Creating Homeowners, Preserving Neighborhoods in Maryland


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

MARCH 16

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

Swearing-In-3.13

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”

MARCH 3

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

MARCH 3

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

FEBRUARY 27

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

FEBRURARY 13

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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Five New Sustainable Communities Added, Including Historic Towns on Eastern Shore, Western MD

Founded in 1683, originally as a seaport, the Eastern Shore town of Oxford is reinventing itself through the Sustainable Communities program.

Founded in 1683, originally as a seaport, the Eastern Shore town of Oxford is reinventing itself through the Sustainable Communities program.

FEBRUARY 11 

Crownsville, MD – DHCD is announcing the addition of five new Sustainable Communities, bringing the statewide total to 82. There is at least one designated  Sustainable Community in each of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

Maryland’s Sustainable Communities program seeks to strengthen reinvestment and revitalization in the state’s older communities through state, local and private sector partnerships.

The new Sustainable Communities are:

Baltimore County – Northwest Gateways

The Northwest Gateways area is the seventh Sustainable Community in Baltimore County. It targets the Liberty and Reisterstown Road corridors and includes various commercial revitalization nodes, the Fieldstone and Sudbrook Park historic districts and the Old Court and Millford Mill Metro Stations.  Key revitalization strategies targeted towards this area include renovating or redeveloping deteriorating commercial buildings and strip shopping centers, improving aesthetic appeal of streetscape, upgrading curbs, sidewalks, alleys and other infrastructure, offering no or low-interest loans to low-moderate income home owners for energy efficiency upgrades and working with the State Highway Administration to improve pedestrian, bike and transit access.

Frederick County – Town of Myersville

The sixth Sustainable Community in Frederick County, the Town of Myersville, incorporated in 1904, has targeted its historic core for a Sustainable Communities designation. A small bedroom community that cherishes its parks and open space, Myersville plans to preserve its community identity through the establishment of local historic district, improve the infrastructure and aesthetics on its Main Street, connect parks and open spaces through trails and greenways and complete improvements at Trolley Park, the Town’s pocket park.

Kent County – Town of Betterton

Betterton, with its old-world charm, is now a Sustainable Community.

Betterton, with its old-world charm, is now a Sustainable Community.

The Town of Betterton is the second Sustainable Community designated in Kent County. This quaint community boasts Victorian-era housing stock, national and local historic districts, and a public beach.  Making “green” improvements is core to its revitalization strategy.  The Town plans to seek a Sustainable Maryland Certified designation, design and construct a green street to address flooding issues, establish a walking/biking trail through the Town and along the beach,, and initiate a beautification program along its Main Street.

Kent County/Queen Anne’s County – Town of Millington

Located at the head of the Chester River, the Town of Millington is uniquely situated in both Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties. The town, incorporated in 1890, has an interesting history as a center of commerce and is also a popular place for fishing with public fishing piers.  The town’s revitalization strategy includes beautifying the downtown streetscape, improving residential and commercial facades as a means to attract home buyers and small businesses, supporting the development of a senior housing/assisted living facility, enhancing Millington’s waterfront and building a town museum.

Talbot County – Town of Oxford

Founded in 1683 and incorporated in 1852, the Town of Oxford is one of Maryland’s oldest communities. Historically recognized as a seaport in Maryland, the Town of Oxford has reinvented itself more than once to adapt to its changing environment.  As a Sustainable Community, the town recognizes that it needs to adapt to climate change and plans to continue the development of living shorelines, establish a Community Revitalization Fund, acquire and/or support the rehabilitation of various commercial and mixed-use buildings in the historic district and develop a long term Capital Improvement Plan that will strengthen Oxford’s stormwater and tidal water infrastructure.


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Homeownership Initiative in Prince George’s County Doing Record Business, Real Estate Brokers Told

Real estate brokers listen intently as DHCD's Bill Milko leads a training session on the MMP Triple Play Initiative in Prince George's County.

Real estate brokers listen intently as DHCD’s Bill Milko leads a training session on the MMP Triple Play Initiative in Prince George’s County.

FEBRUARY 5

Lanham, MD – Just weeks after its launch in November, the TriplePlay Initiative in Prince George’s County is on track to become one of the most successful Maryland Mortgage Program initiatives to date, according to William Ariano, Jr., deputy director of development finance at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Ariano said the program has received over $40 million in reservations, representing 186 first-time homebuyers in the county.

“From Bowie to Temple Hills … from Upper Marlboro to Oxon Hill, we are poised to do more lending in Prince George’s County than ever before and those areas that need the greatest focus are receiving it,” Ariano said.

Speaking Wednesday at one of the department’s realtor training sessions, Ariano told a packed house that the landmark initiative is an example of the continued commitment to homeownership under the Hogan-Rutherford administration.

“Acting Secretary Kenneth Holt understands the importance of housing and its benefit to the state, the county and to the families who can build strong sustainable households through homeownership,” Ariano said. “He has stated that his goals include more support for housing programs and continued strong service to our citizens.”

The $100 million initiative will help an estimated 500 families purchase the home of their dreams in the county through the Maryland Mortgage Program. Through the initiative, all eligible Maryland Mortgage Program borrowers purchasing in Prince George’s County receive a 0.25 percent discount on the regular Maryland Mortgage Program’s already low rates, and $10,000 downpayment assistance in the form of an interest-free, deferred loan, good for the life of the loan.

Also, borrowers purchasing in one of 14 county zip codes can receive an additional $10,000 grant for a total of $20,000 of financial assistance. Those zip codes are: 20743 (Capitol Heights), 20746 (Suitland), 20706 (Lanham), 20745 (Oxon Hill), 20747 (District Heights), 20772 and 20774 (Upper Marlboro), 20748 (Temple Hills), 20744 (Fort Washington), 20737 (Riverdale), 20784 (Landover/Hyattsville), 20785 (Landover Hills/Hyattsville), 20710 (Bladensburg), and 20722 (Brentwood).

In addition, the state is waiving its fee on the Maryland HomeCredit, which allows homebuyers to claim a federal income tax credit of up to $2,000 for as long as the Maryland Mortgage Program loan is outstanding.

The TriplePlay initiative is the result of a unique partnership between the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Prince George’s County and the Office of the Attorney General. Working together, the partners recognized homeownership as the most effective use of a portion of the $10 million that was set aside for Prince George’s County as part of the landmark Mortgage Servicing Settlement between the nation’s attorneys general and the five largest lenders.

“The results of this partnership have been outstanding,” said Eric Brown, director of the county Department of Housing and Community Development. “Our strategy to focus on those areas most impacted by foreclosure is starting to see results. We have increased the base value of real estate in the county by 23 percent – faster than any other jurisdiction in the state. The median home sales price hit a low point in 2011 but since then it’s up 47 percent.”

The program is embraced by lenders and real estate brokers as well as homebuyers. Wednesday’s training session had more than 350 registrants.

“One of the biggest problems we find is otherwise well-qualified buyers lacking the funds for the downpayment,” said Desiree Callener, president of the Prince George’s County Association of Realtors. “This is why this initiative is so important.”

Learn more about Maryland’s flagship homeownership program by visiting DHCD’s website: MMP.MARYLAND.GOV.

 

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