The Maryland Senate approved a bill Friday that would ban landlords statewide from discriminating against prospective tenants who plan to use federal housing assistance to pay rent.
The bill has floundered in the Maryland General Assembly for years, sometimes winning approval in the House of Delegates, but never before advancing in the Senate. Sen. William C. Smith Jr., the legislation’s chief sponsor, said versions of the measure have been scuttled since the early 2000s.
“Thank you to all the folks that have worked on it across 20 years," said Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat. "This is a pretty big deal to some of us in the body.”
The Senate vote was 34-12, generally along party lines, with most Democrats in favor and most Republicans opposed. A companion bill is awaiting action in the House.
The bill is dubbed the “HOME Act," which stands for “Housing Opportunities Made Equal.” It states that discriminating based on a tenant’s “source of income” is illegal. It’s meant to protect people who use Housing Choice Vouchers (commonly called “Section 8”), housing assistance for veterans, or other housing aid. People with such sources of income would join other classes of people protected by fair housing laws that address race, color, religion and sexual orientation.
Proponents of the bill say that too many landlords and rental management companies have policies against accept housing vouchers, making it difficult for tenants to find places to rent.
A growing number of local jurisdictions have adopted their own legislation to protect voucher-using renters, including Anne Arundel, Howard, Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties and the cities of Baltimore, Annapolis and Frederick.