In the final hours of budget negotiations on Friday, Maryland lawmakers quietly added $2 million for emergency rental assistance, a far cry from the $175 million called for by the Maryland Emergency Rental Assistance Coalition, a group of housing advocacy organizations. With the federal government’s pandemic relief funds running out, advocates and local officials, including Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and county executives of Anne Arundel, Howard, and Montgomery, had urged the governor and General Assembly to allocate funds for rental assistance.

Advocates and officials urge the governor and General Assembly to allocate funds for rental assistance

Governor Wes Moore’s $63.1 billion budget proposal in January did not include any funding for rental assistance, despite calls from advocates and officials. The coalition stated that emergency rental assistance plays a crucial role in preventing evictions for families who experience a sudden financial setback due to unforeseen circumstances such as losing work hours due to illness or the death of a primary earner. The coalition hopes to partner with the administration and the General Assembly in the coming year to develop a sustainable set of housing policies that include emergency rental assistance.

Without investment in rental assistance, Maryland may face a rise in evictions and homelessness

The coalition reduced its initial request to $50 million in a letter to Moore and legislative leaders last week, citing its ability to prevent the evictions of 10,000 low-income households. Without investment in emergency rental assistance in the FY 24 budget, the coalition predicts a rise in evictions and homelessness across Maryland. Emergency rental assistance offers an immediate response to families facing short-term financial crises, preventing missed rent payments from leading to homelessness.

Maryland Lawmakers add $2 million for Emergency Rental Assistance in Budget Negotiations

Several Maryland jurisdictions have stopped accepting rental assistance applications in recent months, reaching the end of their allocation of the state’s $750 million share of federal emergency rental assistance. The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development projected that the funds would be fully expended within a few months as of late January. Dominic Butchko, associate policy director for the Maryland Association of Counties, warned legislators in January that a crisis was imminent if rental assistance was not provided to those currently receiving aid.

Analysis reveals a rapid increase in evictions in 2022, particularly in Baltimore City

Maryland’s eviction numbers remained lower than 2019 rates for much of the pandemic due to eviction moratoriums and court closures. However, a January analysis by The Banner revealed a rapid increase in evictions in 2022, particularly in Baltimore City. In the summer of 2022, more than 4,100 people were evicted, twice as many as during the same period in 2021 and three times the number from the summer of 2020, the pandemic’s first year. Evictions remained around 30% lower than in the summer of 2019.

In September, there were 1,447 evictions statewide, just a few hundred shorts of the monthly average of 1,748 in 2019. Baltimore City’s eviction rates have rapidly increased, with approximately eight people evicted per month for every 10,000 residents in August and September, compared to the state’s rate of just over two people and Baltimore County’s rate of around four people per 10,000 residents.