Limiting housing in Howard Discrimination law: Council shouldn't buckle in a county that has dearth of affordable units.

May 29, 1998

IT WAS disappointing to see the African American Coalition of Howard County go along with a proposal to gut a law that prohibits discrimination against low-income renters.

The Howard County Council has been asked to weaken the 6-year-old law, which opens all rental housing to families who receive government housing subsidies. Landlords petitioning for the change say they don't want their apartment developments to become "projects."

The landlords want the law changed to say they don't have to rent more than 20 percent of their units to low-income families receiving housing subsidies.

The African American Coalition agreed not to fight the change after county housing officials told the group that landlords might sue to dismantle the ordinance. Coalition Vice President Sherman Howell said the 20-percent cap is not as important as the county's lack of affordable housing.

XTC That's a valid point, but it underscores the reason that the anti-discrimination housing law should not be changed. Rental housing, indeed all housing, is expensive in Howard County. It is ludicrous for landlords of high-priced housing to fear an onslaught of poor families.

A family of four cannot earn more than $27,800 to receive a federal subsidy. They couldn't afford most rents in Howard, even with government assistance.

In any case, no one other than the landlord should know which families' rents are subsidized.

It is up to the landlord to enforce rules in his lease that would prevent tenants -- whether or not their rent is subsidized -- from doing anything that would make their development an undesirable place to live. Landlords trying to change the anti-discrimination law are stereotyping all poor people as bad tenants. They should not be allowed to do that.

With the small amount of affordable housing in Howard County, it would be wrong to further limit its availability to the poor by imposing a 20-percent quota. The County Council should leave the anti-discrimination law intact.

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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