For Western Maryland to grow economically, our middle-income workers – teachers, nurses, police and firemen, industrial and agricultural workers, service sector workers, and so on – must be able to afford to live here. While we need to attract new residents, our population continues to decline, a challenge caused by several interrelated factors. Certainly one of those factors is the scarcity of affordable housing.
So let’s take concrete steps to increase affordable housing in Western Maryland:
- Both Garrett and Allegany Counties should have a county-level housing authority responsible for county-wide housing policy, operating plans, and implementation. At present, Garrett’s solution is to delegate most pf the responsibility for housing programs to Community Action, a fine organization but not one politically positioned or sufficiently funded to really address the housing shortage. In Allegany County, the Cumberland Housing Authority focuses on the county seat, while the housing crisis exists throughout the county.
- Both counties should develop programs to incentivize and assist first-time home-buyers.
- Western Marylanders should carefully consider development of a social housing initiative. (See https://www.cssny.org/news/entry/social-housing-in-the-us.)
- Effective housing policy means building complete communities, including mixed housing options, schools, public safety, roads and other infrastructure, broadband Internet, parks and recreation, and social structures.