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and other sources. The Mapper includes information on funding program types, closing dates, number of units by type, and primary occupancy. Using this tool, users can overlay the location of multifamily sites with over a dozen housing and development designations as determined by DHCD, state, and federal agencies. The Mapper can help communities further their AFFH goals by assisting in the identification of areas of opportunity and Priority Funding Areas, and with locating existing low-income multifamily housing opportunities for families, elderly, or those with special needs.

Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) EJ Screening Tool: Planning introduced MDE’s EJ Screening Tool (EJ Screen) in our August, 2022 edition of Planning Practice Monthly. MDE developed the tool to enhance communication, outreach, and oversight of permitting activities in overburdened and underserved communities, but it can also be used for AFFH planning purposes. The EJ Screen calculates EJ Scores at the census tract level, which are based on the three criteria of 1) percent minority distribution; 2) percent poverty distribution; and 3) percent Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Jurisdictions assessing fair housing, as required by HB 90, might consider using EJ Scores, or the criteria used to calculate them, to identify communities of concentrated racial poverty. Identifying such areas is a vital early step in fair housing planning.

3. Community Engagement and Jurisdiction Self-reflection

In addition to gathering fair housing data, jurisdictions should engage residents and other stakeholders (e.g., public housing authorities, community development corporations) in a local and often regional dialogue about fair housing. The input solicited as part of this engagement can both inform and be informed by the quantitative data gathered through the sources described above. Some questions jurisdictions may want to consider asking stakeholders, as well as local government staff members, include:

Do we have residential patterns of racial/ethnic concentration?

For municipalities, how do our racial/ethnic composition & patterns compare to the county? For counties, how do our racial/ethnic composition & patterns compare to the metropolitan area?

If there are areas of concentration, are any of these areas combined with high levels of poverty or low-income households?

How do these areas of concentration compare with measures of access to opportunity, such as education outcomes, levels of employment/unemployment, levels of education, percent vacant homes, and/or amount of nearby employment?

If these areas of concentration correlate with lower access to opportunity, how do they compare with our zoning? Does our zoning allow multi-family homes outside of those areas?

Do we have publicly assisted housing? (e.g. Low Income Housing Tax Credit, HOME, CDBG, HUD-funded)

Are there racial gaps in homeownership rates in our jurisdiction?

What do local stakeholders think of this information? Do they have other suggested sources of info that could be helpful to us in this analysis?

4. Analysis of Fair Housing

Image 3 – Screenshot depicting cover of Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice for Maryland report cover, courtesy DHCD.

State of Maryland 2015 Analysis of Impediments (MD 2015 AI) to Fair Housing Choice for Maryland Non-Entitlement Communities: The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) completed this analysis to meet the HUD requirement to assess the State of Maryland’s and DHCD’s work ensuring fair housing for residents of federally protected classes. For more on the distinction between entitlement and non-entitlement communities, please see DHCD’s Community Development Block Grant Program webpage. The MD 2015 AI uses census, HUD, DHCD, Maryland Department of Health, and Maryland State Data Center Data, as well as Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and private data, to analyze fair housing successes, progress, and barriers in Maryland. The document uses this analysis to consider state policies and actions needed to further fair housing, including recommendations in the areas of funding, marketing, public education, housing staff training, and others. Jurisdictions developing a local assessment of fair housing may want to consider modeling local methodology, albeit at a scaled down level, on the methodology used in the MD 2015 AI.

Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s 2020 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice in the Baltimore Region (BMC 2020 AI): The BMC 2020 AI includes a comparable analysis to DHCD’s 2015 AI, but for the Baltimore Region. This document details and measures the success of local fair actions and goals, including demographic patterns and disparities in access to opportunity. The BMC 2020 AI includes sections on zoning, land use, and fair housing enforcement which may inform similar sections in housing elements. The appendices summarize stakeholder feedback and provide AFFH data tables that jurisdictions might consider replicating.

Assessment of Fair Housing Tool for Local Governments: The AFFH webpage describes the assessment tool as to be used “by local government and any collaborating program participants that choose to conduct and Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH).” The tool, while more extensive than needed for most jurisdictions completing a housing element in line with the requirements of Land Use Article §3-114, provides helpful prompts and suggestions for assessing existing and previous fair housing actions, analyzing fair housing conditions, and developing fair housing goals and priorities.

5. Fair Housing Goals, Policies, Actions, and Best Practices

HB 90 added the following language to §2-401 of the Housing and Community Development Article.

(b) (1) “affirmatively further fair housing” means to take meaningful actions, in addition to actions aimed at combating discrimination, to:

(i) overcome patterns of segregation; and

(ii) foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to housing and opportunity based on protected characteristics.

(2) “affirmatively further fair housing” includes to take meaningful actions that, taken together:

(i) address significant disparities in housing needs and access to opportunity;

(ii) replace segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns;

(iii) transform racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity; and

(iv) foster and maintain compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws.

(c) “meaningful action” means a significant action that is designed and can be reasonably expected to achieve a material positive change by, for example, increasing fair housing choice or decreasing disparities in access to opportunity.

These definitions guide jurisdictions seeking to address fair housing in their comprehensive plans, but what are some examples of meaningful actions to consider including in housing elements? The following resources can help.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Furthering Fair Housing: This webpage highlights example goals and actions from across the country that Maryland jurisdictions can reference when developing their own. The webpage also includes a repository of fair housing plans and AFFH research that may inform the development of housing elements meeting the requirements of HB 90.

State of Maryland 2015 Fair Housing Analysis: The MD 2015 AI, summarized above, includes a fair housing action plan starting on page 112. While these actions are designed at the state level, many could be translated into meaningful local actions.

Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s 2020 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice in the Baltimore Region (BMC 2020 AI): Section X of the BMC 2020 AI summarizes factors contributing to unfair housing and details regional and local actions that should be applied to countering these factors, including responsible implementation parties, metrics, and milestones.

Local Housing Solutions: The Local Housing Solutions website is an excellent resource for housing planners, one which Planning already highlights in our Housing Element Models & Guidelines. The policy brief linked above details meaningful place-based and mobility strategies and actions to affirmatively further fair housing.

Image 4 – Screenshot of Local Housing Solutions homepage showing types of information available on the website.

Fair Housing Policy Guide: Best Practices to Help Government Further the Commitment to Equitable, Dignified Homes for All: This Twin Cities, Minnesota regional planning guide summarizes best practices in the fair housing areas of public information, visioning and policy statement development, complaint identification and referral, staffing, housing for individuals with disabilities or those with limited English proficiency, fair housing commissions, expanding choice for Section 8 Voucher holders, project planning, and many more.

Planning, in partnership with DHCD, will continue to expand its AFFH guidance and resources in 2023 and provide support to jurisdictions developing a housing element. If you have any questions about the resources described above, or for more information or to get involved, please contact Joe Griffiths, AICP, Local Assistance and Training Manager for the Maryland Department of Planning, at

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