A Maryland Senate committee approved a package of measures tonight designed to improve housing conditions for low-income residents of the state, including a provision requiring all local governments to adopt minimum housing standards.
The package approved by the Senate Finance Committee also would authorize the use of state funds to finance construction of low-income housing, subsidize rental costs for disabled adults and install indoor plumbing and remove lead paint from the homes of low-income owners and renters.
The package of bills was introduced by Gov. Harry Hughes as part of a comprehensive "housing initiative" motivated in part by a year-long series of task force and newspaper reports highlighting widespread problems in housing standards. One task force reported last fall that 30,000 households in the state lack complete indoor plumbing facilities and that only five counties in the state have minimal "livability" standards for housing.
Some lawmakers from rural areas opposed parts of the package in recent weeks, especially the measure requiring minimal statewide standards. Some said it would allow the state to interfere with local decision-making; others said the code would push some landlords to displace already impoverished tenants with nowhere else to go.
State housing officials argued tonight that they found no evidence that counties with housing codes had experienced problems with displacement.
The committee voted to delay full implementation of the program until 1988, a compromise that one lawmaker said weakened "the moral heart of the housing initiative."
But social service advocates, who had feared many of the bills would be killed, praised the committee for approving the package largely intact. "I see the bills . . . as a light and sign of hope to low-income individuals in the state who, with federal cutbacks, aren't seeing many signs of hope these days," said Kathy Scheg, a lobbyist for the Archdiocese of Washington.
The package now goes to the full Senate, where its chances are considered good.