CSG testimony in favor of Montgomery County housing legislation

July 12, 2019

Montgomery County Council

Council Office Building

100 Maryland Ave

Rockville, MD 20850

Bill 18-19 — Landlord Tenant Relations — Relation Expenses (Support) and Bill 20-19 — Landlord Tenant Relations — Licensing of Rental Housing — Fee Exemption (Support)

Testimony for July 16, 2019

Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager 

President Navarro and Councilmembers, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am here to urge your support for two bills, both of which advance the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s mission of creating more inclusive, livable communities. 

First, Bill 18-19 requires that if a tenant’s housing is condemned as unfit for human habitation, a landlord must make a relocation payment to the tenant and provide a tenant with right of first refusal. Given the current housing crisis, low-income tenants often have few choices but to locate in housing that is substandard but affordable. When that housing is condemned due to poor conditions for which the tenant is not responsible, the tenant must then face the expensive task of moving, possibly to a more expensive home. 

Further, the right of first refusal provision ensures that tenants have the option to return to their homes after repairs. To truly have mixed-income, inclusive communities, we must protect renters, especially those at the highest risk of displacement due to health and safety violations. This is common sense legislation that would make Montgomery County a more welcoming place for low-income renters. 

Next, Bill 20-19 is linked to a familiar issue: accessory dwelling units. CSG and partner organizations that care about providing a diverse and affordable supply of housing have highlighted the numerous benefits of ADUs. One of the greatest benefits is allowing individuals with disabilities to live closer to caretakers or relatives – whether that be parents, siblings, children, or extended family. Similarly, individuals with disabilities can also benefit from the lower rents often offered for ADUs. 

One of the biggest barriers to providing ADUs as a housing option for disabled individuals is the cost of licensing and constructing an ADU. Exempting the license fee for ADUs occupied by disabled individuals will help lower the overall cost of providing an ADU. In addition, we hope that the Council will pursue opportunities to assist homeowners, especially low-income homeowners, with ADU financing. Financing assistance can include partnering with banks, providing interest-free loans, and creating a financing guide. 

This is a population that stands to benefit the most from ADUs; therefore, I urge you to help incentivize ADUs as a housing solution for individuals with disabilities, while also enabling greater integration into neighborhoods and community life. 

Thank you for your time.