Baltimore County Council to hear testimony on housing voucher bill on Thursday

Baltimore County Council bill on housing vouchers meant to address discrimination settlement.

Baltimore County Council members will hold a public hearing Thursday on a bill that would ban housing discrimination against people with government housing vouchers.

The housing discrimination bill will be among several items discussed at a council work session that will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Historic Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave. in Towson.

The bill, proposed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, would bar landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants based on their source of income. While the bill is written broadly, the goal is to stop discrimination against people who have housing vouchers, commonly called Section 8.

Currently, landlords can decide whether or not to accept housing vouchers as a form of payment. Baltimore County has about 6,200 vouchers, funded by the federal government.

The bill has drawn support from faith groups and organizations that advocate for the homeless and the poor. It is opposed by an association that represents landlords and property managers.

The council is required to consider the bill as a result of a settlement of a housing discrimination complaint. To settle the complaint, Baltimore County also agreed to spend millions of dollars to induce developers to build affordable housing and to move poor tenants out of areas with concentrated voucher use into neighborhoods with few vouchers.

If the bill does not pass but gains at least three votes on the seven-member council, it must be reintroduced next year. If the bill gets two or fewer votes, it won't be reintroduced after the next round of elections in 2018.

Following Thursday's work session, council members are scheduled to vote on the bill on Aug. 1.

During the work session, council members also are scheduled to discuss zoning bills for Towson and Fort Howard, a proposed development in White Marsh, a previously-announced budget increase for school air conditioning and several routine contracts.

pwood@baltsun.com

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