After years of legal wrangling, officials from Baltimore County and state housing agencies appear to be close to resolving federal discrimination complaints filed in 2011.

"I expect us to announce recommendations soon," said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. "There are some comprehensive resolutions being discussed."


Both complaints center on an issue playing out across the nation: that state and local governments may be violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 because low-income housing is routinely located in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty, minorities and subsidized homes.

The state "has adopted, maintained and enforced policies and practices in the [Low Income Housing Tax Credit] program that have the effect of limiting the development of affordable housing for families with children in high-opportunity, majority white communities," states the housing discrimination complaint that advocacy groups filed against the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

The tax credit program offers financial incentives to developers who build affordable housing.

The complaint also accuses the program of perpetuating segregation by having required developers seeking the incentives to obtain local government support.

That policy gave Baltimore-area governments in predominantly white counties a "pocket veto" of the affordable housing proposals, the complaint states. "It also operates to severely chill the interest of any developer in proposing LIHTC affordable housing for families with children in most high-opportunity communities in the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard."

The General Assembly in 2013 changed the process for awarding low-income housing tax credits and last year it removed the local-approval provision. As a result, 25 percent of tax credit developments since 2013 have gone to projects in low-poverty neighborhoods with strong schools and little crime, compared to just 8 percent in the two years prior, according to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

A spokeswoman for the state agency said the Department of Housing and Urban Development suggested that she not comment about the negotiations. "We expect to have more information in the coming weeks on any resolution," Audra Harrison, public information director for the state housing agency, wrote in an email.

The complaint against Baltimore County, filed by the county chapter of the NAACP and Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., raises similar concerns about clustering affordable housing options in poor neighborhoods. It also focuses on where renters with government subsidies are located in the county.

Housing advocates and county officials declined to discuss details of the complaint, but an expert who conducted a county analysis for the negotiations said renters with subsidies are primarily located in high-poverty, minority neighborhoods. It's a fairly standard finding across the nation, said John Logan, a Brown University sociologist who has provided similar analyses in other areas.

"Everywhere you look you'll see similar sorts of things happening," Brown said. "That's America."

Kamenetz said his administration has been working to improve the supply of low-income housing outside those clusters. He has allocated $9 million this year to a fund that plans to spend $30 million over 10 years to reward developers who set aside units for low-income tenants in low-poverty areas close to public transit and job centers. The county has also established its own program to help rent subsidy holders find homes in such areas.