Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announces plans to introduce legislation that will make housing discrimination illegal. Standing behind him are, from left, Councilman Izzy Patoka, Marsha Parham-Green, Executive Director of the Baltimore County Office of Housing, Councilman Julian Jones and Sharonda Ellerby, a former Section 8 recipient who is now a business owner. The event is outside the Historic Courthouse on October 4.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announces plans to introduce legislation that will make housing discrimination illegal. Standing behind him are, from left, Councilman Izzy Patoka, Marsha Parham-Green, Executive Director of the Baltimore County Office of Housing, Councilman Julian Jones and Sharonda Ellerby, a former Section 8 recipient who is now a business owner. The event is outside the Historic Courthouse on October 4. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

The Maryland Multi-Housing Association takes exception to the editorial, “Baltimore County Council should support Johnny O’s plan to stem discriminatory housing” (Oct. 7). Any form of discrimination is unacceptable. That’s why MMHA, a rental housing provider industry association, trains more people in fair housing law than any other organization in the state. The Baltimore Sun and other myopic tenant advocacy organizations irresponsibly paint housing provider’s refusal to accept Housing Choice Vouchers as discriminatory. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Participating in the federal voucher program is voluntary. A housing provider’s unwillingness to participate in the program has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with making a reasoned business decision that must balance the vagaries of a bureaucratic system mired in extraordinary paperwork and significant delays in leasing a unit to a voucher holder with whether or not their business can sustain the costs of these problems.

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Passing source of income legislation not only will require housing providers to simply accept a voucher holder, it will also require residents and property owners alike to enter into a mandatory restrictive third-party contract with the federal government. That contract gives public housing authorities unilateral authority to alter rental amounts at any point during the lease term. Would you want to run a business where the government can alter the price you charge for any reason? Of course not, and neither do housing providers. This should remain a business decision by the housing provider. Doctors are not required to take Medicare. Grocery stores are not required to take food stamps. Why is renting housing any different?

The notion that rental housing providers reject voucher holders because of “stereotypical and generalized judgments on people” is an offensive and patently false claim promulgated by narrow-minded advocates, most of whom don’t actually manage rental housing. The Sun refers to these renters as the “poor people” and implies that without this bill none of them will find housing. However, neither The Sun nor the “advocate” acknowledge that our rental housing providers supply housing to thousands of people who are currently on the voucher waiting list in Baltimore County. This bill is not about “poor people,” it is about mandating government bureaucracy.

Offering no specifics, The Sun editorial claims that approval of source of income legislation would translate into a dispersion of voucher holders throughout the county. This opinion fails to consider market-rate rents, simple economics and human nature. If “deconcentration of poverty“ is the goal of this legislation, then the county executive should accept MMHA’s proposal for an amendment establishing a threshold number of vouchers for rental developments which by its very nature will prevent the clustering of voucher holders in any particular area.

Adam Skolnik, Owings Mills

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Multi-Housing Association.

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