Delegates Olszewski and Lafferty Spearhead Effort To Reduce Section 8 In Southeast Area

Delegates introduce The HOME Act that will not reduce vouchers but distribute them evenly throughout the county.

In a role that showcased strong leadership, Delegates John Olszewski, Jr. and Pete Lafferty spoke to a sizable audience at the North Point Library Wednesday night to discuss legislation titled - The HOME Act - that would reduce “a significant concentration of tenants who use a public subsidy like a Housing Choice Voucher (aka, Section 8), residing in the Dundalk – Essex area.”

In another excerpt from the handouts, the delegates stated, “Concentrated poverty is bad for neighborhoods, schools, property values.”

The three areas of Baltimore County with the most Section 8 vouchers in use are Dundalk, Essex and Middle River.

The meeting was attended by a variety of community leaders from North Point Village, Berkshire, Colgate, North Point Peninsula and Gray Mannor.

The Rev. Eric Zile from the Holy Trinity Church in Essex (himself a Section 8 landlord) started the meeting off with an invocation.  Rev. Zile then went on to describe his experiences as a Section 8 landlord and the close association he had with his tenants whom he referred to as good friends.

Other community leaders expressed concern about the program and especially the high concentration of Section 8 in the areas of Dundalk, Essex and Middle River. Of the 5,573 total vouchers in the county, 1,494—or 27%—are in use in the three aforementioned areas of the southeastern section of the county.

Delegate Olszewski, Jr. said The HOME Act will not reduce the total number of vouchers but will distribute them more evenly throughout the county. In areas such as Towson, some landlords simply refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers.  The HOME Act would stop this and treat it as discriminatory and a violation of law. Maps were shown to the audience that clearly demonstrated the high density of subsidized housing in District 7.

One handout referenced a Jan. 8, 2013, survey that found that 51 of 57 apartment complexes in other areas of the county with 16,576 rental units do not take vouchers.

In the Dundalk and Essex areas, 16 of the 22 complexes with 5,191 units accepted Section 8 vouchers.  It should be noted that small landlords can still refuse to take the vouchers.  This refers to more of the single family type homes.

Many community leaders complained of a lack of oversight on the part of government for not holding so-called slumlords accountable for the upkeep of their property.  Many expressed frustration over the fact they have reached out many times to the county without a response.

Delegate Olsewski promised to look into this matter and provided the audience with contact information to deal with many of these concerns.

If you have an issue, you may call the Baltimore County Housing Authority at (410) 853-8990 and ask to speak to Ms. Marsha Parham.

In other areas that deal with upkeep, contact the Baltimore County Code Enforcement Office at (410) 887-3352 and ask for Ms. Robin Clark.

Ms. Fasanelli referenced two other areas that have adopted The HOME Act and have met with positive results.  Both Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County have been utilizing the act since 2002.  Ms. Fasanelli, who works with Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc., said, “This will also help our veterans who will need help in finding shelter while they deal with medical issues coming back from the wars.”

Ms. Fasanelli said the program does not impact the amount of vouchers but manages them more effectively.  She said that the D.C. area experienced a 59% reduction in vouchers being used after the law was utilized.  “It has no impact on medical care or education,” she said.

Ms. Angela Walker, a homeless person living in a shelter with two children, put a human face on the matter and spoke eloquently to the audience describing her plight and desire to be a productive member of society.  After she revealed her struggles to the audience she received a loud round of applause.

I interviewed Ms. Walker after the meeting and was impressed with her ambitious desire to become a successful member of the community. 

“I don’t want a handout,” she said. “I want a hand up. Everyone hits a bump in the road and needs some help at some point in their lives."  

She beamed with pride when she told me she was accepted into The Community College of Baltimore County's Essex campus. She became frustrated with seeing the abuse of the system by those who take away the opportunity from those who are truly in need.

For me, I came away from the meeting with respect for delegates Olszewski and Lafferty in their efforts to deal with this tough issue.  I thought the legislation was fair and, with the proper management and oversight, it will work.  Where our community stands now, the current system is not working.

It should be noted that the legislation, House Bill 168, failed last year but both delegates are more hopeful that this year it will pass.




This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

amdactivist January 25, 2013 at 01:56 AM
sec 8 is being abused by people who don't need it. landlords don't start out in the business being slumlords but because tenants don't care what happens to their properties because they don't pay for repairs and upkeep they have a tendency to destroy. hold them accountable not the landlords. As a landlord many years the system needs revamping. the tenants should be held accountable as well as the landlord. the landlord usually provides a lease saying the property is in good condition and signed by all parties I take pictures and let tenants sign and date each one. If we have to go to court the judge can see the condition when tenants moved in. Many tenants who have to go to court for failure to pay will convince judge that their house is falling apart and judge will grant them more time by calling in housing. The landlord is has to wait for housing to inspect a house that tenant usually destroys then landlord still has to fix house while tenant is still living there and still no rent paid sometimes many months. its a stall tactic and laws have to be changed.
Scott Sewell January 25, 2013 at 02:02 AM
We can only hope that it's not too late to save our community!
Buzz Beeler January 25, 2013 at 02:07 AM
amdactivist, you are right on both counts and these issues were addressed last night. The law needs to be enforced and not allow those too abuse it. This will also impact our vets who will need a place to stay while they heal their war wounds. There must be accountability. The lady I interviewed saw the abuse first hand and became a victim of it. I also heard of large scale fraud going on involving food stamps by those who witnessed it.
Buzz Beeler January 25, 2013 at 02:15 AM
Scott the large upscale apartment complexes will lobby against this bill. That is why they do not take vouchers in Towson and other parts of the county. Look at the photo I took and although not a great one, you can clearly see where the Section 8 concentrations are. According to Del. Olszewski, Jr., some apartments in Towson actually hang signs that say "no vouchers accepted".
Steve January 25, 2013 at 04:11 AM
OH Lord! It's the Amdactivist/Beeler show. Both are misguided. Jackie says the aver immigrant has 13 children and Beeker swears to it. It's just another anti immigrant scam from the two of them.
Buzz Beeler January 25, 2013 at 04:36 AM
What is the "aver" immigrant? You don't comprehend or read very well. I had nothing to do at the meeting but write about it and if you look closely you'll see that two Delegates, Olszewski, Jr. and Lafferty were the ones that are taking a stand on this bill. The other speakers Ms.Toni Fasanelli and Attorney Matt Hill are representatives of the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc. I guess you have a problem with them also. Some facts for you that will still go over your uneducated head: "44% of people who benefit from vouchers are children and 47% of households are single mothers with children", per the fact sheets. Now based on your rather lame comment as always, you have a problem with children? Children like you should stay out of grownup affairs.
Steve January 25, 2013 at 04:55 AM
Like I said Buzz Beeker and Jackie Aurburn a match made in Hateville. You do realize that the Section 8 program ended in 1983 didn't you Pops?
Steve January 25, 2013 at 05:25 AM
A little research goes a long way..especially if you are a "righter"!
Scott Sewell January 25, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Hey Steve, why don't you have the backbone to use your whole name?
Adam Skolnik January 28, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Dear Mr. Beeler I represent owners and managers of 161,000 apartments in the State of Maryland. We are opposed the source of income laws (mandatory section 8) for a number of reasons. First and foremost do you honestly believe that the “source of income” that a person makes is the same as the Fair Housing protected classes that Maryland currently recognizes? Is how you earn your money comparable to skin color, national origin, race or religion? We are against this law because the regulatory burden imposed if massive. Should a landlord have a choice if it does not want to deal with Federal, State and Local jurisdictional bureaucracy that directly impacts his or her business? Did you notice at this meeting that the opposing view was not given the opportunity to refute the claims that this type of law de-concentrates poverty, as a matter of fact we have as much data or more that these laws have little to no effect on the de-concentration of poverty. Is stifling decent really what the United States, Maryland and Baltimore County are really about. We welcome the opportunity to explain this to you and your readers. Writing an informed blog only adds value to the Patch and its readers.
Buzz Beeler January 29, 2013 at 01:42 AM
Mr. Sklonik, I am not aware of all the legal pitfalls regarding this issue. I am aware that uncontrolled section 8 can destabilized an area with increased crime and the devaluation of housing prices. I have talked to various community leaders who deal with this problem on a regular basis and know of which they speak. I have said this many times, I believe the U.S. is in the stages of decline, i.e. California and other municipalities facing bankruptcy (some already have declared same) and it is a matter of time before we are overwhelmed with debt. Look at the world rankings of the U.S. just in math, science and health care. Section 8 cannot go unabated and left to congregate in one area. I will express your point of view with documentation. You can email me at buzz@buzzbeeler.com to begin the dialog.
Katherine Kelly Howard January 29, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Mr. Beeler:I attended the community meeting about the HOME Act. I work for Regional Management, the property manager for the Eastfield Townhouses, a professionally-managed affordable market-rate housing complex in Dundalk which does not accept vouchers. Nothing said at that meeting convinces me that adding “source of Income “ as a protected class to discrimination laws is the most effective way to deconcentrate poverty. If rents in Dundalk are lower than Towson or White Marsh, logic dictates that housing voucher use will be even more prevalent in Dundalk when Dundalk landlords who are not presently participating in what is now a voluntary program are required to contract with the government or be in violation of anti-discrimination laws. Landlords opt not to participate because the program a hinders their ability to properly manage their properties and lets the government unilaterally change its contract with them. Please contact me about this. Kathy Howard , General Counsel for RMI 410 539 2370
Buzz Beeler January 29, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Katherine, thanks for your comment. I will call you. I also think you comment is correct based on economic factors. I am meeting with a community leader that will give us a real picture of the impact of Section 8. I plan to do a followup on the topic because of the volatility and impact of the issue on communities. I have spoken to a knowledgeable person on this issue and he felt as I do that Section 8 lowers the values of existing homes as shown by credible studies. Here is one credible study. http://www.nhi.org/online/issues/127/section8.html
Steve January 29, 2013 at 10:53 PM
The Section 8 program was discontinued in 1983. Old Whitey keep's throwing the word around along with the other code word "Food Stamps". It's just a racist dog whistle.
Rob January 30, 2013 at 12:14 AM
If the government is involved it is a fact that it will fail 100% and what they are trying to fix will only get worse. Why does the government feel they have the right to force a private citizen/business owner to take vouchers? Everyone knows what happens when these people move in. First the apartment/house gets destroyed then the crime goes up, then the community goes to crap because all of the productive citizens packup and move. As long as the people keep looking for the government for answers nothing will ever get any better.
Steve January 30, 2013 at 12:42 AM
There is no correlation nor causation between the Housing Voucher Program and crime. The subject has been studied ad nausem.
Buzz Beeler January 30, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Rob, I would say a lot of people agree with you.


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