A bill that supporters argue improves the quality of affordable housing in the city is set for a Baltimore City Council committee hearing on Tuesday.
The Judiciary & Legislative Investigations Committee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. at City Hall to review the legislation proposing the licensing and registration of rental properties consisting of one or two units. Essentially, the bill would expand Baltimore’s existing multifamily inspection program to include smaller rentals.
“The main goals are to improve the overall quality of rental housing in Baltimore city, especially at lower levels of affordability, as well as to protect and preserve adjoining housing stock, and provide neighbors and city government with additional leverage when dealing with nuisance neighbors and properties,” Councilman Bill Henry, the legislation’s lead sponsor, said in a statement.
All pertinent city agencies sent memos expressing qualified support for the bill. The Baltimore Development Corp., the city’s quasi-public economic development arm, which is generally averse to new regulations, supports the committee backing the legislation. But the agency did warn the bill may create negative consequences, such as higher rents, increased vacant properties and fewer “mom-and-pop” landlords.
“BDC believes that the potential negative effects of this legislation are far outweighed by the positive benefits of safe housing for Baltimore City residents,” according to a memorandum from Baltimore Development Corp. President and CEO William H. Cole IV.
If the bill receives a favorable recommendation, it will be sent to the whole City Council for consideration. The 15-member legislative body would need to vote on the bill twice and Mayor Catherine Pugh would need to sign it before becoming law.
Renters, according to website Rent Cafe’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data released last month, make up 52.5 percent of city residents, compared to 45.5 percent who own their homes.
Currently, the legislation proposes requiring single-family or two unit rentals to be registered with the city. After registration, the property must pass an inspection by a third-party state licensed home inspector registered with the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development to receive an initial two-year occupancy license.
There would be three levels of license renewal depending on a property owner’s responsiveness to violations reported by tenants, a neighbor or during a random city inspection.
If a landlord receives zero violations, or abates all issues within 60 days, their license would renew for three years. If a landlord corrects all violations within 90 days they can renew a license for two years. Property owners who do not make repairs within 90 days would be subject to annual renewal.
Owners of single-family or two-unit rental properties would also be required to register with the city annually, at a cost of $30 per unit. The registration fee for multifamily properties with three or more units would stay the same at $35 per unit.