Creating Homeowners, Preserving Neighborhoods in Maryland

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Grand Opening of Sr Apts in Baltimore Underlines Link Between Affordable Rental Housing and Jobs


Benet-House-4.23Baltimore – The production of affordable rental housing is an economic development and job creation engine for the state, Secretary Holt said during the grand opening Thursday of Benet House Senior Apartments in southwest Baltimore.

The Hogan-Rutherford administration has made turning around Maryland’s economy its top priority and the revitalization of the state’s housing market is a significant component, Holt said.

Sponsored by Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, the Benet House project involved the preservation and renovation of 76 one-bedroom units and 25 efficiencies of quality affordable rental housing for low income seniors and non-elderly disabled persons in Baltimore City. Benet House opened in 1991, following the renovation and adaptive reuse of a former Baltimore City public school building and construction of a new residential wing.

DHCD worked with developer partners Unity Properties, Inc. and Enterprise Homes, Inc. and general contractor Southway Builders. Financing was made possible in part through DHCD’s Rental Housing Works program and federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

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MD Gets Grant to Continue Foreclosure Prevention Efforts Ranked Among Nation’s Most Effective


Crownsville, MD – The National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling program has announced grant awards totaling more than $44.8 million, including $747,000 for foreclosure prevention counseling in Maryland.

More than 1,100 nonprofit counseling agencies and local NeighborWorks organizations across the country are expected to be engaged in the NFMC Program as a result of this, the ninth round of funding awards.

To date, more than 1.89 million families in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories have received foreclosure counseling through the NFMC program since it began in 2007. An additional 129,600 families facing the threat of foreclosure will be directly assisted with these awards. Many more will be helped by the training of foreclosure counselors, provided through the NFMC program. NeighborWorks expects to train 1,600 counselors with the ninth round of NFMC funding.

Maryland, under the leadership of Governor Larry Hogan and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford,  consistently ranks near the top in putting its funds to work. HOPE NOW ranks Maryland second in the nation in the percentage of homeowners who have received proprietary bank modifications between 2009 to September 2014, with almost 84,000 homeowners. The state ranks fifth in the utilization of the federal Home Affordable Modification Program, benefitting 119,000 homeowners and 11th in utilization of the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program, with nearly 92,000 homeowners.

Maryland also has been a national leader in using funds from the National Attorney General Mortgage Settlement to benefit financially beleaguered homeowners directly.

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Governor Hogan Swears In Kenneth C. Holt as Maryland’s Housing Secretary


Secretary Holt, joined by his wife Mary, takes the oath of office from Governor Larry Hogan.

Crownsville, MD – Kenneth C. Holt, Jr., the former Baltimore County delegate who spent 25 years as an investment executive, was sworn in today as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Governor Larry Hogan administered the oath of office in State House ceremony.

“I am pleased that Governor Hogan asked me to serve as secretary of an agency that plays such an important role in the economic health of our state and the well-being of its citizens,” said Holt. “This agency is something of an economic wheel horse, providing tremendous benefit to the State of Maryland. Through our mortgage lending program, affordable rental housing financing and neighborhood revitalization programs, we provide very worthwhile assistance to a large part of the population.”

As a past member of the Baltimore County Master Plan Advisory Committee and a past president of his neighborhood civic association, Holt gained on-the-ground experience with neighborhood revitalization, development and housing issues. His experience on the Baltimore County Human Relations Commission gives him a strong foundation in issues of fairness and housing equity. And his career at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Baltimore, where he served as branch manager, senior portfolio manager and senior vice president, gives him a thorough understanding of bond and financing markets and how they work.

Holt comes to DHCD after serving as chairman and chief financial officer of Traitify, a software development firm that was recognized by Maryland’s Technology Development Corp. as the “most innovative” start-up company of 2013. As a member of the Maryland General Assembly, Holt served on the House Appropriations Committee and on the subcommittee on education and economic development.

Holt received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland College Park. He and his wife Mary operate a family farm in Kingsville, Md. The couple has two children.

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Everything Was Illuminated! Neon Sign for Arts Center Symbolizes Energy of the “Next Baltimore”


SAM_2684-(1)Baltimore – The city  celebrated an important achievement on the evening of March 3, by lighting up the marquee of the Centre Theatre, the newest rehabilitated building in Baltimore’s Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

The blue neon of the letters on the distinctive facade instantly illuminated an otherwise dark corridor, acting as a symbolic beacon of the kind of development momentum currently re-energizing the district.

The $18 million project will be “a center for arts and innovation in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District,” according to developer Jubilee Baltimore’s website. The project converts a 67,000 square foot building that has been vacant for more than 20 years into restaurant space, film centers for Johns Hopkins University and Maryland Institute College of Art programs, the Baltimore Jewelry Center, and the Center for Neighborhoods, a nonprofit hub of community development-focused nonprofits including Central Baltimore Partnership, Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore and Jubilee Baltimore.

“This is a milestone in the next Baltimore, the Baltimore that we want to live in,” said Charlie Duff, president of Jubilee Baltimore.

The project received financial support from DHCD’s Neighborhood Revitalization funds, including from the Baltimore Regional Neighborhoods Initiative and Community Legacy programs.

The builders obtained the use of occupancy at the beginning of the week and are looking for restaurant tenants. The first office tenants are slated to move in sometime in April.

The Centre Theatre joins other recent and future development on North Avenue and in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, such as the MICA Studio Center, North Avenue Market, Maryland Festival Parkway and Load of Fun building rehabilitation.

– By Olivia Ceccarelli-McGonigal

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Maryland Receives $9.8 Million from HUD to Provide Rental Assistance to Persons With Disabilities


Washington – Maryland has won a second national competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide rental assistance for persons with disabilities.

HUD is awarding $150 million to 25 state housing agencies, including more than $9.8 million in Maryland.

The resources will help the state provide permanent affordable rental housing and needed supportive services to 150 households with extremely low-income persons with disabilities, many of whom hoping to transition out of institutional settings back to the community.

HUD’s support of state housing agencies is made possible through the Section 811 Project Rental Assistance program which enables persons with disabilities who earn less than 30 percent of their area’s median income to live in integrated, affordable housing. Maryland is working in partnership with the Maryland Department of Disabilities and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to identify and support persons with disabilities who require community-based, long-term care services to live independently.

This second national competitive grant builds upon $11.2 million that Maryland received in 2013 through HUD’s Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Demonstration Program. Those resources provided five years of rental assistance for 150 units in the Washington and Baltimore regions.

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New Report Urges MD to Help Millennials and Minority Families Hurdle Barriers to Homeownership


Annapolis, MD – Expanding down payment assistance is one way that Maryland can help members of the millennial generation move out of their parents’ basements and into homeownership and it can help minority families move from the rental market into the housing market.

Both demographics are important to the state’s recovering economy, according to a new report.

The study by Neighborhood Stabilization and Homeownership Workgroup looked at the challenges facing Maryland’s recovering housing market. Click here to see the workgroup’s final report to House Speaker Michael Busch, delivered Jan. 20.

Meeting with focus groups made up of realtors, lenders, community leaders and housing counselors, researchers found that the housing market in much of Maryland is well on the way to a strong recovery. For example, home sales prices have returned to where they were before the housing bubble burst.

But parts of the state remain mired in the after-effects of the Great Recession, particularly in low to moderate income communities with older homes. Homeownership in Maryland has dropped from a peak of nearly 70 percent in 2007 to 66.5 percent in 2013.

Millennials and minorities, in particular, are finding it hard to break into the housing market in the “new normal” of tighter lending criteria and higher down payment requirements in a post-recession environment of flat wages.

Focus group members told researchers that young adults, 25 to 34, may be hesitant about choosing homeownership in part because they typically are saddled with more student loan debt than prior generations. Immigrant and minority families typically cannot draw upon the accumulated wealth needed to afford down payment that could be as high as 20 percent on a mortgage loan.

“Even a down payment of five percent could take 10 to 20 years for households to accumulate,” the workgroup noted. “Having access to down payment assistance … may be increasingly critical to attaining homeownership, particularly among younger and more diverse households.”

The group found that the competitive rates and significant down payment assistance offered through the Maryland Mortgage Program is an important tool for the state.

The workgroup said a vigorous housing market is a key ingredient to the state’s economic vitality.

“In addition to fulfilling a basic need for shelter, homeownership supports family stability, encourages wealth build-up, and provides many other social and financial benefits,” concluded the workgroup. Homeownership also is “a critical tool in revitalizing or stabilizing rural, suburban and urban neighborhoods in distress or threatened with decline.”


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Robert Kennedy’s Commitment to Service Inspired Formative Years, Says Housing’s Kenneth Holt


Md-Housing-Day-2.21Annapolis, MD – Maryland’s  new housing policy will reflect the Hogan-Rutherford administration’s focus on balancing the budget, but not at the expense of DHCD’s mission to help people, said Secretary-designate Kenneth C. Holt.

“The governor and I are both Baby Boomers and what we bring is a sensitivity to the needs of others,” Holt said on Feb. 12 during Maryland Housing Day. “What you will see is how creative we can be; how focused we can be; how helping we can be.”

Maryland Housing Day is an annual event sponsored by the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition to remind lawmakers of the importance of affordable housing – not only to the working families, senior citizens and special needs persons, but to the state’s economy.

The event offered stakeholders one of their first opportunities to meet the governor’s nominee to head DHCD. Holt, a former legislator and business owner with 25 years high-level experience in the financial markets, said community activism was a significant part of his formative development.

He recalled looking into the faces of mourners as he traveled with members of the Kennedy family after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. “It affected me,” he said. “It affected the course my life took and my commitment to civic activism.”

Holt told the gathering that he will look to find innovative ways “to accomplish more with what we have. But the merit of our programs and initiatives eventually will result in more funds.”


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