On October 4, Baltimore County introduced the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act which will end source of income discrimination by eliminating discrimination against people who use a Housing Choice voucher. Eliminating discrimination based on how people pay for housing provides important new protections for people who freelance, seniors receiving a pension or Social Security, veterans, and people with disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Income. With housing so far out of reach for so many in Baltimore County, it’s important to remove this unjust barrier.
Between 2010 and 2014, there were almost 23,000 Extremely Low Income (ELI) households in the County, but only 8,800 affordable rental units. Frederick, Howard, and Montgomery counties enacted source of income protection long ago, and Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City followed suit earlier this year. Enabling people to move to high-opportunity communities decreases unemployment and crime, and increases the quality of education for children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend a high-performing public school. In Montgomery County, students in subsidized housing who entered elementary school behind their middle-class peers, cut the achievement gap in math by half and in reading by a third by the end of elementary school.
Baltimore County is home to almost 27,000 veterans, 30,000 seniors (age 55+) and 53,000 people who filed self-employment taxes. Well over 100,000 people in the County are potential targets for discrimination, and this figure doesn’t include many younger people with steady employment who currently live in poverty All of the jurisdictions that implemented source of income protection years ago also have higher median incomes, and higher property values than Baltimore County. Their employment rate among those counties’ residents is also higher.
The County has a responsibility to ensure the well-being of all its citizens, especially the poor and most vulnerable. Source of income protection would be a welcome step towards alleviating concentrated poverty, and towards creating more opportunities for affordable housing for all.