Ending housing discrimination and lifting our communities

I burn for justice, and I’m not going to stop speaking truth to power just because I’m now a politician — running to represent Baltimore County’s District 1 on County Council.

Both of my opponents for this Council seat apparently think it’s acceptable to perpetuate a system that herds poor families, disabled people, and senior citizens into neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, crumbling schools, and insufficient jobs. The county HOME Act would help to alleviate that, by preventing landlords from discriminating against good people with Housing Choice rent vouchers who just want to live in a decent area, find jobs, and send their children to good schools. But both of my opponents oppose that.

In The Baltimore Sun’s Feb.28 article, “Baltimore County District 1 council and school board races takes shape,” the current District 1 Council representative, Tom Quirk, says that most of his constituents “are very concerned” about the HOME Act — by way of indicating that he continues to oppose to it. I would remind Mr. Quirk that poor families, disabled people, and senior citizens are also his constituents. Doesn’t he think they deserve to be represented? And I think that most reasonable people, including those who are not affected directly by poverty, would not want to perpetuate a system that hurts so many people and causes a blight on our community.

My Republican opponent, Pete Melcavage, said at a recent candidate forum that the government shouldn’t tell landlords to whom they have to rent. I remind Mr. Melcavage that the government already does. It wasn’t that long ago that landlords could refuse to rent to black people, but laws prevent that kind of overt discrimination now. Does Mr. Melcavage think that landlords should still be able to engage in racially discriminatory practices?

There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about about Housing Choice Voucher recipients. Most are just good people trying to get by and support themselves and their families. About a third are senior citizens, and 30% are disabled people. Landlords could still refuse to rent to those who they believe might pose a genuine risk due to tenant history or ability to pay.

Passing the HOME Act, along with working to provide adequate affordable housing in areas where there is currently an inadequate supply, would help reduce concentrated poverty and increase economic and racial integration in Baltimore County. It would allow lower income people to move to areas of the county with a greater availability of jobs, thus potentially boosting their income and raising the standard of living countywide.

Politicians — in Baltimore County and elsewhere — should have the political courage to stand up for what’s right, rather than pander to what they think will get them elected or re-elected.