Baltimore County’s new anti-discrimination housing law has won approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The law, known as the HOME Act, bans discrimination based on a person’s source of income. HUD’s approval of the law was confirmed Monday by county spokesman Sean Naron.
County Council narrowly approved the bill last month on a 4-3 party line vote. The law takes effect Dec. 27, Naron said.
The federal approval comes at the end of years of debate, legal disputes and an agreement with HUD about whether Baltimore County landlords should be able to turn away renters solely because they want to use a federal housing voucher. The county signed the federal agreement after the local NAACP chapter accused the county of perpetuating segregated clusters of minority renters with government subsidies by failing to expand affordable options in more prosperous neighborhoods.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. signed the bill into law after County Council’s four Democrats voted for the bill. The council failed to pass the measure in 2016.
Supporters such as the Public Justice Center and housing advocates have said the bill will open up more parts of the county to low-income renters who use federal housing vouchers, commonly referred to as Section 8.
Opponents such as the Maryland Multi-Housing Association have said the bill unfairly forces landlords into the federal program, which requires additional paperwork and inspections and can mean additional time before renters are approved.
Olszewski has said the housing department is working on developing education for landlords and renters to explain what the law means for them.