Launching a transformation in fair and affordable housing policy in the county, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman has introduced the first two bills of a major housing initiative.

“Anne Arundel County has seen a boom in luxury housing construction that has left young people, seniors and regular working folks with nowhere to go,” said Pittman. “This county council knows that it’s time to act, and today’s fair housing and workforce housing bills are a great start.”

The first bill establishes a fair housing ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on “age, ancestry, citizenship, color, creed, disability, familial status, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, occupation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or source of income.” Anne Arundel County is the only county in the Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s Regional Fair Housing Group without a local fair housing law.

The ACLU of Maryland sent a letter to Anne Arundel County on Sept. 24, 2018, citing numerous concerns about the ability of the county to meet its federal fair housing obligations. The letter was cosigned by representatives of Disability Rights Maryland, Homeless Persons Representation Project and Public Justice Center.

The second bill expands opportunities to create workforce housing in the county. Workforce housing is defined as housing that is affordable to households earning 60 percent to 100 percent of the area median income. Currently, workforce housing is only allowed in the county by special exception within the zoning code. In 2015, the County Council, by a 4-3 vote, further limited workforce housing by removing it from several residential zoning classifications.

The new legislation will change workforce housing from a special exception use to a conditional use, and allow it in medium density residential (or R5) zones, as well as mixed use zones, and certain commercial and industrial zones. Council Chairman Andrew Pruski (District 4) is the lead sponsor for the workforce housing legislation.

Advocates say that good housing is out of reach for many county residents. The most recent data, from April 2019, shows the average home sale price was more than $400,000, according to the Maryland Association of Realtors.