Government officials in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City will consider advancing two separate proposals Monday night that would compel both jurisdictions to implement requirements that could boost the supply of reduced-priced housing in both areas.

Though the city’s legislative package differs slightly from the county’s proposal, they share a similar goal: that housing developments exceeding a certain size or value, or already receiving large public subsidies, should allocate at least a portion of the units for people at income levels below the Baltimore-area median — a practice known as inclusionary housing.

Why inclusionary housing?

Housing policy experts say inclusive mandates can help unravel generations of racist practices that segregated neighborhoods along lines of race and class. Integrating communities also has social and economic benefits for residents and can give more people better access to transit, food, health care and schools. The considerations come as jurisdictions across the country race to put forth solutions to dueling housing affordability and supply challenges. Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors estimated Maryland was short 120,000 housing units in 2022; Greater Greater Washington estimates the deficit is as many as 91,000 units.

Inclusionary housing mandates are in practice in several jurisdictions across the country, including in nearby Montgomery County, which instituted the measure in 1976. There, it has produced more than 16,000 moderately priced rental and for-sale units, according to county data.

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“Development is happening in the city. The question is, who is going to participate?” said C. Matthew Hill, an attorney and team leader of the Human Right to Housing Project at the Public Justice Center, before a Baltimore City Council hearing about the matter last week. “We need to get this done. If we don’t, that means there’s not going to be any affordable units in those developments coming online.”

Critics of the policy say market-rate house prices in places with inclusionary requirements have risen, exacerbating the affordability problem. And the requirements can cause developers to choose different types of projects or rethink investing in certain areas over others.

A city-based inclusionary housing policy, long criticized as too flimsy, expired in 2022. Over 17 years, it produced less than three dozen moderately priced units, according to the city.

In Anne Arundel County, meanwhile, the County Council took up the issue in 2004 under the leadership of state Sen. Pamela G. Beidle, then a county councilwoman. Beidle said she had the votes to pass the bill, but it failed when one member left the chambers early on the night of the vote. Had the measure passed, Beidle said earlier this month, the county would have produced roughly 4,000 more moderately priced units by now.

Two approaches

Despite sharing some common ground, the bills differ in crucial ways.

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In relatively affluent Anne Arundel, County Executive Steuart Pittman handcrafted the bill, referring to it as the fourth piece of the housing-related agenda he mapped out after taking office in 2018. Now in his second term, the Democrat must now whip four votes from the seven-person council to get the bill passed. He faces some resistance from business leaders and developers and County Council Democrat Allison Pickard, who has argued the bill doesn’t go far enough in addressing the problem.

In Baltimore, the bills, engineered by City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, have won the crucial backing of City Council President Nick Mosby, but have received a more tentative response from Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration, who argued that the city’s $100 million structural budget deficit may make the inclusionary housing tax credit component unfeasible (the city’s Department of Finance, meanwhile, has been criticized for not suggesting the city amend the amount it spends on developer subsidies every year).

Representatives from the first-term mayor’s administration said last week that while Scott supports the concept, the legislative package would need to be amended before landing on his desk, and they asked for more time to consider the cost implications. A vote is expected on the legislative package Monday night.

What’s in the bills?

Here are the specifics of both measures, as of Monday afternoon.

Hallie Miller covers housing for The Baltimore Banner. She's previously covered city and regional services, business and health at both The Banner and The Baltimore Sun.

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