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Landlords: We’re doing a lot to help our tenants in these difficult times | READER COMMENTARY

Left, Keyri Villa Torr, 12, holds a "Gov Hogan don't evict us!" above her head as tenants and advocates march last month from Annapolis District Court to the Governor's Mansion to urge Gov. Larry Hogan to protect renters in Maryland from eviction.
Left, Keyri Villa Torr, 12, holds a "Gov Hogan don't evict us!" above her head as tenants and advocates march last month from Annapolis District Court to the Governor's Mansion to urge Gov. Larry Hogan to protect renters in Maryland from eviction. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

In the recent editorial, “Rent controls during a health catastrophe are a reasonable protection” (Aug 3), The Baltimore Sun editorial board welcomed hearing more about what housing providers are doing to assist tenants in these difficult times. We took that as an invitation to share some of the often overlooked and good things that housing providers (the Maryland Multi-Housing Association (MMHA) members) from Central Maryland have been doing to support their communities.

It is a misconception and it’s misleading to suggest that housing providers are sitting back getting rich as their residents suffer. Our members, large and small owners and managers, actively work with residents to stem delinquency. Since March, MMHA has mobilized our members to work with residents by creating payment plans, eliminating late fees, not raising rents and connecting residents with nonprofit and governmental resources. We have worked with other housing advocacy organizations to advocate for rent assistance for struggling residents at the local, state and federal levels of government.

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Prior to COVID-19, and currently, as social distancing permits, the membership’s outreach efforts have included and will continue to provide a myriad of programs that support the broader community. This includes after-school learning centers offering innovative learning and youth development programs, homework assistance and summer camps for the community at large. Rental housing providers have been involved with quality of life services, consistently providing information and referral services and partnering with government programs. For decades, our members have administered adult health and education programs and community events (at no cost to participants) for both residents and the greater community where their properties are located.

Some of our members operate in-house food and clothing donation areas for residents to discretely have access to no-cost food and necessities. Backpacks, including school supplies, are often given to children in the community as they prepare for school. Prior to COVID-19, the membership often served meals to individuals at Paul’s Place and The Baltimore Station. Through our partnership with the Baltimore Station, MMHA has donated volunteer time and over $145,000 for programming to help veterans get clean and back on their feet. MMHA is currently working with a nonprofit to connect our members to food resources for youth residents. And, last year, MMHA worked with United Way of Central Maryland on a pilot program that prevented families from being evicted. We were active in our community before COVID-19, and we will continue to support residents as we navigate this pandemic together.

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Although MMHA is not a party in the recent lawsuit, we understand why residential housing providers have initiated it. The lawsuit is not about challenging any moratorium or restriction on evictions, or even how much rent can be increased during a pandemic. This lawsuit is about the patently unconstitutional nature of certain provisions of the laws. For an indefinite time, the acts cancel out contractually agreed upon terms and notices agreed upon as early as November and December 2019, three months before the emergency was declared and six months before the acts became law. It is simply a matter of constitutionality, vested property rights and fairness.

As housing providers, we remain committed to doing what is right for our residents and the community. We will continue to do that even in the toughest of times.

Adam Skolnik, Owings Mills

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

Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.

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