Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hate group kills Maryland housing law

A handful of cities and counties have an ordinance that says landlords can't turn away prospective tenants on the basis of where they get their rent money - as long as the source of their rent money is legal. Building owners can still reject tenants if they don't have enough money - but they can't just turn you away because of where you get your money.

Baltimore County, Maryland, was considering such a measure. The county had a history of blocking fair housing. In fact, the federal government once withheld sewer funding because the county supported racial discrimination in housing. But after the new housing ordinance was introduced, a right-wing hate group called the Baltimore County Campaign for Liberty spread lies in an effort to scuttle it.

This organization said the ordinance would create a "massive flood" of Section 8 residents and falsely claimed the federal government would give a Section 8 voucher to all 35,000 families on the local waiting list. The group also falsely claimed that the proposed ordinance would destroy good neighborhoods. These lies were actually racist dog whistles, given Baltimore County's racial history.

After the misnamed Baltimore County Campaign for Liberty presented a petition to county officials - on which many signatures appeared to be false - the county rejected the ordinance. It would have been merely disappointing if the county rejected it for some other reason. But it's enraging that they rejected it because a racist hate group told them to.

This is yet another story that underscores the need to clamp down on hate groups. I'm still working on some ideas about this subject that I started on weeks ago, and I mean business.

But there's good news: After this bill failed, lawmakers are now working on a statewide bill.