The COVID-19 pandemic has taken many by surprise as this unprecedented crisis disrupts schedules, processes, and economic activity.
Renters and the rental housing industry in the Baltimore region are no exception. While current and necessary adaptions continue such as social distancing, stay at home orders, and business and school closures, we must turn our eyes to recovery and the financial challenges that vulnerable people will face as a result of the layoffs that accompany these unprecedented public health measures.
To this end, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s Housing Committee – local governments, housing agencies, and other stakeholders – submitted a letter to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) on April 8 offering strong support for a robust statewide rental assistance response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The letter was signed by the Chair of the Housing Committee and of the Baltimore Regional Fair Housing Group, Erin Karpewicz from Anne Arundel County, and by the Chair of the Fair Housing Group's Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), Peter Engel from the Howard County Housing Commission.
The economic impact of COVID-19 threatens a cascade of housing-related economic hardships. Expiration of the current eviction moratorium could result in a surge of evictions even if workers return to work after a furlough but receive no back pay and therefore no ability to pay their back rent balances. Property owners missing substantial rental income risk defaulting on their loans and going out of business. Lenders left holding those bad mortgage loans and foreclosed properties could clamp down on credit, crippling the rental housing industry just as it is trying to recover from record tenant unemployment.
The submitted letter expresses strong support for a State rental assistance program to help renters, property owners, and financial institutions to bridge this public health and economic emergency. Such a program would preserve our rental housing system, helping to smooth our economic recovery from our current dramatic public health measures.
BMC looks forward to continued work with local and State housing agencies and other stakeholders in supporting solutions for the Baltimore region in response to the current crisis.