Anne Arundel Exec Makes Affordable Housing Push

    Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) introduced the first two bills of what his administration is labeling a major affordable housing initiative at Monday evening’s County Council meeting.

    “Anne Arundel County has seen a boom in luxury housing construction that has left young people, seniors, and regular working folks with nowhere to go,” Pittman said in a statement.

    The first bill would establish a fair housing ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on “age, ancestry, citizenship, color, creed, disability, familial status, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, occupation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or source of income.” Anne Arundel County is the only county in the Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s Regional Fair Housing Group without a local fair housing law.

    The ACLU of Maryland sent a letter to Anne Arundel County last September, citing numerous concerns about the ability of the county to meet its federal fair housing obligations. The letter was co-signed by representatives of Disability Rights Maryland, Homeless Persons Representation Project and Public Justice Center.

    Anne Arundel Councilmember Sarah Lacey (D) is the lead Council sponsor for the fair housing legislation and worked closely with the Administration and Council staff to craft the bill.

    “I believe housing is a human right,” said Lacey, who has worked on civil rights and consumer rights cases as an attorney.

    The second Pittman bill would create workforce housing in the county. Workforce housing is defined as housing that is affordable to households earning 60 to 100 percent of the area median income.

    Currently, workforce housing is only allowed in the county by special exception within the zoning code. In 2015, the County Council, by a 4-3 vote, further limited workforce housing by removing it from several residential zoning classifications.

    The new legislation would change workforce housing from a special exception use to a conditional use, and allow it in medium density residential zones as well as mixed use zones, and in certain commercial and industrial zones. Council Chair Andrew Pruski (D) is the lead sponsor for the workforce housing legislation.

    “We need more housing in our county for teachers, police, firefighters and others that are the backbone of our local workforce,” Pruski said.

    Advocates say that good housing is out of reach for many county residents. The most recent data, from April, shows the average home sale price was more than $400,000, according to the Maryland Association of Realtors.

    In addition to the two bills introduced Monday, the  Pittman administration is working with Councilmember Allison Pickard (D) and Councilmember Lisa Rodvien (D) to draft legislation concerning moderately priced housing units and establishing an affordable housing trust fund.

    Pittman will discuss his housing agenda on Thursday at an Anne Arundel County Affordable Housing Coalition event in Glen Burnie.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.