Another update in the peculiar saga of legislation to fund affordable housing in Baltimore: A new bill to correct the flawed wording of its predecessor now won’t be introduced until the city council meets Feb. 4.
Bill sponsor Councilman John Bullock confirmed via email Friday morning that his corrective bill will now be introduced two full city council meetings from now, as opposed to next Monday, which is when he originally told Baltimore Fishbowl it would be unveiled. Bullock did not respond to a follow-up message asking about the reasons for the delay.
Officials have wanted “to be more cautious than hasty” in finalizing the text, Bullock said a week ago. “We don’t want to go back to the drawing board with this.”
Affordable housing advocates are anxiously awaiting the fixes. Prior legislation—the product of months of debate—passed through the council this past fall without anyone catching two literally small, but figuratively huge errors. Both the Law Department and Department Housing and Community Development, which had reviewed the erroneous bill’s text, said they weren’t responsible for the errors (and DCHD, in turn, referred us to the Law Department).
As we’ve detailed previously, the bill is supposed to raise taxes on high-end or commercial real estate deals to bring in as much as $13 million (and as little as $7 million) per year to preserve, rehab or build thousands of affordable units in the city. The tax changes would apply to record and transfer fees in deals exceeding $1 million in value.
Mayor Catherine Pugh has also committed budget funds to bring the total amount to $20 million by 2023.
But in the version that was passed and sent to Pugh’s desk, the ordinance actually only took a small cut out of the taxes generated by the sale, not the overall value of the property. Had it been enrolled with the errors left unnoticed, it would have diminished funding for affordable housing to as little as 2 or 3 percent of what’s expected each month.
“The only thing I can say is it’s unfortunate,” Bullock previously said. “There were a lot of hands and eyes on it, but somehow that piece wound up being missed.”
The 9th District councilman also said last week that his office, the Law Department, the Department of Legislative Reference and Pugh’s office had discussed the errors and planned fixes, and all “are on the same page.”
The latest delay comes after Bullock’s office met with stakeholders on the legislation, including the Maryland Building Industry Association, which represents developers and had opposed the bill last year. Reached by phone today, an MBIA spokesperson referred us to the mayor’s office. A spokesperson for Pugh has not responded to an email asking about the reasons for the additional delay.