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Baltimore County to ban housing discrimination against veterans

More than a decade has passed since the hospital at Fort Howard closed.
More than a decade has passed since the hospital at Fort Howard closed.(Pam Wood / Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore County Council plans to pass a law Monday to bar discrimination against military veterans in renting and selling homes.

While Councilman Todd Crandell, a Dundalk Republican, conceived of the bill, all six of his colleagues have signed on as sponsors, ensuring the measure's passage.

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Current county law bans housing discrimination based on a person's race, creed, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or physical or mental disability.

In addition to making it illegal to discriminate against veterans, Crandell's bill also makes it possible for a housing provider to give a preference to veterans and their families.

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The idea, Crandell said, is that developers could build apartment complexes or housing subdivisions specifically for veterans. Crandell said there is currently no legal way to do a veterans-only development, even though it's a concept that many people like in part of his district.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to develop its waterfront property at Fort Howard in southeastern Baltimore County by leasing the land to a private developer. The VA is now on its second developer, but the project remains stalled. The first developer and the current developer both indicated an interest to provide preference to veterans in their projects.

Neighbors in the Fort Howard community near the VA property have emphatically said that they want any development there to be exclusively for veterans.

Crandell said his bill "at least creates the potential" for a veterans-focused development to be built at Fort Howard.

"This is all part of the strategy to get what we want down there," he said.

The vote on Crandell's bill is planed for the Baltimore County Council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Historic Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave. in Towson.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers in Annapolis killed a bill that would have banned housing discrimination statewide based on a person's military status. Sen. Bryan Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican, said he sponsored the bill to prevent discrimination against veterans.

"This really is proactive. I don't want a case where a veteran is discriminated against in Maryland," he said.

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