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Baltimore County Sets Up New Department of Housing and Community Development

Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. (D) signed legislation Monday to create his county’s first-ever housing and community development department — an effort he hopes will improve local access to affordable housing.

In a Monday release, Olszewski said the new department will “modernize our government, providing an overdue focus on efforts to improve access to quality housing.” The newly formed Department of Housing and Community Development will look to streamline the county’s housing efforts, which are currently scattered around county government.

The move to create a dedicated department for housing comes as local governments look to quickly disburse federal rental relief funding to tenants and landlords. The county’s previous income-based rent relief program was organized by the Department of Social Services.

The county’s current Office of Housing handles other tenant and homeowner relief efforts, including connecting renters with affordable housing and voucher programs.

Democratic leaders from some of Maryland’s largest jurisdictions recently petitioned Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) for a temporary moratorium on evictions across the state, but Olszewski was not among the officials who signed that letter to the governor.

Olszewski also signed legislation renaming the county’s Department of Public Works to the Department of Public Works and Transportation. Olszewski said that the overhauled departments will build on the county’s current housing and transportation efforts.

“These new and reimagined departments will continue building capacity in our communities and support our ongoing work to build a better Baltimore County for every resident,” Olszewski said.

In April, Olszewski created a workgroup to look for ways to make affordable housing more accessible and equitable in the county. At the time, Olszewski said expanding affordable housing is a “moral and legal obligation” for county officials. That workgroup convened its first meeting earlier this month.

Baltimore County pledged to incentivize the creation of 1,000 affordable housing units by 2027 as part of a 2016 agreement between the county and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The county is more than halfway to that goal, according to a release.

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Baltimore County Sets Up New Department of Housing and Community Development