Leaders of trade associations representing landlords, real estate developers and community development agencies wrote to Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) this week, urging the state to establish an emergency rental assistance program while the COVID-19 public health and economic crises rage on.
Such a program, the associations chiefs argued, would help property owners and tenants alike.
“Lower income households were already struggling with unmanageable housing costs, and we fear that a
housing crisis is imminent if the state does not step in to provide immediate assistance in the form of an emergency/short term rental assistance program to these struggling households,” the housing industry leaders wrote.
The letter was signed by Margaret Peggy Jeffers, executive vice president of the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington; Miranda Darden-Williams, executive director of the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition; Claudia Wilson Randall, associate director of the Community Development Network; and Adam Skolnick, executive director of the Maryland Multi-Housing Association Inc.
They laid out some stark statistics: AOBA said that in Maryland, property owners have seen rent delinquency rates of between 20% and 25%. Across one association member’s Prince George’s County portfolio of 11,000 units, the uncollected rent balance on May 31 was $1,811,361 compared to the uncollected rent balance of $316,001 a year earlier.
The other organizations that signed the letter offer similar data.
“It is imperative that the State provide some emergency housing assistance to Maryland households who have been financially impacted by COVID before a housing crisis is created and before the court system is bogged down in eviction proceedings,” the groups write.
They note that 18 states and the District of Columbia have set up some kind of rental assistance program and that Virginia is in the process of doing so.
“A statewide rental assistance program would allow vulnerable families throughout Maryland [to] stay housed and remove the burden of mounting debt that they cannot recover from, and also help property owners to provide critical services to their residents, meet their financial obligations and maintain their properties,” the housing groups said.