See below for JUFJ’s testimony on Department of Housing and Community Development Operating Budget, HB200/SB181. JUFJ’s position of this bill was favorable with amendments. Anna T. Levy, co-chair of the Labor and Housing Justice Team, wrote this testimony.
My name is Anna T. Levy and I am a resident of District 16, in Rockville. On behalf of Jews United for Justice (JUFJ), I am submitting this testimony in support of HB200/SB181, with Amendments to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Operating Budget. JUFJ organizes 6,000 Jews and allies from across Maryland in support of social, racial, and economic justice campaigns. JUFJ is a member of Renters United Maryland (RUM) and Maryland Emergency Assistance (MERA) Coalition, statewide coalitions working to advance the rights of all tenants to safe, affordable, and stable housing.
Jewish texts are full of laws, traditions, and rabbinic debate about the obligations of landlords and tenants and about making sure that people can remain in their homes. The Book of Lamentations compares homelessness to the loss of a parent or spouse. Without a home, there is no foundation for all other parts of a person’s life, and everything is at risk. Access to safe and stable housing has far-reaching health and economic benefits, and is key to reducing racial inequities and fostering a healthy society.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 100,000 households have avoided eviction as a direct result of Maryland’s emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs, particularly women-led and Black-led households. But these funds have run out or will run out across the state, even as rents skyrocket and evictions return to pre-pandemic levels. An estimated 108,000 low-income households in Maryland are currently behind in rent and in jeopardy of being evicted from their homes. A history of eviction filings, even when resolved without eviction, impacts renters’ ability to find new housing. Evictions also create unnecessary, significant costs for state and local governments due to the need for funding for shelter, medical care, foster care, as well as transportation costs for unhoused youth. Evictions are financially and socially destabilizing, and keeping people housed is critical to reducing racial inequities and strengthening individuals, families, and our communities.
Amending HB200/SB181 to include $175 million in ERA would help 20,000 Maryland families avoid eviction. This would help ensure that a financial setback like a job loss or medical emergency does not result in eviction for low-income families. Support to cover overdue rent, along with housing stability counseling, can help put households earning $50,000 and below on the path to self-sufficiency. Concurrently, we, along with the members of the MERA Coalition, recommend that DHCD form a workgroup of stakeholders to examine best practices and make recommendations for emergency eviction prevention in Maryland for the future.
On behalf of Jews United for Justice, I respectfully urge this committee to amend HB200/SB181 to include the addition of $175 million in emergency rental assistance and related housing stability counseling.