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Maryland Housing Discrimination Debate Centers On Section 8

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Section 8 housing has proved a sticking point in the debate over housing discrimination in Annapolis, Md.
Matt Bush
Section 8 housing has proved a sticking point in the debate over housing discrimination in Annapolis, Md.

By a margin of just one vote, the Maryland Senate effectively killed a bill intended to end discrimination in housing, mostly aimed at helping Section 8 tenants

Montgomery County Democrat Jamie Raskin, the sponsor of the bill, said landlords in the state shouldn't be able to make judgments on renters based on how they pay the rent.

"You can't discriminate against people in Maryland in housing based on the source of their income," Raskin said. "It might be Social Security, it might be a veterans voucher, it might be alimony, it might be a Section 8 voucher, it might be a veterans voucher under the VASH program."

Raskin said the measure is based on policies that several counties in the state, including Montgomery County, have had on the books for over two decades.

Opposition to the bill was due almost entirely to Section 8, the federal government program that offers assistance to low-income people so they can rent a place to live. Democrats in Baltimore County, like Sen. James Brochin, was counted amongst those opposing the measure.

"This bill mandates Section 8. If you're a landlord, you have to work with HUD, you don't have any choice," Brochin said. "And if you choose not to work with HUD, if that is the source of income that is coming from the tenant, then you're going to end up in court and you're going to have court action against you."

Among his many complaints, Brochin said landlords could be forced to spend thousands on inspections and renovations to meet codes set by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development if a Section 8 user wanted to rent in their building.

"If they want it in Montgomery County, they can have it in Montgomery County," said Brochin.

Senator Raskin quickly responded that those building codes are supposed to be followed anyway, and added that many landlords have told him that Section 8 users often end up being model tenants. That's because if they are caught causing too much noise, disturbing the peace, or using drugs, they are kicked out of the Section 8 program.

The bill has been sent back to the Judicial Proceedings committee, where it is not expected to be heard from again during the remaining two weeks of this legislative session.

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